One of Worldwide Travel Adventures with scorching temperatures and blazing heat, yes, summers in Arizona are in deed extremely hot! However, did you also know that in Arizona you can find something to do in the great outdoors, virtually any time of the year, even during the summer? More than any other geologic feature, Arizona is an amazing land filled with many beautiful and remote back country wildernesses and gorgeous slot canyons and gorges scattered throughout the state. So, while temperatures may be heating up during the day in excess of 100 degrees in the desert, the month of June, before summer rain storms arrive, is actually an excellent time to go canyoneering and exploring some of these remote wilderness canyons and gorges, with many of them containing deep pools of cool, refreshing water!
Located in the Sierra Ancha Mountain range, northeast of Phoenix, is the Salome Wilderness consisting of roughly about 18,500 acres. Within the Salome wilderness following along the lower reaches of Salome Creek, you’ll find the “Jug”, a beautiful slot canyon, with narrow towering walls of pinkish-tinted granite stone, and along its approximately a mile stretch, many pools of deep, cool water! So if you would consider yourself to be at least a moderate-advanced level hiker and in relatively good physical shape & condition, and you’re up for more of a challenge, an extraordinary pool hopping, rock sliding, waterfall adventure, and an excellent intermediate level canyoneering hike I recommend, is the Salome Jug, at Lower Salome Creek, in the Salome Wilderness, Arizona.
On a beautiful Saturday morning, in early June, I met up with the TLC Hiking Club, led and organized by Eric Kinneman, at the Fort McDowell Casino, northeast of Phoenix, at 6 am. After all attending members had arrived, and after receiving a quick overview of our day’s canyoneering adventure, we got into our vehicles and left the casino by about 6:45 am, and headed north on Arizona Highway Route 87, also known as the Beeline Highway.
We drove up the scenic Beeline Highway, one of my favorite highways, until we arrived at state route 188, and made a right, heading south, in the direction for Roosevelt Lake. Continuing past the town of Punkin Center approximately 8 miles, we came to our next turn off, A-Cross Road, made a left and drove on this very rugged, mountainous, and at times very narrow, dirt road where a high clearance vehicle or a 4 wheels drive was highly advised. I really enjoyed this off roading adventure because the scenery looking up and out into the distance, and down below, of Roosevelt Lake, Arizona’s largest lake, was truly gorgeous! We continued on A-Cross Road, (aka “60” but this is still A-Cross Road), for a total of about 10 miles and it was approximately by 8 am, that we finally reached the Jug Trailhead and parking area. The Jug Trailhead sits up at the top of a hill at roughly 3,301 feet in elevation, with panoramic views overlooking Roosevelt Lake and the mountainous Salome Wilderness that were absolutely gorgeous! We parked our vehicles in the small parking area, got packed up and after a couple of quick group photo shots, we hit the trail.
Eric Kinneman began our day’s canyoneering adventure by leading us from the trailhead, down hill on the Jug Trail #61, a very scenic old jeep trail, that descends and switchbacks rather moderately as it takes you further and further out into the remote and very rugged, Salome Wilderness. We trekked down hill, roughly about 800 feet in elevation for 2 miles until we arrived at Salome Creek where glimpses of the beginning of the Jug Canyon first came into view. As I neared the bottom of the hill, I looked down into the rock canyon below and there it was, absolutely gorgeous and rugged looking! What an amazing adventure this was going to be I thought to myself.
The Jug is a semi-technical canyon, and rated by the American Canyoneering Association, as a 3B-CIII canyon requiring one technical rappel. When you translate this rating, it means it’s an intermediate canyoneering, moderate-strenuous hike, with water that has no current or light current or with still pools to strong current depending on the time of the year and water levels and flow rates. We did this hike in early summer when the day time air temperatures are high and the current and water level is low, which is much safer particularly for anyone who is new to canyoneering or may only have a beginning to moderate level of canyoneering experience behind them. And, on this early June day, we actually found the water level to be about 9-12 inches lower than normal due to having had a very dry winter season this past year. However, please note, this is NOT a hike you want to try to take on yourself unless you have someone with the experience and expertise to guide you, or you have the prior technical canyoneering experience yourself because the Jug contains one technical rappel at a 27 feet water fall cliff. So, whether you rappel it, descend it by rope or decide to jump it, please be aware, this IS very risky and dangerous, even if you have years of experience and know what you are doing. So, assess your abilities wisely and use good judgment in deciding whether to do this hike or not, for your own safety.
After reaching Salome Creek at the bottom of the hill, and the beginning of the Jug canyon, we immediately veered off to the left, following along the creek’s bottom, jumping up and over large rocks and boulders for just a short way until we came to our first set of pools which went from being first knee high to waist high deep rather quickly! However, the water felt great on this very hot summer day and we happily waded from pool to refreshing pool as we very carefully and also cautiously crossed over the large rocks and boulders in the water, many of which were covered with green algae and very slippery, as a result of the low water level with still pools.
The adventure continued with more wading, swimming, hopping from one deep pool, then on to the next, through the beautiful winding canyon, and I paused for just a brief moment to look up at the pinkish tinted, granite walls now towering high and narrowly above me noticing how the sun’s bright rays glimmered down onto the rocks and crevices, eventually reaching the water below, and wow beyond what any picture could ever capture, it just absolutely gorgeous and breathtaking!
By this time too, the further into the canyon we reached, the deeper and deeper the pools became requiring much more swimming. However, as we moved through the canyon from one pool to the next, wading, swimming, with boulder hopping in a couple of places, we also came upon some small water falls located in the canyon’s bottom where the only way to continue was to sit down and slide your way down the wet slippery rocks and falls, until you dropped into the deep pools of water below. We thoroughly enjoyed the water slide, and coming down the rock water falls and after getting some really great shots of each other, our canyoneering journey through the Jug continued.
It was only a short way later, after still more wading, swimming, and rock sliding down the small water falls and rocks that we eventually arrived the giant 27 feet water fall and cliff and finally caught up with Eric Kinneman and the rest of our hiking group members again. By this time Eric, as well as several members from the front end of our pack who had already successfully jumped off the 27-foot water fall and cliff and were waiting down below, while the rest of us stayed up at the top. Your options at this point are, you can either rappel it, or descend it by rope, as there are several fixed anchors set up with which to drop a rope from, or it’s also possible to jump it. So, on this day, guided by Eric Kinneman, a highly experienced and leading expert hiker, also with extensive experience canyoneering, and who he himself had successfully completed this canyon multiple times by jumping it, that’s in fact what we all decided to do, jump it!
In order for all of us to safely and successfully make this jump, Eric had brought along with him a climbing rope which he set up and anchored from a fixed anchor located at the top of an upper rock ledge on the right side. From this upper ledge, he then ran the rope about 50 feet to a second fixed anchor located further out along the rock ledge, tied it securely there, then dropped the remaining length of rope down to an outer, lower level ledge. From the waiting area at the top of the falls, we each climbed up to this upper level ledge, while holding onto the securely anchored rope, as this ledge which was very narrow and slippery, then once across the main upper ledge, roughly about 20 feet or so and while still holding onto the rope, we slowly and carefully descended roughly about 4 feet onto a lower level rock wall ledge. It was here, from this lower level ledge about 10 feet in length that we were able to successfully take the 27 feet jump off the cliff and safely come straight down into the very deep pool of water below.
I had arrived at the top of the falls along with my good friend and fellow hiker, Bob with no intention of jumping that day. Prior to starting this hike, we had decided together that we felt more comfortable descending by rope instead. However, when I saw how the rope had been securely set up and anchored for us and how it was possible to make this jump safely as Eric and the others had already done, also confirming too that there were no hidden debris or obstacles located in the water pool below that could cause possible harm or injury, it was only at the last minute that I decided to just do it and climbed up to the main, upper ledge, and while still holding onto rope, traversed across the 20 feet or so, then quickly dropped down the rope to the lower level ledge. As I’d had some prior experience rappelling and technical canyoneering, I felt comfortable on the rope but had never cliff jumped before. However, once you got out on this lower level rock ledge, it was really just a straight, obstacle free, vertical jump down into the deep pool of water below. So, with Eric there as well as rest of the gang to guide and coach me from below, I took a giant deep breath and off the cliff I went, quickly plunging and crashing down into the deep pool of water below! Oh my God! What an exciting, thrilling, extreme adrenaline rush that is absolutely unlike any other! Truly an incredible experience and wow, what an amazing adventure!
Afterwards, I retrieved my pack which I had dropped prior to making the jump and swam 1-2 pools over to an open area where I could get out of the water and warm back up again in the sun as my body temperature had really dropped by now, with hypothermia being one of the risks and hazards of canyoneering. Meanwhile, Bob had also come down and Eric continued to coach and guide every other remaining member, each one by one, until finally everyone had safely and successfully taken the plunge and made the 27 feet jump!
Once the last members had made it down, we gathered back together again along the side “beach” area in the sun, to eat, rest, and warm back up again, and when we were ready to move on again, we swam across the final two deep pools and reached the end of a mile canyon. From the water’s edge, we traversed a small path up to the top of the hill and returned back the same way we had come earlier, on the Jug Trail # 61, making it back to the trailhead again by 1 pm for a total hiking distance of 5.0 miles RT, and a total hiking time of 5.0 hours.
In all, really a gorgeous and beautiful slot canyon and an incredible canyoneering hike, perfectly planned, organized and led by Eric Kinneman of the TLC Hiking Club. We owe our thanks and gratitude to Eric because it was only because of his expert coaching, guidance and support, that we were all able to safely jump off a 27 feet water fall cliff, many of us for the very first time, and successfully complete this amazing canyoneering adventure together. Truly a great day and a thrilling experience we won’t soon forget either! So, if you’re up for an extraordinary pool hopping, rock sliding, waterfall adventure, and an excellent intermediate canyoneering hike through a gorgeous slot canyon, then be sure you check out the Jug, at Lower Salome Creek, in the Salome Wilderness, Arizona.