On my last hike, I decided to try to reach the top of the canyon, via the trail on the east side of the canyon, opposite our camp. During our stay, we had seen several hikers disappear up the canyon into a narrow tree-lined creek bed. The first half of the trail following the creek bed is very easy, but if you decide to try to reach the top rim you will need to have some moderate rock climbing skills. About halfway up the terrain becomes rather steep, and I would rate the trail as difficult. You don’t have to be an expert, but you do need to be able to pull yourself up over some rather slippery slabs of sandstone.
This is the easy part of the hike. This narrow stream bed slowly winds uphill
with several twists and turns.
One of several small feline like paw prints I followed in the riverbed. These were not much bigger than a common house cat's and much too small for a bobcat. I was thinking that possibly they were made by an ocelot??
The great thing about this route is that you are never short of shade - either from steep cliff walls, or from the cottonwoods that line the narrow uphill passages, which winds around like a dragon or snake. I took several rest stops along the way just to admire the beauty of the canyon, and to pick out a route to get to the top of the canyon in places where no visible trail could be followed. As you follow the stream bed you enter what I have nicknamed the Belly of the Beast - a very narrow passage with high rock walls where you totally loose contact via walkie-talkies or cell phones. Once you climb out of the mouth of the Dragon you will see an interesting rock formation which I call the "Owls Roost".
The Dragon's Mouth - Rock formations which reminded me of sharp teeth as I climbed up out of the Belly of the Beast where I lost contact with Don.
The view of the oasis where we set up camp.
This is where the trail begins to get difficult.
I nicknamed this rock formation the "Owl's Roost" - climbing up to it was a short term goal during the hike.
Another great thing about this trail is that about halfway up you reach what I call the upper canyon, where the trail levels off for some distance before making the final ascent to the rim of the canyon. I just followed the creek bed as far as I could until it got too steep, and then started zigzagging up the slippery rocky soil the final 100 yards to the top of the rim having run out of a visible trail.
First view of the upper canyon - the trail flattens out nicely in this area! I worked my way up the right ravine to get to the top of the canyon.
A natural arch which I totally missed on my way up to the top of the canyon.
I didn't discover it until I stopped to rest and catch some shade on the way back down.
The view from the top of canyon.
Once I got to the top, the first thing I looked for was a shade tree to get under. It was just past noon and I was about out of juice, and needed to get some relief from the hot sun. I sat down in the soft cool sand under a juniper tree to catch my breath, and appreciate the view from the rim of the canyon. I drank up to half my water bottle making sure I had enough left over for the hike back to camp. As I felt a little hot, I took out a little plastic ziplock baggie which I use to store well-soaked wet-wipes in that are quite refreshing while hiking hot desert trails. They are also quite handy for other reasons……. Not far from the tree I rested under, was another fairly wide river bed that made its way toward the steep cliffs of the canyon.
The hike up and down the canyon took me over 6 hours, but I am known to take several 15-20 minute breaks on my hikes just to really soak in the beauty of the terrain, and watch for wildlife. Some hikers like to get from point A to point B in record setting time – but I am not one of them. Like the sure-footed desert tortoise, I pace myself to make sure I make it there and back again. I am sure other hikers walking at a steady pace, could have made the rim hike in 2 hours or less.
This riverbed leads to a steep dropoff at the edge of the canyon rim.
Just one of several kiosks which marked the trail which continues along the top of the canyon.
The following is the video I shot after reaching the top of San Lorenzo Canyon. The second video was taken from the lower canyon just after climbing out of the Belly of the Beast where I checked in with Don to let him know I was OK, and on route to the summit. In the first few seconds, I zoom in on our campsite under an oasis of cottonwoods.