Distance: 3.6 miles RT
Time: 2.5 hours
Start: Maple Canyon Campground ($3 day use fee per vehicle)
Elevation Gain: 1329
Maple Canyon is a world famous rock climbing area. It is unique for two reasons, the first being the rock type of conglomerate which is like concrete made out of medium size rocks (my wife said it looks like after the earth was created, God dumped all the left over concrete in Maple Canyon). The other reason is the difficulty of the climbs – some of the best roof climbs available. While on our hike, we met people from Brazil, Texas, and several other non local areas. I’m always impressed by how kind people most people are when they get out in nature (away from the hustle and bustle of a busy life – more info to come on this later in the post).
The loop was more difficult than I expected for a 3.5 mile trail, but has several fun points of interest including a conglomerate arch and a large cave. We started on the middle fork, which has the first point of interest being the arch (a little over .5 miles one way). If you’ve been to arches or bridges this arch isn’t going to impress you except for the fact that it is made of conglomerate rock. It looks like it could fall apart very easily, but amazingly enough this rock form is pretty strong. As we were waiting for slower members of the group we climbed under and behind the arch and found a narrow and fairly short slot canyon that we climbed up.
After the arch continue on the Middle Fork until the trail splits. Take the split that points to both “Right Fork Tr. No. 124” as well as “View Point”. Up to this point the trail has been a little overgrown, but this section is the most overgrown (plants from both sides grow into the trail) and a decent incline as well. At this point you can start to see over the trees and see the top of the rock formations which are really cool. There are several good view points before you start the descent through the right fork. You will also see the dirt road at this location. The trail zig zags down into the right fork and there is a wooden five rung ladder. The trail is dog friendly but at this point we had to carry our old black lab down the stairs. If he wasn’t already tired at this point, we probably would have let him find his own way down off the main trail. There are also loose rocks on the trail that you can slide on and twist an ankle so be careful going down.
The next point of interest is the cave. There isn’t a sign to the cave entrance so look for a sign to Pipedream. The entrance to the cave is about 18′ above the ground and there wasn’t a rope to use to climb. I brought a rope, and a nearby climber offered to put the rope in the carabiner for us and tied some knots in it so we could use it for the climb. My nine year old son and 11 year old daughter (who is afraid of heights) were both very nervous with the climb but they were able to make it. It would be difficult for younger children to climb to the cave. The mouth of the cave also has pigeon poop so watch where you put your hands. The cave doesn’t go far in either direction, but the roof was taller than most caves I’ve seen. Apparently some people rock climb inside the cave. On a hot day, the temperature inside the cave would make it a lot more enjoyable.
From here the trail to the end is pretty easy. Overall, I thought this was a fun hike and I loved the fun rock formations. Don’t miss out on the Box Canyon hike (which is a slot canyon) that I’ll blog about as well.