I had a few choices of things I could do outdoors this weekend, and though I felt I picked the easiest option, I got my ass kicked. Summit42 invited me to hike in the San Rafael Reef with him, but it would have been an all-day hike with a few hours of driving thrown in, and I simply didn’t have that much time. Instead, I hiked up to the balanced rock above Helper with some geocachers. There’s been a geocache up there for just over a year, and I’ve wanted to find it ever since it was placed, but the hike just looked too daunting to do alone and the timing was never right to get someone else to join me.
The plan was to meet up at a church parking lot in Helper at 11:00am. I assumed that the others who were going would be driving to the trailhead in Helper Canyon. The road is rough and I knew that my truck wouldn’t make it, so I rode my ATV from my house in Price, up to Kenilworth on the back roads, then down to Helper along the old railroad grade. It was a cold ride, and I got to Helper just before 11:00. It turned out that everybody else was planning on hiking along the road to the trailhead and then taking a different route back, and it didn’t make sense to ride my ATV there so I just left it in Helper. We walked along the old railroad grade then turned onto the road going up Helper Canyon and continued until it ended. From there, we scrambled up a steep rocky slope to the bottom of a series of cliff bands. From there, the route followed a narrow and steep ledge between two of the bands of cliffs. I’d seen photos of this part before and it looked pretty bad, and though it looked even worse in person, it turned out to not be as bad as I’d feared.
After traversing that slope we climbed a ladder up to the top of the next band of cliffs. The ladder was made from welded steel pipe and bolted to the sandstone cliff. After the ladder, the route follows some fun sandstone ledges in the bottom of the drainage, then it climbs out of the drainage and goes straight up a steep hillside to the top of a ridge. The hillside was one of the worst parts of the hike due to its length and lack of nice views. Once we reached the top of the ridge, we followed the ridge line all the way to the geocache location just above the balanced rock. The view was amazing from there. To the south we could see all of Helper and beyond, and to the north we could see up the mouth of Price Canyon.
After taking some time to rest, eat, and take photos, we headed north down into into the bottom of another drainage, then turned west and followed the water course downhill. Once we reached a huge pour-off, we skirted around it to the north until we found a way down past the cliff, then continued down the steep and rocky hillside all the way to the bottom. This part was the absolute worst of the hike. The downhill was punishing, and my knees were hurting well before we got to the bottom. Once at the bottom, we walked along the railroad tracks back to town. I bundled up again in my heavy coat and gloves and hopped on my ATV for the cold ride home.
I’m still a bit sore today, but not as bad as I was yesterday just after the hike. Despite being pretty difficult, it was fun enough that I would definitely do it again, and I probably will do so next spring when things dry out a bit. I think there are more interesting things to be seen up there, but I need some longer, warmer days in order to explore a bit more.
GPS Tracklog and Waypoints (Google Earth .KML format)