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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.
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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 ID 1997672

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