I pre-hiked the Rogers Canyon trail in March of this year and was amazed
by the lush riparian habitat, the accessible and well-preserved cave
dwellings, and the beauty of the creek that runs through the canyon.
Trying to replicate but improve the experience, I scheduled this hike for
When I saw the group of adventurous hikers who signed up, I polled the
group and then changed the plan to do a loop, taking the trail past
Angel’s Basin, up to Tortilla Pass, and back down the JF Trail to the
Woodbury Trailhead, which would require a car shuttle.
Well, the best laid plans....
We met up prior to sunrise, even earlier than planned, due to weather that
would hit close to 90 degrees even at our 3500-4500 foot elevation for the hike.
From the Mesa meeting place to the placement of cars took three hours, due to
the roughness of the forest roads.
Michael went up to the Rogers Trough Trailhead, dropped his riders, came
down the precarious three miles, met Andy’s car at the Woodbury
trailhead, picked up Andy and his riders and went back up to Rogers.
We started hiking at 9:00 AM. It was relatively cool at this point, and
although there were other cars at the trailhead, we saw only two other
groups on the first part of the trail.
It was immediately obvious that conditions had
changed since I did the hike in March. The creek was bone dry.
The three initial water crossings on the Reavis Trail were just rocks.
The vegetation and views were still nice.
We turned off onto the Rogers Trail at the 1.5 mile mark and noticed that
the trail wasn’t as well groomed as it normally would be—lots
of catclaw acacia stretching onto the trail.
The hike to the ruins was pleasant, but less pretty without the water in the
creek. More boulder hopping. More monotonous. Very quiet though.
A sign marks the Rogers Canyon Cliff Dwelling. [photo by Li]
Rock wall at the entrance. [photo by Terry]
Imagine who lived here. [photo by Tom]
Onward and upward. [photo by Tom]
Did you say we have a mile to go? [photo by Tom]
This is rugged country. [photo by Tom]
The trail itself was moderate with a slow ascent and nice vistas. However, by
the time we made it up to the pass, most of us were frustrated by our
bleeding limbs and snagged clothing, combined with the sun, the heat, and
We took a break and I wrapped my legs in ace bandages, which helped.
The views of four peaks and all the hills of the Superstitions and beyond really
We continued onwards, barely even noticing the transition to the JF Trail
(as the sign was on the ground) and did our 1000 ft descent on loose rock,
with not only catclaw, but now prickly pear, agave, ocotillo, cholla, and other
forms of bushes flanking or covering the trail in parts.
We crossed the wash and started our last little ascent.
At this point, with about a mile left in the hike, we had been out for seven
hours and a few hikers were out of water. Luckily we had a little to share.
Energy was waning and we were eager to reach the end of the hike.
Saguaros mark the way. [photo by Tom]
It’s getting late in the afternoon. [photo by Tom]
Luckily, the windmill of the JF Ranch was soon in view and we began to
encounter cows, some whom were questioning our right of way.
Using my downloaded track to confirm that the correct direction at the
junction of the Woodbury and JF trails past the windmill and water tanks,
was right (staying on the JF, the Woodbury trail goes up to the forest road
on the way to Rogers Trough), we followed a Jeep road and reached the
waiting car by 5:15 PM.
Tired enough? [photo by Terry]
Yes, we can all fit in here. [photo by Terry]
We finished the hike before sundown. [photo by Terry]
We were quite glad to be at the car, but the adventure wasn’t over yet,
as we still had to retrieve the second car from the other trailhead, five
treacherous miles away.
As the moon was visible and we were cut and tired (but not thirsty, Michael
had cool water and a few other beverages waiting in a cooler), we decided
to expedite things by piling all eight of us into the car for the two mile ride to
the main road. This required three hikers to pretzel themselves into the back.
We were let out on the road to wait for the drivers to go up to the trailhead,
grab the second car and come back down to get us.
We passed the time pulling stickers out of socks and shoes and legs,
watching the moon and stars come out and observing bats flying around.
Finally, like knights in shining armor, the two vehicles arrived and we had
an uneventful drive back in the dark to the US 60 and then back to Mesa.
It was 7:30 PM when we exited the dirt road to blacktop.
In conclusion, this was an exciting hike with great people, expansive vistas,
and a taste of what it is like to be in the middle of nowhere in the
In retrospect, I would only do this again in the winter or spring, when
there is water in the creek, because it is so much more beautiful then.
I would emphasize the need to take the full three liters of water and then
some on any rugged trail, especially when the creek is dry.
I would also recommend heavy-duty long sleeves, pants and gloves for the
JF Trail and the second part of the Rogers Trail, because I don’t think
it is ever groomed any better than now.