Monday, March 15, 2010

Lower Little Creek Loop, Gila National Forest

I want to write this post with complete directions as to how to complete this loop, because it wasn't easy finding directions online.

Jill and I drove into the Gila Saturday night and camped about 5 miles from the Cliff Dwellings visitor center, about an hour drive north of Silver City. We woke up Saturday morning to hike the Lower Little Creek Loop, which is an 18.3 mile loop starting and ending at woody's corral about .5 miles from the visitors center. We planed on doing it as a day hike but we took full packs in case we decided to spend the night on the trail, and because we wanted to get in some training with full packs. We started off a little before 9am giving us about 10.5 hours of daylight, which is about how much we thought we would need. The hike starts at the corral on millers spring trail (also called granny mountain trail) and goes up hill and through switch backs past an open meadow with some nice views of the Gila Corridor below. After 3.3 miles you come to the junction of the ring canyon trail, if you do the whole loop this is where you will come out, turning left to get back to the corral, but at this point you want to continue straight. You will then start descending for about a mile until you reach Little Creek. This is a good place to fill up water. The creek was very clear and flowing pretty good when we went through, do to the large amount of snow in this part of New Mexico this winter, but it was still easily passable in early March. This is also a great place to set up camp for the night. A nice open area dotted with large junipers. After crossing the creek you turn right (you will see a sign that says 'Granite peak 11 miles' that's where you want to go) and head up little creek. In the guide book we were going off of, it said this would be the last chance for water on the trail, so we filled up 5 bottles and a bladder, which turns out was completely unnecessary, but better safe than sorry. after following the creek for less than a 1/2 mile, we crossed over the creek again (following the trail) which surprised us because it didn't say anything about that in our guide book. the trail then turns towards the left and away from the creek a bit. One mile after this creek crossing we came to a sign junction. Turning right will take you back the Millers spring trail, and then back to woody's corral, making the hike 11 miles, instead of 18. to do the whole loop continue straight. The trail disappears at times during the next 3.5 miles, but look around, and when in doubt continue straight. You should never go more than a few minutes without seeing the trails. 3.5 miles after the first (and after two additional large creek crossing that we weren't anticipating) you come to another sign, going straight will take you to granite peak, turning right will take you to the ring canyon trail, which is where you want to go. at this point the hike is about halfway done. After turning right you head up a pretty steep stretch of about a mile (the only real difficult part of the hike) to the top of the ridge, where you turn right onto the ring canyon trail. then it flattens out a bit but continues to climb. This part of the hike offers wide open views of the Gila and mountains beyond. We had to walk through a few patches of snow, but nothing to bad considering there are still plenty of areas with snow in the mountains. You will be on ring canyon trail for about 6 miles before turning left back onto miller spring trail, and from there it is 3.3 miles back to the trail head.

It's a really nice hike with great views. It's a long day hike but it isn't too difficult. It starts and ends at 5600 feet and reaches it's highest point on the Ring Canyon trail at 7100 feet. We were surprised by all the water crossing but we did it in early march, so there was a lot of run off. We had two stops of about 25 minutes a piece, one for water, and one for lunch, and we probably spent 10-15 minutes wondering around when we lost the trail but start to finish it only took 8.5 hours which is much faster than we thought we would do it. our average speed was probably 25 minutes/mile and we were in no hurry. This was also to first real test for my sandals. I did the whole hike in them with no discomfort, and no blisters.

5 comments:

Linda said...

Sounds like you had a great day - - the Gila offers many beautiful trails and opportunities! I doubt I could do that in one day! Are you planning any other hikes while here in our area? -Linda@silvercity-realestate.com

Rob "Buckeye" Powell said...

I would love to come out and get a run with ya both!

Josh said...

ah, yes, Rob, I know a Rob :) You are welcome anytime, we've got a guest bed in the tipi...well, an extra sleeping bag at least :)

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