Lower Horseshoe Canyon and Big Spring

regehr

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I'm eyeing a backpack route that starts at the parking lot for the Great Gallery on the rim of Horseshoe Canyon, goes down canyon to the Angel Trail, overland to Big Spring, and then back into Horseshoe somehow or other, I suppose either using the Deadman Trail or else just walking out Spur Fork. If anyone knows answers to the questions below I'd love to get some info.
  • How thrashy is this lower section of Horseshoe? In the google imagery I can see a trail in places (including what looks like a dryfall bypass) but other spots look like maybe a bit of a thrash.
  • There should be reliable water in lower Horseshoe in spring, right?
  • Can I count on Big Spring? The Kelsey Roost book says it runs year round but this trip absolutely depends on it.
If I have to I'll do a scouting trip to Big Spring and maybe also cache some water outside the GCNRA boundary but that's a long drive for scouting. Any info appreciated.
 

regehr

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aha @Udink now I found your trip report where you were in this very area not too long ago, did you notice if it looks like reliable water there?
 

regehr

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Remind me where Udink's TR is?
here's one where they're in the area:
and in this one they're actually at Big Spring:
of course Dennis finds an arrowhead or two, cause he's basically an arrowhead magnet
 

Udink

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How thrashy is this lower section of Horseshoe? In the google imagery I can see a trail in places (including what looks like a dryfall bypass) but other spots look like maybe a bit of a thrash.
It was pretty shwhacky in May 2017. I hiked 1.7 miles upstream from the Angel Trail and that was about all I could stand. But we've had some big floods since then, so the watercourse might be cleared out more now.

There should be reliable water in lower Horseshoe in spring, right?
Yes, every time I've been in there (twice in late May, a few other times in September/October) there was good water. However, it flowed more in the mornings and dried up in places by evening. On one trip it was flowing at the bottom of the Angel Trail in the morning, and dry in the same spot by late afternoon.

Can I count on Big Spring? The Kelsey Roost book says it runs year round but this trip absolutely depends on it.
I would say yes. In late May 2019 there was plenty of water in there. I couldn't locate the constructed stock trail near the spring (can't remember if I read about it in a Kelsey or Allen book), but it looks like there's easy access from the north where you'll be approaching from.

back into Horseshoe somehow or other, I suppose either using the Deadman Trail or else just walking out Spur Fork
It's a pretty straight shot from Big Spring northwest to the east side road across from the standard Great Gallery parking area. Probably your best bet unless you're looking for more miles.
 

regehr

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thanks Dennis! this is super helpful. I was thinking Deadman Trail since I'm hoping to be out with some folks who've never seen the Great Gallery but yeah that other trail would be quicker. if I can arrange a layover day to go through the nontechnical parts of NE Spur Fork this trip may end up being really nice
 

CodyL

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@regehr . This is off my bad memory- so this may not even be helpful...ha ha! Did this as a packraft trip back around 2010. Went down Horseshoe to the Green, floated over to MIneral bottom for a re-up on good water and I believe hiked back up Horsethief and across back to Great Gsllery. Did it in April I believe. Lower Horseshoe was a bog and a lot of bushwacking in a few places. Climbed up on a low bench and walked for a bit to get out of the mud and away from all the bugs. All I really remember is hating a few sections of lower Horseshoe. There is an excellent slot canyon over there on the way to Deadman trail that heads south. We had a 12' handline that I think we used in one place and then hit a pour off that would need to repel, so we turned around. That slot was the highlight of the trip. Has the same walls and feel as Antelope in Page AZ. I'll see if I can find more info on that when I have a minute, you may already be aware of it- but if your right there I wouldn't pass it by. It's must see! Good luck and let us know how this turns out!
 
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regehr

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@regehr . This is off my bad memory- so this may not even be helpful...ha ha! Did this as a packraft trip back around 2010. Went down Horseshoe to the Green, floated over to MIneral bottom for a re-up on good water and I believe hiked back up Horsethief and across back to Great Gsllery. Did it in April I believe. Lower Horseshoe was a bog and a lot of bushwacking in a few places. Climbed up on a low bench and walked for a bit to get out of the mud and away from all the bugs. All I really remember is hating a few sections of lower Horseshoe. There is an excellent slot canyon over there on the way to Deadman trail that heads south. We had a 12' handline that I think we used in one place and then hit a pour off that would repel. That slot was the highlight of the trip. Has the same walls and feel as Antelope in Page AZ. I'll see if I can find more info on that when I have a minute, you may already be aware of it- but if your right there I wouldn't pass it by. It's must see! Good luck and let us know how this turns out!
ok wow I'm super envious-- a Horseshoe/ Horsethief packraft loop has been on my list! I've only done one packraft loop using the Green (Keg Spring to Twomile) and it was lovely (except guess what, Keg Spring Canyon is just a horrific thrash).

that's a bummer to have bad bugs in April already, wow.

ok it looks like both Tidwell Canyon and Low Spur are slots that drain into lower Horseshoe from the south, but (looking at google earth right now) I would have guessed that both of them had a big dryfall below the slot section. anyway I'd love to get more info if you have it.

not sure that I'll get to do this one this spring but hopefully!
 
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