Beat(en) Feet to the “Narrows”

Hiking companion Rod calls this the “DD Death March”.

I’ve heard he exaggerates other stuff too!

Actually it is a quite a workout, but the reward of visiting LaBarge Narrows is worth the effort.

This is a 12-mile (round trip) trek from First Water trailhead, out to Garden Valley (why do they call it a “valley”, it’s a damn plateau!), then down through Second Water canyon to the Boulder Canyon trail, upstream in that canyon to the “stern” of Battleship, up over a steep saddle, the down into lower LaBarge Box just north of the Narrows.  (And return)

Like the Rogers Trough hike, this one saves most of the climbing for the return leg.  All-in-all start-to-finish you will gain about 1,500 feet of elevation in aggregate.

labarge map

The first stretch of the hike up to the east end of Garden Valley is an easy unremarkable stroll.  At this crest, however, the scene changes.

Here is the view, just as you start to descend into Second Water canyon.  Left of center mid-distant is Battleship mountain, and beyond it the Geronimo Head massif.  Classic Superstition mountain interior!

Second Water overlook - Copy

Second Water canyon is a fairly steep descent on gnarly footing down to the intersection with Boulder Canyon trail.

And Boulder Canyon comes by its name honestly!  Because of generous rain early in January, the creek still has some flowage.  Rock hopping was the order of the day, and stream crossing points are not always obvious.  Examining my track (see the opening map graphic) there are a number of spots where I chose the streamside opposite between my inbound and outbound routes.

creek 1


CreekAfter around a mile in this canyon the route takes a left turn over an unofficial (and sketchy) trail over a saddle at the stern end of Battleship mountain.

Nearing the top of this low saddle there are great views to the south, showing the upstream course of Boulder Creek towards Cavalry Trail, and Weavers Needle standing guard on the horizon.

South from saddle - Copy

Cresting the saddle, to the north is a view of the “bow” of Battleship mountain (left), and Geronimo’s Head on the opposite side of LaBarge Canyon.


Our destination, “the narrows” lies below us in the dark basalt canyon to our right.  Do you see the hikers in this scene?  You need to look close!

High view

To give you a sense of the scale, here’s that photo again with a segment “zoomed” to show several of my companions enjoying their lunch below.

High view w zoom

The “payoff” for your work is LaBarge Narrows, a deep and craggy slot canyon carved through this dark volcanic cone.  A camera doesn’t do justice to this place, but here are a few examples of scenes we saw.

west 1

Wall right

Wall right 1

Interior West 1

Canyon bottom


The turnaround point was a chance for all to rest out battered feet, and catch a drink of water before heading back to the trailhead.



The “highlight” of the return leg is the climb up Second Water canyon on that nasty footing.  I’ll admit, in deference to Rod, that there were some moments on that ascent when I hallucinated about finding an elevator to the top.  It’s a relentless climb.  The trail gods were forgiven, though, on passing the ruins in Garden Valley and heading back on a smooth path to the trailhead.



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7 Responses to Beat(en) Feet to the “Narrows”

  1. Debbie says:

    Hans, your narrative and pictures are absolutely awesome. Thanks!


  2. Laurie says:

    You really are able to capture the majesty of this place, Hans! So appreciated your pictures & narrative.


  3. Exaggerate! Who me?


  4. Great pictures, Hans. I’ll try and get the elevator installed next year.


  5. Norman Lowrance says:

    As usual, a narrative with photos. Great job Hans. I get to go on the hike, but without the rigors.


  6. Chris Krakowski says:

    Great narrative and pictures! I’ve only been out that way once, hiking around Battleship. I’m planning on doing a lot more exploring out that way this year.


  7. Paul Goodgrove says:

    I like the three hikers relaxing in the sun. Nice description Hans.


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