Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Miller Canyon, Huachuca Mountains August 16, 2014

                                    Sonoran kingsnake

Hike Location: Drive south from Sierra Vista, Arizona, on State Rout 92 for nine miles. Turn right onto Miller Canyon road and drive until the trailhead, This road is an improved dirt road and it will accommodate passenger vehicles.

Miller Canyon is a nice alternative to the more popular Ramsey Canyon. It is about four miles and an elevation gain of 2700 feet to the Huachuca Crest Trail. This route also offers an alternative to the summit of Miller Peak. This canyon like the others in the Huachuca Mountains traps cooler air making it a nice microclimate for Syacamores and Douglas firs along with many species of pine. Most visitors do not realize that the mountains get cooler and wetter as you go south in this part of Arizona.

After leaving the trailhead the trail skirts around a private ranch at the base of the canyon. Past the ranch the trail returns to the canyon floor where it joins an old dirt road. Here the forest is delightful with shade from large oaks, After a half mile a trail to Hunter Canyon exits on to the left. In this part of Miller Canyon the trail can be hard to find because of floods in the canyon therefore, look for yellow flagging on trees which will mark the route. After about two mile the trail leaves the bottom of the canyon and climbs the right wall of the canyon. In this section of trail I came real close to almost getting bit by a Mojave rattlesnake. Luckily, I was hiking in front of two people who could have helped me if I had gotten bit. This part of Miller Canyon is heavily forested and high in elevation not the usual habitat for a Mojave.  I would have bushwhacked around the snake if there hadn't been Poison ivy along the trail. After ten minutes it became apparent that the snake would not move and I made the decision to turn around. I decided to hike the Hunter Canyon Trail because it was still early in the day. This trail ascended the southern wall of Miller Canyon before descending into Hunter Canyon. This canyon trail turned out to be a surprise because it gave me great views of Miller Canyon along with Miller Peak. As I returned to the trailhead a storm blew in over Miller Peak. At this time of year these storms are capable of producing lots of lightning, hail and rain which can be fatal if hikers are not prepared. Total mileage for the day was about seven miles with 1700 feet of elevation gain. (Information from Hiking Arizona's Cactus Country by Erik Molvar)


                          Mojave rattlesnake

                           A beautiful but deadly snake.

    Hunter Canyon

                 North wall of Miller Canyon

                       A beautiful lizard right off of the Hunter Canyon Trail.

                               Great picture of him on a rock.

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