Ever been to White Canyon Wilderness? Chances are you haven’t since it’s hard to find! After our first and unsuccessful attempt three weeks ago, Erin and I resolved to make it back to the elusive riparian area near our home in Superior, AZ. About 8 miles south of Superior on Highway 177, we exited correctly on to Battle Axe Road, but couldn’t find the correct spur road that would lead down Walnut Canyon to the Wilderness entrance. As a result, our first trip ended up being a fun exploration of Copper Butte, a mining area just south of where we wanted to be (but couldn’t get to!). It was interesting, but we still wanted very much to see White Canyon.
This past weekend we decided to try again after consulting the TOPO map software of Arizona and also doing some online research to see how other folks had fared. The best accounts came from AZ Trail thru-hikers that had explained the various 4×4 roads that lead to the White Canyon area. By all accounts it was a beautiful canyon that had water much of the year; well worth the trouble to visit the place.
When we hit Battle Axe Road this time, I had the GPS receiver ready! Exactly 2.0 miles from the highway there is a dirt road that veers off to the right and north. If you take this road, it will eventually lead you to the Wilderness entrance. After about 2 more miles of sandy driving through a large drainage basin we finally had to stop at a place where the way was blocked by a combination of boulders and washed out roadbed. I took lots of waypoints on the GPS so that we wouldn’t have trouble finding it again.
It was a short walk down the road, past a dry spring, and then up into White Canyon itself. The Wilderness entrance shows up by way of the end of the road and several signs indicating the Wilderness access and rules. A few yards after this entrance is a trail register where folks sign in. We signed, and dropped into the canyon with a sigh of relief.
The canyon was dry, except for several deep pools hidden under large rock overhangs or stuck in deep cracks in the canyon floor. It was very green, though, and we were impressed with all the large trees and significant signs of wildlife. We boulder-hopped our way about 1.5 to 2 miles up the canyon (north), and then ate our lunch under shade of an Arizona walnut tree. It was very pleasant!
Probably the most striking feature of White Canyon is it’s lofting canyon walls that reach high to the sky on all sides. It’s easy to imagine cliff dwellings since the rock seems to be fairly malleable and soft. Yet we didn’t see any signs of human habitation. We will probably go back in early spring when the water is running more freely. Either way it’s worth the time and energy to get there, even if it’s just to soak up some nice AZ sun while watching the clouds drift by over white canyon walls.
See the pictures from White Canyon.