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Backpacker Magazine – November 2011

Rip & Go: West Clear Creek Canyon, Coconino National Forest, AZ

Rock-hop and wade your way down a wild sandstone corridor.

by: Courtney Holden (text) and Todd Martin (mapping)

Ponderosa pines & coconino sandstone above the creek (Matt Hoffman)
Ponderosa pines & coconino sandstone above the creek (Matt Hoffman)
Sperry SON-R Buckle ($90,
Sperry SON-R Buckle ($90,
Sinagua rock art (Zach Schierl)
Sinagua rock art (Zach Schierl)

Take it With You
Download a printable PDF of this entire weekend.

GPS-Enabled Trip Report
See this trip on a map, download it to your phone, GPS, or computer, and more.

Key Gear: Water Shoes
Nearly half of your steps on this route will land in water, so having shoes that maintain grip from sandy trail to rocky creek bottoms and back is important. Best bet: an amphibious shoe like the Sperry SON-R Buckle ($90, A siped outsole (wavy razor-thin slits across the tread) bends and flexes to create more edges to grip slick and variable trail surfaces (a similar process is used on car tires). “These latch onto wet rock better than traditional hikers, and the toe guard protected against stubs in deeper water,” says our tester. Bonus: With large mesh panels and more than a dozen drainage ports, the shoes don’t hold water so your feet dry quickly. The SON-R’s work best with loads of 30 pounds or less. Keep gear dry too by packing it in waterproof stuffsacks—try Sea to Summit’s Editors’ Choice winning eVac Drysacks ($18-$40,

See This: Sinagua Rock Art
The Southern Sinagua people (ancestors to the Hopi tribe) chiseled geometric patterns and zoomorphs—typically antelope, deer, lizards, or birds—into these canyon walls. Experts speculate that the drawings served as “I was here” signposts. The Sinagua departed for unknown reasons around 1425 A.D. Modern descendants are unsure about specific petroglyphs’ meanings, though it’s assumed that a spiral denotes migration and animals are taken at face value. Find them near overhangs and in darker layers of rock.

Locals Know
This overnight is sure to get you hooked, so next time plan on four to six days to do the full 25-mile advanced route to Bull Pen Ranch ( Drop a shuttle car in the cul-de-sac at the end of FR 215 and drive back to the trailhead at the end of FR 142E. Trek 10 miles into the canyon (five miles past the Calloway Butte Trail) to the Coconino sandstone-walled White Box, named for its pale walls. This 300-foot long stretch is the canyon’s narrowest section and requires a swim, with water more than six feet deep, even in spring. Only .5 mile farther, splash around in Showerbath Springs (pictured) before continuing 6.7 miles to Supai Falls (locals call it Maiden Falls). Here, the water’s blue hue contrasts vividly against the area’s blood-red Supai sandstone, the distinctive rock for which Sedona is so well known. Snap a pic of the 25-foot cascade before cruising the last 7.5 miles to Bull Pen Ranch along a marked and maintained trail.

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AZ Hiker
Jan 26, 2012

You probably won't find a more beautiful place on this planet;-)
If you're looking for a good book on how to not get lost on your hikes, try Felix! the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart available on Amazon. Don't leave home without it!


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