Little Bear Canyon from TJ Corral
|A hike through piñon-juniper along a ridge with great views, and then through a dramatic slot canyon to the Gila River. A great day hike in the Gila Wilderness.|
|Hike data||Waypoints||Maps||Getting to the trailhead||About the hike||Plants along the trail||Comments|
When we hiked it:
|Time it took us:||4:30.|
|Usage (people/hour):||0.00. We saw nobody, but this is probably due to the time of year we were hiking.|
|LBCGR||Trail junction||Junction of Little Bear Canyon trail (729) and the trail along the middle fork of the Gila River (157)|
|TJCORL||Trailhead||TJ Corral trailhead|
|TJWB||Trail point||Wilderness boundary on Little Bear Canyon trail|
|TJX1||Trail junction||Stock bypass and Little Bear Canyon trail junction|
|TJX2||Trail junction||Junction of Little Bear Canyon trail (729) and forest trail 164|
|Map name||Cartographer||Year||Scale||Topo map?||Online access||Notes|
|Gila National Forest||US Forest Service||1997||1:126720||N||from Amazon (purchase)||South half|
|Gila Wilderness||US Forest Service||1984||1:63360||Y||from Amazon (purchase)||East half|
|Mogollon Mountains||BLM||1987||1:100000||Y||from Amazon (purchase)|
|Wildernesses of New Mexico||US Forest Service||1981||1:1000000||N||No online copies.||Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.|
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Getting to the trailhead:
From near Silver City, take NM 15 to near the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The trailhead is about a mile from the Gila Visitor's Center. Along the road to the cliff dwellings, a short distance after you turn off of NM 15, you will see the sign for TJ Corral. Unfortunately, at the moment, I have no better instructions. However, few roads exist in this area. If you are unsure, ask at the Gila Visitor's Center.
About the hike:
The trailhead is at a corral. You start by walking through Piñon, Juniper, and Scrub Oak.
After about 1/4 mile, you reach a junction with the sign pictured right (TJX1). Go right.
After a short distance with a gentle climb, you arrive at the wilderness boundary (TJWB). Honestly, I do more than just look at the GPS when we hike :-).
As you are hiking this part of the trail, you are rewarded with several nice views, like the one Diana took looking WNW.
The elevation change so far has always been gentle, but with an upward trend. After the wilderness boundary, the trail starts to descend into a canyon, but then comes back up and stays near the ridge.
An interesting place that the trail goes through is a "rock meadow". The area looks like a meadow, but you are walking on bedrock.
The next junction you reach, TJX2, is almost the high point in the trail. At this sign, go straight, towards the middle fork.
After about 10 minutes more hiking, you reach the high point of the hike. From here, you can get another nice view WNW.
Another 10 minutes of hiking and you will begin to descend into the Little Bear Canyon.
The trail crosses a (hopefully dry when you hike it) streambed. In fact, sometimes it is hard to tell if the trail is supposed to be in the streambed or not.
You also pass a dry waterfall with a small shelter cave on your left. It looks like a lot of water comes over this fall at times.
The canyon is notably cooler than the hike on the ridge.
After a little time in the canyon, the stream has water in it. When we hiked, it was cold enough to make an ice waterfall. Click on the image to see the larger image, as the smaller one does not do it justice.
Diana will write more here about this iron seep and all the fun bacteria that live there. Look at the larger version of the picture because, again, the small one does not do it justice.
The canyon walls get much closer, and it becomes a slot canyon. While quite dramatic, this would not be a fun place in a thunderstorm when a wall of water came rushing through the canyon.
This photo is another one that you really need to see larger to get the full effect. The ice over the stream was beautiful.
We noticed another shelter cave on the left, and a cave on the right. We wondered what animals use these caves.
Shortly after the cave, the canyon arrives at the Middle Fork of the Gila River (LBCGR). This area looks like it would be a nice place to camp. A sign indicates that you can return to the visitor center by following the river for 6 miles. This would make the hike a loop and add about three miles. Since we were going to run out of daylight, we went back the way we came. However, we will return and make it a loop at some point, because the walk down the river looks beautiful.
A sign says that it is 4.25 miles to TJ Corral from here.
Plants we saw along the trail:
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