White Canyon Wilderness, near Superior AZ

February 21-22, 2018


There was a time that I considered the desert to be utterly boring, and indeed some desert landscapes can be, but then I discovered canyons.

Slot canyons are my favorite kind because of their exquisite smooth, undulating, narrow and patterned beauty and unique challenges. They are like paper cuts in the sandstone formed from ancient sand dunes or seas. However, I’ve also come to love the more rugged canyons, also carved by the elements and uplifts and erosion of the earth.

White Canyon is located about 10-miles south of Superior, AZ. The canyon itself is located in the Tonto National Forest and is accessible by dirt roads, which become increasingly more 4WD the deeper one drives into this area.

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I drove as far as I felt safe going in Studley Van. He might have a small lift, and he may be AWD, but he’s not really a serious 4WD van, so I have to respect his limitations.

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This he could handle (above)

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This was pushing it (above), so I parked before the road got this bad and walked the rest of the distance in. (It was worse than it looks in the image, and I even watched a 4×4 truck turn around).

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I missed the two track that led to White Canyon because it wasn’t marked in any way (and the instructions I had were very vague), so I walked for several miles past White Canyon and up and up the road. I startled a cowboy, who startled me when he herded some stubborn bulls over a hill and I was almost trampled. I had heard him of course, but the bull came from nowhere. I’m not sure who was most surprised to see me, the bull, the cowboy (what on earth is a woman doing on her own all the way out here!!), or myself. They scattered in all directions, and in the end, the cowboy asked me to help him get the cattle back on course by standing in a certain spot as he herded the stubborn bull in the general direction he needed it to go. When I asked the cowboy where White Canyon was, he pointed back down the hill and told me to look for a small side road at the bottom. So I turned around an headed back down.

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Looking back from the top of the hill. Studley Van is parked a little bit beyond the farthest end of those cliffs, way off in the distance.

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The entrance to White Canyon was near this sign, a small two track left the main track, and then came to a dead end. There is no trailhead here, but I found a trail register part way up the trail.

I was surprised to meet these two young ladies at the end of the road heading back to their SUV which I’d passed on my drive in.

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The trail vanished quickly, and I worked my way up the wash in the bottom of the canyon by rock scrambling. A full-body workout. There were some potholes with water in them that were interesting to explore. The going was slow, and I had to be careful because I was alone. Since driving down this road I’d only seen the two hikers, a man on an SUV and the cowboy, and because this was very rugged wilderness, the likelihood of seeing anyone else in this canyon was very slim, which of course is the main appeal. Even though I had my SPOT PLB with me, I don’t ever want to have to push the SOS button.

SPOT 3 Satellite GPS Messenger – Orange

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Rugged, remote, wilderness. The silence was incredible, except when an air force jet flew over very low. The jet flew so low that the sound reverberated off the canyon walls and it was deafening, I had to put my fingers in my ears. I’d read that lots of target shooting went on out here, but I was fortunate not to hear a single gunshot, which is very rare in Arizona. It’s almost impossible to find silence in this State, no matter how deep into the desert one goes to escape it.

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I hiked as far as I could before I came to some fallen rocks that I just didn’t have the energy to climb over or around. At that point, I estimated that I’d done about six miles, and I still had about three miles to go back to my van. I was tired and it was time to turn back. Studley Van was a beautiful sight when I saw him, a vision in white.

I drove back up the road (which was basically in a big wash) and found a spot on a hill with a view of the area I’d hiked (see the first image at the top of this post).

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Some other people set up a big rig nearby and I feared I’d be hearing gunshots and generators, but they were nice neighbors and remained quiet, and I was able to enjoy the desert sunset over The White Canyon Wilderness. Thank you whoever you were.

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I hope you enjoyed this walk with me. If you’d like to watch the video instead, click the link near the top of this blog post. Also, if you’d like to see more blog posts on my travels, hikes, tips and more, feel free to visit the categories. I have my posts organized by date, subject and by area.

Until next time, bye for now, OH, and if you’re using a phone to read this keep on scrolling down and look for the MORE TO EXPLORE link which will guide you to a huge array of categories and posts from the past that include How-To’s, Tips, Travel, Tales, Travel, Philosophy, Safety, Poetry and more.

Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature

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