Butler Canyon

Rockhouse Canyon to Butler Canyon
(10 miles, +1,500/-1,500 feet).

My buddy Quercus just got some new GPS toys to take with him on an upcoming trip to Baja, so he decided to do a test hike in the desert and he invited me to come along.  It’s a good thing he drove, too, because I do not think my Honda Fit would make it on the rough road to the trailhead.

The Butler Canyon loop is one of the more popular ones in Anza, but we came on a Friday when it was extremely windy and nearly too hot to hike, so we had it to ourselves.  Thankfully it was cloudy most of the time!

Wind-blown dust clouds on Clark Lake
The trailhead parking lot
An Ocotillo bloom

This hike is basically a road walk through Rockhouse Canyon before it gets interesting, so I suggested we start with some cross country.

Quercus heads up the hill

Soon we found ourselves on a ridge high above the road where we were supposed to be, so we followed it to the head of the wash where we hoped we could find a way back down.  It became a knife-edge in some places.  Fun!

Quercus on the ridge
View of Rockhouse Canyon
View of Butler Canyon
One of many gorgeous Ocotillos on the ridge
Quercus looks for a way back down to Rockhouse Canyon
Made it!

The ridge was really beautiful and I highly recommend it as an alternate to the road walk.  But it came at a cost:

Curt Schilling’s got nothing on Quercus!

The road walk took us towards a 200 foot wall that we needed to climb.  Now that I’ve done it, I know where the trail is in this photo (subtle switchbacks far right) but it was not obvious at the time.

How do we climb that?
Quercus finds a clue!

The trailhead is a little before Hidden Spring, which is a great name unless there is a big official sign right above it saying “Hidden Spring.”


The switchbacks were very well defined and before we knew it we were up on Jackass Flat.

Quercus on the switchbacks
Rockhouse Canyon from the top of the switchbacks
Jackass Flat

The barrel cacti were particularly impressive up here.

JimmyJam and his friend, Spike
A lovely bloom

The walk out of Jackass Flat turned into another wash walk, mildly boring but with some nice flowers along the way.

Ho hum
Hey, those are nice!

Then the canyon started to narrow and it got more interesting with lots of marble and the occasional need to boulder a little.

Quercus gets down
Boulders in Butler Canyon

Five hours later we were back to the car and ready to escape the 90 degree heat!

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