Trail Mix - West - March 2013

Your region's go-now spring guide: Scramble to Salado Indian cliff dwellings in Arizona, spot bighorn sheep in Wyoming, and more.
Your region's go-now spring guide: Scramble to Salado Indian cliff dwellings in Arizona, spot bighorn sheep in Wyoming, and more.

Perfect Days

Maui, HI

Sliding Sands Trail 

This 9.2-mile out-and-back in Haleakala National Park drops from the 10,023-foot rim of a dormant volcano into the polychromatic landscape inside the crater. Stick around for a once-in-a-lifetime sunset and some of the world’s best stargazing (pick up a star map at the visitor center). Trip ID47077

San Diego, CA

Torrey Pines State Reserve 

Hike across one of SoCal’s last undeveloped stretches of beach on a 5.8-mile out-and-back that starts with a 330-foot descent to Black’s Beach. (Heads-up: Black’s is popular with nude sunbathers.) Then drive 15 minutes south for a kayak tour to look for migrating gray whales, which pass through from mid-December to March ($59; lajollakayak.com). Trip ID8364

Seattle, WA

Heather Lake

Hike into a Cascades forest thick with old-growth red cedar, Douglas fir, ferns, and vine maple on this 4.4-mile round-trip to a subalpine lake cradled in the cirque beneath 5,324-foot Mt. Pilchuck. Heading home, swing by Mill Creek’s Frost Donuts (frostology.com) for a gourmet post-hike treat (local favorites: Aztec Chocolate and Smoky Maple Bacon). Trip ID5734

Solitude Finder

Scramble to Salado Indian cliff dwellings in Arizona.



This strenuous hike will reward you with some of the best-preserved ruins in the Southwest—and unlike the treasures at Mesa Verde or Chaco Canyon, you’ll have the goods in Devils Chasm all to yourself. Don’t be fooled by the short distance (three miles round-trip): With an elevation gain of 2,000 feet and no trail up the rocky canyon, it can easily take three hours. Enjoy it in winter’s milder temps (50 to 60°F), and you can skip worrying about rattlesnakes (but wear long sleeves to protect against poison oak and cacti while bushwhacking).

From the chasm’s mouth, follow the canyon southwest, crossing the ankle-deep stream several times. Stay left at the fork at mile .4 and get ready for the trail’s toughest obstacle: a 50-foot slickrock waterfall at mile 1.1. Check the strength of the standing rope aids before pulling yourself up the left side, or use hands and knees to scramble on the right if water is flowing high (late spring). Look up to the east after passing the dark, 30-foot boulder at mile 1.4, and scramble up 30 feet of scree to access the ruins. Leave your pack outside as you wander among the 700-year-old dwellings, which include five connected rooms with mud-and-stone walls. The multistoried structure’s vantage downcanyon and across the Tonto Basin could have provided residents with a strategic lookout. Go back the way you came. High-clearance vehicle required. Trip ID1997672

InstaWinner

Jason Wertheimer, 38, of San Francisco, admired these towering trees near mile 6.5 of the 10.5-mile Berry Creek Falls Loop outside of Santa Cruz. “I also love mountain biking in the park,” he says. “And in spring, the 40-foot falls should be running briskly.” Join the fun: Tag your hiking photo #BPmag on Instagram. Trip ID51200

See This Now 

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, Whiskey Mountain, WY

The Wind River Range is famous for its rugged peaks and out-there solitude, but from November to March, it’s home to another natural wonder: The Lower 48’s largest bighorn sheep herd gathers to winter along the flanks of 11,157-foot Whiskey Mountain. Thanks to south-facing slopes that remain largely snow-free, the sheep forage in the lower elevations by day and return to the stepped-cliff tundra at night.

To catch a glimpse, hike the out-and-back Whiskey Mountain Trail from the Trail Lake Ranch trailhead, just a few miles east of Dubois, Wyoming, on US 26. The strenuous, switchbacking (but also generally snow-free) path climbs roughly 3,800 vertical feet in four to five miles, depending on your route. You’ll follow markers for the first 3.5 miles; from there, pick your own line across the windswept, sedimentary slopes to the summit.

Although trail access is usually very good, stop at the ranger district office in Dubois to check current conditions, and visit the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center (888-209-2795; bighorn.org), also in Dubois, as it will have the latest details on the herd’s location. Tips: Tread softly during lambing season (starts in March) by staying quiet, giving the animals space, and leaving your dog at home. Also, this isn’t called the Wind River Range for nothing. Be prepared for subzero windchills and unpredictable weather. And finally, this is grizzly country, so don’t forget the bear spray. Contact (307) 455-2466; fs.usda.gov/detail/shoshone