Location: East of Superior in the Dripping Springs Mountains
Mapping / GPS / Waypoint File: Area Topo / Detail Topo | .mps file | .txt Waypoint File Trail Rating (1-5 scale): 2.5 There are two ways into this area. One is by driving out of Oak Flat Campground on the Mineral Mine road (stay on the pavement), and the other and much more difficult route is to drop down into the canyon system from the North, towards Rio Rancho Creek. There are several days worth of trails to explore in the area.
Major Obstacle: If tache difficult route is selected to exit the canyon, both the rock fin and the boulder and shelf section will be nearly impossible to drive in a stock vehicle. The rock fin is the easiest, but is very steep and could result in a roll-over. There are no stock vehicles that can drive the other route without damage or a highly skilled driver.
Brush (minor, moderate, severe): Minor
Scenic Value (1-5 scale): 4- Devils Canyon overlook is the most impressive!
Scott Brady- 2004 Toyota Tacoma Charles and C.J. Koekemoer- Expeditions West 1994 Jeep Wrangler Jared Albert and Gabe- 1999 Jeep Wrangler Chris “bajataco”- 1998 Toyota Tacoma Note: Special thanks to Chris for many of the images shown here. His photographs are recognized as PICT00**.jpg
This area is one of the best rock climbing zones in Arizona, with literally thousands of pitches and bouldering problems to enjoy. During our previous trip to the canyon we focused more on the climbing opportunities, which can be viewed here. During this trip through the canyon, several in the group rappelled down the rock faces near the trail.
More Information: Good information from rockclimbing.com This area is currently subject to a mining proposal, which would shut down access to most of the canyons. For more information on how to preserve this beautiful place:friendsofqueencreek
Queen and Rio Rancho Creeks
Access to the northern entrance is found by driving through Oak Flats Campground until the “High Clearance Vehicle Only” sign is seen marking the trail leading to the east. Finding the route is somewhat difficult after the camp, so it is best to use the attached .mps file for detailed waypoints. After going through a gate at (N33 17.554 W111 02.928) we began dropping into Rio Rancho Canyon. There is a series of switchbacks with smaller rock shelves and boulder sections, terminating with a steeper drop off and a large (1.5′) ledge.
After reaching the bottom of the switchbacks the trail splits, offering a driver’s choice of a very steep “moab-like” fin, or a rocky canyon with several large steps. Our group chose the fin for now, and everyone reached the bottom of the obstacle without incident.
The following images document Chris’ attempt to climb up the narrow, boulder strewn canyon back to the upper staging area. This canyon is very narrow, and full of challenges for a long wheelbase vehicle. Chris did a fantastic job driving, and even saved the truck from a possible roll on one of the upper steps. Instead of hitting the brakes or gas, he let out the clutch, allowing the vehicle to come back down on all four wheels. Great save!
The initial obstacle requires driving high on a rock outcropping to avoid tipping into a jagged rock face. Immediately after the outcropping, there is a crossed axle shelf climb.
This image shows the first of two large ledges that need to be climbed. The height of the ledge was too much for the heavy Tacoma’s clutch to overcome.
The Tacoma wheelbase proved to be a bad combination for the bypass around the ledges, with all but one tire having to climb either a large rock or ledge. I drove the Jeep around the Tacoma and extracted him from the front. Just a slight pull was all that was required to free the Tacoma.
In the words of Chris “Bajataco”, describing the narrow gully:
“I tried the left line first (over the rock faces with the crack) and then the right line through the bolder strewn ledges. You can see what I am talking about in this pic. I am on the right line in the picture. It all looks so tame from that vantage point high above but looked much different to me in the drivers seat! When you look at that pic, it appears that the logical route is to just climb up that rock shelf to the left of the bush that is beside my truck. But that shelf had a huge wall on the front of it that was too much for an IFS rig on 32″ tires. So I tried to wedge myself in between that shelf, and the one further to the left, to make a traverse up onto the middle shelf. This is where I got the truck pointed to the sky and did some kind of pirouette so that is when I decided to do the rock strewn gully on the right. That one looked like a piece of cake. But was a demon in disguise My wheelbase just happened to be perfect for getting me stuck on that one. All 4 wheels were trying to climb substantial surfaces at once, and my left rear especially, was digging into soft dirt at the base of what was probably a 3′ rock face. This is where all of my concerns about keeping the vehicle weight under control comes to light. My rig was just too heavy to overcome the traction requirement (and I am locked F/R).
Scott went down canyon to where the guys were rock climbing, and traded his Taco for his Jeep, and then came back up the same canyon I was in. He walked the Jeep right through there without a spot, like it was a Sunday walk in the park! He climbed that rock ledge to the left of my truck without even looking off-camber, and positioned the Jeep above me, where all it took was a little tug to get me up and over.
That little video of me climbing that ledge is a perfect example of the ARB front locker. You can see about mid-way through the video, where I lose traction and start spinning. I paused momentarily, and hit the front locker switch, and then walk right up. Cool!”
Scott is the publisher and founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and include three circumnavigations of the globe. He was the expedition leader for the first American team to cross Antarctica by 4x4.