Last Wednesday was a hike in the high country of the Mazatzal wilderness on Barnhardt Trail. This is a 6-mile hike (3 miles in and return) which ascends about 1,300 feet to the head of Barnhardt Canyon. In difficulty this would seem to resemble about the same challenge as Peralta to Fremont Saddle, but the route is much better conceived than Peralta resulting in a relaxing climb and one of the most scenic hikes in our repertoire. The trailhead is at 4,200 feet, nice and cool at about 55 degrees when we started the hike.
The attraction of this hike is threefold — moving water, unusual geology, and grandiose canyon scenery. Any of the three would put this hike on our “regular” list, but the combination of all three puts it solidly in the top 3 or 4 on the list.
First the water. All along this trail you are in sight and earshot of an actively flowing brook which tumbles steeply downstream in the canyon floor below. At one spot midway up the canyon wall I stood and counted nine separate minor waterfalls in plain sight.
The centerpiece of the water features, however, is a series of several close spaced waterfalls at the “turnaround” point of our hike. These waterfalls, set in a vertical redrock chimney, fall about a combined 150 or 200 feet. The photos below don’t come close to capturing the rugged beauty of the spot.
We need to recruit a geology scholar to go along on this hike to explain the forces which twisted the rocks into such unusual formations. There are a variety of “tortured” scenes in the canyon walls which seem to speak of enormous compression forces which wrinkled and molded the rock layers as if a giant crumpled the rock layers like so many sheets of paper.
All the water features and puzzling rock formations aside, this hike is a must if only because of the awesome vistas of mountains, valleys, canyons, good friends to share in the experience, and even a spring crocus just at Easter time.
Can’t wait for the next time.