Upper Bighorn Gorge is an isolated hard-to-reach canyon which contains four sets of spectacular narrows and includes the portion of canyon located between the head and bottom of the 4th Narrows. Difficulties encountered on the hike include having the proper HC or 4WD vehicle to reach the starting point (if hiking from White Top Mountain Road), climbing some medium-difficulty dry falls, and being prepared for backpacking long distances with no water sources. A Google Earth map of the hiking route (turned to the northeast for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the head of the canyon are 36° 50.650'N, 117° 24.452'W. GPS coordinates for the bottom of the major dry fall bypass are 36° 50.945'N, 117° 24.229'W. GPS coordinates for the top of the major dry fall bypass are 36° 50.937'N, 117° 24.270'W.
Upper Bighorn Gorge takes on a completely different character than Lower Bighorn Gorge. If you read my report for Lower Bighorn Gorge, you probably noticed the gradual transition from wide open canyon to a more enclosed canyon containing polished walls and narrows. This report picks up where the lower canyon report leaves off. After we exited what we call the 5th Narrows, it wasn't long before we entered into the 4th Narrows. (Keep in mind that when I say 4th Narrows, they were actually the 2nd Narrows for us, as we were coming up from the bottom of the gorge. But most maps list the narrows in order of 1st to 4th, starting from the upper portion of the gorge. Thus, I'm going to list the narrows in that order to eliminate confusion.) Both the 4th and 3rd Narrows were the highlights of the hike for all of us. The swirling fossils which lined the beautiful walls were literally everywhere. We spent some time examining the walls and getting pictures. And, indeed, as our guidebook stated, there were dry falls at the beginning of both the 4th Narrows and 2nd Narrows. Both of these might be a little difficult for somebody to conquer on their own. But if you have at least one other person with you, it will provide that little boost and extra leverage you might need to go on. If I had been here alone, I do think I could have gotten past these obstacles but I was glad to have the help of Daria. Although not mentioned in my guidebook, there were also a couple of other dry falls along the way which needed to be bypassed or climbed, but they weren't too difficult. After rounding the giant horseshoe in the gorge, we reached the 2nd and 1st Narrows. We stopped just below the giant 60-foot dry fall which stands at the beginning of the 1st Narrows to have lunch. A short time later, I climbed up the bypass on the north side of the 60 foot fall, which was a giant field of small boulders and loose rocks scattered up a hill. Then, I looked over the dry fall to see Daria below and hiked a little farther up the gorge until I could see out the head of Bighorn Gorge. It was amazing to make it that far on a day hike. And as all of us hiked back down the 10 miles to our vehicle, our feet eventually throbbing in pain, we reflected on the beauty of what we had seen in Bighorn Gorge. Two years after our day hike, I returned to Bighorn Gorge with a few friends and hiked into the top portion in the middle of summer. It was extremely hot and I don't think I will ever do that again. Then, four years after that (or six years after my original hike), another friend and I hiked down the entire length of Bighorn Gorge while doing a loop backpacking route in the Cottonwood Mountains. For more information on that (and to see some more pictures of Bighorn Gorge), check out our reports on Bighorn North and Lost Canyon. The sample pictures below were taken from that hike in 2014. Our hikes through Upper Bighorn Gorge took place on December 1, 2008, August 4, 2010, and April 4, 2014.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT