Upper Burro Mesa was a "bonus hike" for us. We had plans to leave the day before, but decided to stay an extra day because we just weren't ready to leave yet. I hadn't read much about this hike, but I did remember it saying that you're basically going downhill for the entire first part of the trail, which meant you were heading uphill the entire way back. This hike is a 3.5 mile trail with a 200 foot elevation change. That elevation change doesn't seem like much, but there's a LOT of rock scrambling on this one!
The first part of the trail is just a lot of walking down a slight incline. There's not much to it for maybe the first mile or so. Then it unexpectedly got a little interesting with some rock and boulder scrambling. Keep in mind, we were hiking with a 4 year old and 7 year old, but fortunately, they love to climb! The video below will give you an idea of the terrain.
There's only room for about 6-8 vehicles to park for this trail, so it's not a hugely populated hike. We also had ZERO cell signal on this hike! I'm not saying that to scare people, but just to inform you that was our experience. We did this hike on New Year's Eve. We didn't encounter any animals or critters on this hike, although I'm fairly certain I saw a couple of bear tracks. We felt safe the entire time, but the mama in me did have a bit of anxiety, just because we were hiking with small kids.
After the rock scrambling, there's quite a bit more walking through gravel. You hike through some beautiful canyons and it got a bit cool on our hike due to the shade. At the end of the canyon, you can climb down into a beautiful grotto area. It's a pretty steep climb coming back up. We chose not to have our kids climb down for fear of not being able to get them back up. This grotto is the same area at the end of the Lower Burro Mesa Pouroff Trail, seen above our heads in this picture.
This was the end of the trail and after resting and enjoying the views for a few minutes, we turned around and headed back. At this point, our kids were getting a little tired of walking (although they're always willing to climb). The trek back starts with a pretty long walk before you get back to rock scrambling. Once you get back to the rock scrambling, you're probably 2+ miles into the entire hike. We eventually made it back to the rock scrambling and our 4 year old got his second wind when it was time to climb.
THIS IS WHERE THINGS GOT "INTERESTING"! - TIPS INCLUDED!
Do you ever park in a large parking lot, head inside for a couple of hours, come back out, and realize you have absolutely ZERO clue where you parked because when you came in, you were kind of operating on "auto pilot"? When we started heading back up with the rock scrambling, this is how I felt. I realized when we were decending down all of these rocks, I was so focused on making sure the boys didn't lose their footing, that I wasn't paying attention to anything else around me. At one point, the panic set in. We came to a point on the climb back up that just looked foreign to us. There were several different paths we could take and none of them were marked.
(When hiking on these trails, the paths are often marked with stacks of rocks indicating it's the correct way to go. Or they're blocked off with a line of rocks telling you not to go that way. This is why it's important NOT to stack rocks while you're hiking, because it can confuse future hikers!)
Because I was tired, the kids were tired, I knew in the back of my head we had no cell signal the entire hike, and I was just ready to be back, panic set in for me. I was frustrated and my anxiety got the best of me. My head was swimming with what I planned to do if we were actually lost. I remembered I had brought a compass and a whistle with us. Maybe hikers would come through from the start of the hike, we could see where they came from, and head back that way. Maybe I could use our whistle in a worse case scenario to get someone's attention. I did know we had plenty of snacks and plenty of water. Then because my anxiety was heightened, I started worrying about bears and mountain lions. Anyone who has anxiety could imagine how I was starting to feel, but it's probably pretty silly sounding to people who don't have a lot of anxiety.
It's a weird feeling being in the middle of nature, looking around, and having NO clue which way you're supposed to head. Had we been lost for long, we could have figured it out. We knew the general direction to head and we knew we should be heading up. So, this is a reminder to try to go prepared and DON'T panic. Fortunately, dad didn't panic like mom was starting to. He climbed up and checked it out and remembered this was a place we had veered off to take a different path to avoid a huge drop off on the way down.
After you get through the rock scrambling on the way back up, you're back on the path to the parking lot. The incline going back up when you might be tired from the hike is a little more tiring than when you're fresh and headed down. Our four year old rode in our My Freeloader Kid Carrier at this point and dad saved the day. Overall, I really did love this hike, regardless of the moment of panic on the way back. If you go prepared, it's really not a big deal. I think the biggest thing I took from this hike was that I need to remember to PAY ATTENTION on first half of the trail. Sometimes when you're starting a hike, you can get caught up in the excitement of the beauty. But if you just remember to pay attention and notice things in your surroundings, hopefully you won't have any moments of panic on the way back. You can check out a short video of our entire hike here: CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO.