Boulder Creek Shortcut (or NOT!)

Boulder Creek

Boulder Creek

On my recent Burr Trail Loop Hike, I tried to save time by taking a shortcut to bypass a portion of the creek just below the Boulder Creek Narrows. If you watched the trip video, you know that I got frustrated when I got near the end of the route and couldn’t find a way down off the high cliffs and back to the creek. I was mad, but… I couldn’t remember from where I’d noted the route and thus didn’t know who to be mad at! Upon returning home I failed to find any documentation of the route so I began to think maybe I was the one in error and had somehow noted the route incorrectly. Inconceivable! 🙁

BUT.. thanks to a great discussion with several informative people over at forum, it came to light WHERE I’d seen the route and possibly what went wrong. You can see that thread there or I will summarize it below.

Turns out… it was desert hiker extraordinaire Steve Allen who published the suggested route in his guidebook Canyoneering 3 (Map 40, page 264). I refuse to believe that Allen is flat-out wrong, so I believe he just did a route up extremely steep slickrock that most mortals would find extremely scary/dangerous. At the time it didn’t look remotely feasible to me, but since I wasn’t 100% sure I was in the right spot my confidence was already low. Even if it IS possible, the author doesn’t note the challenge involved which I think is a mistake in this case (he carefully notes steep pitches in other locations). If you hope to travel his route, be prepared for the obstacle and read on for more detail about this beautiful area.

Below is the Allen map which I believe is in error or involves some incredibly steep slickrock. Google SAT imagery on the right for reference:


Here is the SAT image marked up with location tags for notes/pics below:


The center orange line is the bypass in question. The other orange line to the right is Allen’s route from Canyoneering 2 which leads down one bend farther south (and then continues back up through a slot.)

Closer on the area around Location #2 where Allen suggests to re-enter Boulder Creek:


I made my way down the very steep slickrock to spot #2 which sits on a bench before rounding off into a cliff around the entire bend:


Giving Allen the benefit of the doubt, my guess is that he went straight down/up the drainage. I looked at this and chickened out before I could even see the route all the way down:


The same spot from below:


Zoomed in:


Definitely doesn’t seem doable to me. I checked the wall all the way down and it was cliffed out the whole way.

As noted above, according to Canyoneering 2 there is a route back down to the creek one bend to the south. I didn’t see this spot either, but I didn’t look too closely as I was short-cutting the bend on the opposite side. Here’s a shot of the area though and I suspect a way down might be hidden by that tree near the center:


Both times through the area I entered/exited via the pass leading to The Gulch (marker #5). When I did do the loop through the narrows, I had to walk up to about marker #4 where I found a spot to do a controlled slide down a 8′ slickrock face to reach the bank of the creek. I remember thinking that it might be really hard to reverse if necessary. Luckily I didn’t have to. Some shots from the narrows:

Looking down out the bottom of the narrows:


Looking up the narrows from the bottom and where one can access the rim:


Along the rim:


If anybody knows more about the route, please share via a comment below. I’m curious if it’s even doable, but I definitely want it known it’s not for casual hikers!

High-rez Gallery:

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  1. Thanks for your detailed hiking info and pics!

  2. All I can add is that I looked for the Steve Allen short cut many years ago, and I couldn’t find anything that I dared to do on a solo hike, I need to go back and look again.