Help with salt creek planning

Mullet

Searching for a paradise....
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Dec 28, 2014
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I'm planning a trip down to salt creek this spring and trying to find out more info. I've looked at several trip reports but need some more insight from you pros. Some questions I have are as follows:
Could you do the trip in 2 days rather than 3?
What is the permit process procedure?
What campsites are better?SC1-4)
Side treks worth taking?
Or anything in the vicinity worth seeing/exploring?
Best time to go?
Or anymore advice or 2 cents to throw in would gladly be appreciated. Thanks homies.
 

Nick

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Aug 9, 2007
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Could you do the trip in 2 days rather than 3?

It depends on your route. Perhaps, but you'll regret it. 4 days will still leave you wishing you had more time. Especially if you do the point-to-point and need to run spot a car.

What is the permit process procedure?

It used to be you had to call them and then fax or email, but they've gotten more technologically advanced in the last year or two.

https://canypermits.nps.gov/

Note: The vast majority of the people I've talked to have had experiences that could only be described as rangers trying to talk them out of their trip by grossly over inflating possible difficulties. Maybe that's to account for lots of unexperienced people. I've heard that they have told people the road was just too rough to get there when it wasn't and that the trail is completely lost in a jungle of vegetation and no one can get through. On the jungle part, I can imagine it getting tough in a few parts, but with proper navigation skills, experience and a map, it shouldn't be a big deal. Just something to note.

What campsites are better?SC1-4)

Again, this just depends on your route. You'll want to select them based on your itinerary, not which ones are better. None of them stand out as being that much more amazing than the others.

Side treks worth taking?

Angel Arch if you go down that far. I bet most or all of the smaller side canyons in the upper section have interesting things to find, but with only 2-3 days, you probably won't have time for anything other than the really close/easy stuff.

Best time to go?

Spring and Fall are probably best. Fall might have more bears fattening up so that could be fun.
 

LarryBoy

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Planning a trip to Salt Creek over the MLK Day weekend. The benefit of doing it in winter is the permit is free, and self-service (visitor's center is closed for the winter). Hooray for National Parks without the red tape!

The other thing to consider is that, regardless of time of year, it looks like lower Salt Creek is at-large camping, so you may not have to confine yourself to designated campsites for at least one night.
 

Nick

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Winter would be an awesome time to be out there. Are you going in at Cave Spring? Probably a lot of snow up on Cathedral Butte after this last storm.
 

LarryBoy

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Winter would be an awesome time to be out there. Are you going in at Cave Spring? Probably a lot of snow up on Cathedral Butte after this last storm.

Probably gonna do and out-and-back from the Squaw Flat or Cave Spring, as I'd prefer to stay on pavement in the winter. Realize this limits our opportunities to see the upper part of Salt Creek, however the canyon ain't going anywhere. I'm thinking a pair of 15 mile days (including side trip to Angel Arch) and a 7 mile day on Day 3 is doable.

Thoughts regarding Squaw Flat vs Cave Spring as a starting point?
 

Nick

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I haven't done the route from squaw flat, but if there is still snow and ice in the shadows, it could be impassable, or at least pretty scary. Cave Spring would be a sure bet though.
 

Mullet

Searching for a paradise....
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How long does their winter season last? So it's just a free for all for the campsites in this time?
 

LarryBoy

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I haven't done the route from squaw flat, but if there is still snow and ice in the shadows, it could be impassable, or at least pretty scary. Cave Spring would be a sure bet though.

Welp I gambled and lost. Got within a mile of Peekaboo Camp on the Peekaboo Springs trail before a section of exposed slickrock turned us back. The route was dry for the most part, but frost on a couple sections of north-facing slickrock would have made it a suicidal decision to press forward. Ended up hiking back to Squaw Flat and driving over to Cave Spring. Salt Creek was really wonderful, much prettier than even anticipated. Overall, a wonderful weekend - and you just can't beat hiking in shorts in the dead of winter!

Will maybe post a TR, depending on how motivated I am.
 

LarryBoy

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How long does their winter season last? So it's just a free for all for the campsites in this time?

I think winter lasts until March 1st. Both park admission and a backcountry permit are free during this timeframe. Just swing by the visitor's center, fill out the permit, drop it in the box, and you're good to go. There was exactly one campsite in the entire district spoken for this past weekend (there's a clipboard where you mark off the campsite you've selected).

Couple tips -

  • Use the Cave Spring trailhead, not the Squaw Flat trailhead. The latter is a beautiful hike, but not possible until the frost melts out for the year unless you have a death wish.
  • Explore the large side canyon to the east about a mile north of the Angel Arch turnoff.
  • About three miles north of the Angel Arch turnoff, upon cresting a small knoll, turn around (face south) for some spectacular views of Crescent Arch.
  • Hike through the arch, rather than around the oxbow, at Peekaboo Camp.
 

Joey

walking somewhere
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Or you put on your MicroSpikes....
Yeah, that's the best part. If your comfortable with walking on ice and snow, its pretty rewarding. Even strap on spikes work well.

 
Last edited:

LarryBoy

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Yeah, that's the best part. Any kind of spike will do.

I personally wouldn't chance it. All I need to do is trip over your own shoelaces and all of the sudden I'm skidding off an icy ledge headfirst. No amount of traction underfoot would help stop that little mishap from ending in catastrophe. Course maybe you're much less clumsy than me :)
 

Ben

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@Joey no amount of clicking is playing. there's some thing about privacy setting it says.
 

Joey

walking somewhere
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@Joey no amount of clicking is playing. there's some thing about privacy setting it says.
Thanks Ben, its a Facebook thing. I changed it to a picture. I don't know why I even tried to link a Facebook video, they never work.
 
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