Upper Black Box


May 19, 2012
I had done the Lower Black Box a few years before and really enjoyed it, so we decided to try the Upper part. It was a long hot day, capped off by a few miles of water and blessed shade. The first part of the hike is through beautiful if un-spectacular terrain. I always try to enjoy the entire route, even if it is ill advised due to the sun and heat, which was over 100. So we took our time, knowing we had into the evening to finish. Resting at every shady spot, it took us about 6 hours to get to the narrowing of the canyon and the slog/bouldering/swimming- great fun, and nice and cool (80 degrees!) with the water in the upper 70's I would guess. There were sections where you could just float on my back with my pack giving me buoyancy, and space out at the walls and the thin slice of sky. The famous "obstacle" was nothing at our trip, I down climbed to the right LDC. We left a moutain bike near the take out, and the most fit, youngest team member volunteered to ride the 4 miles or so back and get the car. Admirable after 13 or 14 miles.

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The last stretch of the hike is the best part.



Where we joined the canyon.


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aaaaahhhhhh, shade.



At the drop, down climb was to the left, do not jump this!

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These were taken with my Kodak 3mp point and shoot, so please excuse the quality.


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Jan 17, 2012
I've had the black boxes on the top my "to do" list for years but its never worked out due to weather. I know upper is much longer but if you had to pick would you rather do upper or lower again?


May 19, 2012
Lower without a doubt. You are in the water most of the time, lot's of shade, and the walls are close in the whole way. At least that is how I remember it (it was in 04), someone should correct me if I am wrong. Much more relaxing, although you are in a potential "death zone" longer (than the upper box) if it flashes.


rope mule
Jan 17, 2012
Great report and pics, Greg. The Lower Box has been on my list for a while now. What date were you in there? And any idea of what the cfs reading was at the San Rafael Station at the time?


Aug 9, 2007
Awesome, Greg. An infamous canyon, The Black Box. I'd also love to know when and what conditions you did this under. And what is ideal? Mid-summer? Fall? Would something to float on be advised?


May 19, 2012
Thanks lostlandscapes and Nick for your comments. Both trips were in late August, the water level for the Upper Black Box was about knee deep at the bridge (which was perfect) , and the Lower Box was a little deeper. I liked that time of year, not as much rain to worry about, which is a huge concern obviously. I would not enter either Box with even a hint of rain in the forecast, I guess that goes without saying.
I had a small dry bag in a day pack, and it worked great as a floatation device.
I would like to do the Lower box again.


Jan 18, 2012
Awesome TR. Another bucket list hike (both upper and lower) I'd love to do. Nice to see a TR on something in the Swell that you don't see a ton of TR's on. Thanks for posting!
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