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.
The Four 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.
The views on the approach to the Hog Canyons aren't too shabby...
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 Three Canyon
ROUGH STUFF. Hog Three Canyon, aka The Razorback, is the burliest of the Hogs. It drops quickly, without rappels. The canyon jogs left and drops, and these jogs have the hardest climbing bits, some of which are pretty high. Thankfully, the rock is rough and grips well. Stay sharp! In most cases the canyon takes about an hour. Hog Three is usually saved for the last canyon of the day because the bottom ends at a very brushy section of the main canyon, and returning up-stream for another canyon would be a royal pain.
Hog Four aka Miss Piggy
FUN FUN FUN! Miss Piggy Canyon (aka Hog 4) is possibly the most fun of the Hogs. It is short and open to the sun, and the downclimbs are short, open corners with sticky rock – easier than they look. A couple nice rappels delight the canyoneer at the end of this short slot. The fun is not over, as Miss Piggy drops into the open corridor near the end of Hog One, picking up the great, last section of that canyon. The whole canyon takes about an hour and a half, leaving plenty of time to do another. Large groups and/or beginner groups should descend Miss Piggy Canyon to warm up for the other Hogs.
Hog Canyon Trip Reports
If you're interested in more info on the Hog Canyons, check out trip reports from The Latest Rave, below: