HOG-TASTIC! Up there, across the road from the Sandthrax Campsite, are four Hog-tastic canyons. These canyons that are great fun too, with great downclimbing, elevators, and a couple rappels thrown in to keep the riff-raff out. The Hog Canyons are a bit more challenging than the Leprechauns and the Butlers, though they are not so much harder as higher off the ground. Dave Black and Jim Wright found the Hog Canyons first and shared these gems with our gang. The Hog Canyons are best enjoyed in cool weather, when the vigor of getting through them will match the desire to keep warm. Full pads are required for the Hogs.
There are four Hog Canyons: Hog One, aka Boss Hawg, is the best starting point, having a nice, progressive rhythm. Hog Two has a spicy downclimb at the start, a spicy downclimb at the end, and a couple interesting places in-between. It is usually done second. Hog Three, aka The Razorback, has higher, scarier and harder downclimbs, aided by the sharp texture of the rock. Miss Piggy is a side-branch to Hog One, and may be the most fun of the Hogs. It drops into Hog One just in time to get that canyon’s brilliant final section. Miss Piggy is out in the open, faces south, and features several good downclimbs that can be belayed if needed, though finding anchors for all of these would be challenging.
The Hog Canyons are numbered in the order they were descended, thus Miss Piggy is also Hog Four, though this disrupts the geographic progression. Hogs One and Three have nicknames, but Hog Two has escaped that fate so far. In this write-up, I will use the numerical designations except for Miss Piggy.
Each Hog takes a couple hours at most. Add an hour for the approach, and two hours for the exit. Then add an hour or so for the climb up between. Combining two Hogs makes for a fine, casual day; three makes for a longer day; and four in a day HAS been done, with a bit of focus-maintaining required.
Hiking into the Hogs
Between Hog One and Hog Two is a ridge that can be easily ascended; that is, easy ABOVE the first 25 feet. A steep slab with scattered holds must be climbed to get to the easy part. The climb is about 5.7, with insecure holds. Your best climber can solo this, then meat-anchor a rope for the others to use as a handline. The ridge is used to get back up to the top for a second or third (or fourth?) canyon.
The approach is usually made from the top, by driving 2.1 miles out the high clearance Trachyte Point road, and hiking across the dune-sand mesa top to the edge of the canyons. A canyon is descended, then the ridge climbed back to the top, and a second canyon descended. For most people this will be sufficient. Hog Canyon is then walked out 2.4 miles to the Hog Spring picnic area where a shuttle vehicle is parked.
An alternative “Ramble-Up” approach is possible when a combo hiking/canyoneering day is called for. With only one vehicle, the buttress can be climbed again, and the approach trail re-traced to get back to your vehicle.
The Hog Canyons are natural anchor areas, so bring some webbing and rings, just in case.
Hog One (aka Boss Hawg)
Hog One is the best Hog to start with. It has a wonderful rhythm that makes it perfect for learning the craft to climbing through canyons. After a brief warmup section, a high-but-not-hard downclimb is passed, then a very short, very awkward rappel. Then two more short, odd downclimbs that can be rappelled, then classic Hog terrain – tall, narrow slots with rough walls – eventually leading to a 'real' rappel. More downclimbing and a really great elevator lead out to the main canyon. Sweet, fun, not too difficult. LEARN MORE
Hog Two is often done next, and combined with Hog One makes for a great day out. It starts and ends with its most stimulating downclimbing sections. After a brief warmup, a move left into crease gets the blood flowing, and the steep, high downclimb below that keeps one interested, though the many features on the rock make it technically straightforward. The canyon continues through some sweet narrows, a couple short rappels and some pretty sections, to the final, crazy-looking downclimb. A short walk leads to the main canyon. LEARN MORE
Hog Three (aka Razorback)
Hog Three (Razorback) steps up the difficulty level, though the very rough and grippy rock makes these more reasonable than they look. Several of these can be rappelled, using rocks as anchors. Hog Three drops steeply and is short, so while more athletic, it does not tend to take very long. It finishes with a great rappel.
Hog Three ends further downcanyon than the others, in an area of dense brush and steep terrain. It is usually saved for the last canyon of the day so that returning upcanyon is not required. From Hog Three, hike out to the intersection with the main canyon, then follow the left-hand bench until you intersect the usual trail where it comes off the ridge. LEARN MORE
Miss Piggy (aka Hog Four)
Miss Piggy (Hog Four) is short and sweet, and quite different than the other three Hogs, being more out in the open and much less slotty. A couple of good corner downclimbs lead to a couple nice rappels. Miss Piggy flows into Hog One and picks up the awesome elevator near that canyon's end. Being the first canyon reached on the hike in, it is usually done as the first canyon of the day. LEARN MORE
From the Sandthrax campsite, drive 4.9 miles south on Route 95, and leave a shuttle car at the Hog Springs Picnic Area. Drive back past camp, then 2.2 miles further north on Route 95 to the intersection with Route 276. Turn left on Rte 276 toward Bullfrog, and drive 3.6 miles to a small dirt road on the left, across from a yellow “turn to the right” sign. The road is not at all obvious. Follow this road 2.1 miles to a wide spot at the top of a hill with parking for three or four vehicles. Park here.
Hog Canyons Driving Map
From the parking lot, follow a use-path that runs northeast directly away from the carpark across the sand dune terrain. As you approach the canyon rim, trend left (north) to avoid a gully, then follow the rim. There is a short cliffband at the rim that must be passed. Llook for signs of passage where others have descended. You will want to stay above the rim until you are in the vicinity of the head of your desired canyon, then find a good place to get over the edge.
The first canyon is Miss Piggy, which does not look like much. The second canyon is Hog One, which has a large, shallow bowl as its upper section.
Skirting around the top of Hog One and crossing the ridge leads to the conspicuous shallow bowl that is the top of Hog Two. Crossing the top of Hog Two, then over the ridge past that leads to Hog Three.
The Buttress Climb Up
The climb-up starts where Hog Two meets Hog One. There is a low angle slab where we often perch for lunch, then a steeper slab above that. Carefully work out the sequence of holds that leads to the top of the short wall. From the flat area at the top, follow the flow of the slickrock back up to the top.
If Hog Two is on your agenda, it is worthwhile to take the brief walk to the bottom of the final downclimb in Hog Two, to get an understanding of the geometry.
The Climb UP!
The Hike Out Route
The hike out is not down the watercourse because the streambed is thick with brush and swamp. From the intersection of One and Two, hike UP Hog One 20 feet and cross to the far side (southwest) of the flat watercourse bottom. Follow a trail downcanyon on the right margin of the streambed. The trail soon hops up on the slope to the right of the streambed. Follow the path as it leads along the side, then as it climbs steeply up through the short cliffband above. Once atop the cliffband, generally follow the edge of the gorge though you will immediately need to work away from the gorge to cross a small watercourse. Then work back to the rim, trying to stay as much as possible on the conspicuous trail and on the rocky edge.
Follow this edge a half mile. It becomes more of a ridge, as the crease on the right develops into a gorge too. Follow the top of the ridge to near its end, then drop right finding an easy way down to the right-hand stream bed twenty feet from where it pours out into the main canyon. Cross the stream here and climb to the bench on the left-hand side of the stream. Follow the trails downcanyon, initially up on the bench, but soon descending to the streambed. It is a delightful hike out.
Hank and Alicia hiking out the bottom on a beautiful day.
The Nasty Gully Escape Route
There is another way to get back up to the top, near the vehicles, but I have always found it steep, loose, dangerous and unpleasant. Thus I decline to offer details.