150-Mile Trailhead to Esplanade Above Upset Rapids

March 26 thru March 31, 2022


The original plan for this hike was to try (again) to hike the Esplanade from 150-Mile Canyon to Tuckup Canyon.  My back kept me from getting any serious exercise before this hike, so when our start date started to loom large, it was obvious (at least to me) that this hike would never happen as planned.  I had already received a permit, so Ben Mahlab and I decided to begin the hike as planned (in case I was somehow able to hike the entire route).  I brought my motorcycle (Honda CRL250) to do the shuttle. 

I drove to Page from Taos on March 24 and picked Ben up at the airport that afternoon.  We then headed for a motel for the night. The next day we drove to 150-mile trail head where I dropped off Ben and our packs.  I then drove to Schmutz (Tuckup) trailhead, dropped off my car, and drove my motorcycle back to 150-mile trailhead.  It is a rough 22 mile shuttle, and I flipped my motorcycle a couple of times along the way (no damage to me or the motorcycle).  We camped at the trailhead that night.

The next morning we headed down the "trail," which is mostly gone, but there are some cairns and some vestigial trail remains.  But mostly it is a scramble thru a ravine in the Coconino until you reach the canyon bottom and Buckhorn Spring.  By the time I got to the spring, it was clear I would not be able to complete the original itinerary.  Ben was OK with just exploring the Esplanade as far as I wanted to go, and maybe do some day hikes. 

Buckhorn Spring, although small, has had good water every time I've been there, and this time was no exception.  After the spring, there is no more trail going down 150-Mile Canyon, but it is a straightforward walk down the drainage.  The first half mile or so is choked with boulders, but it soon clears and the hiking becomes easy on the slickrock of the canyon bottom.

We passed Little Joe Spring, which had pools of good water.  And a few hundred yards later we turned up into the canyon containing Hotel Spring.  We spent our first night there.

The next few days we headed up onto the Esplanade to some large potholes we had heard about.  We camped there for two nights and did some day hiking out to the end of the point above Upset Rapids.  Then back the same way.  We spent our last night at Buckhorn Spring, wanting to wait for the morning to start fresh for the 1200-foot climb to the rim. 

Once we got to the rim, I rode my motorcycle back to the Tuckup (Schmutz) trailhead, where I dropped of the motorcycle and drove back to Ben in my 4Runner.  We spent the night there before retrieving my motorcycle the next day.

The photos below are roughly in the order they were taken.

Click on photos to see larger image.

Steep "Trail" to 150-Mile Canyon. Approaching Little Joe Spring. Near Hotel Spring.

Climbing to Esplanade from Hotel Spring. Campsite. Mount Sinyella in Upper Left.


Mount Sinyella.

Ben Mahlab.

Colorado River View From Eplanade.


Potholes After Rain.

Ben Mahlab.

Bob in Natural Shelter.


Potholes After Rain.

Ben Mahlab.

Route to the Rim.

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