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Desert Trekking: Unida Wash and Beyond

Hedgehog Cactus FlowerUnida is not a typical wash. It cuts through rugged, mountainous terrain, has a number of narrow passages, a variety of rock formations, gravel and sand bars that have been formed, carved and polished by the rush of debris laden waters from eons of monsoons and it is the home of the tallest known saguaro. The wash, located off Constellation road about halfway between Sayers Spring and the Monte Cristo mine, twists its way north eventually ending at the Hassayampa River.

Unida WashPark your vehicle at the trailhead just off Constellation road, strap on your backpack, scramble over the steep bank down into the wash or follow the 4-wheel road downhill past a mine and enter the wash. Follow the wash and you will eventually come to a narrow passage and a six-foot drop-off falls. Unless you are good at scaling rock faces, you’ll need to make a detour. Backtrack a short ways and scramble up a bank on the left out of the wash, and then back down into the wash just below the drop-off. Tallest SaguaroContinue onward and you’ll next come to the tallest saguaro (about 56 feet), followed by the Hassayampa River. Before reaching the river, you can take a 4-wheel road up hill to the right that leads to the White Mine stamp mill foundation. You’ve completed the Unida Wash portion of this journey.

An ore car rail trail starts northeast just beyond the stamp mill site and leads along the canyon edge overlooking the Hassayampa River. Short TunnelAbout half way, you’ll pass through a very short tunnel and a short distance further the trail ends at a dangerous, unfenced mineshaft. Only one section of rail is left and it is covered mostly by a rockslide – probably why its still there. Beyond the mineshaft my trekking partner Dennis Orr and I “discovered” an old unused trail that led us over the hill and down a short steep scramble into a patch of mesquite trees that put us near the mouth of Slim Jim Wash. It was a nice shortcut versus following the River around the bend, plus it offered yet another great over-view of the river. On our return, we did some clearing and placed rock cairns along the way to re-establish the old trail.

Hassayampa River Overlook

Our other goal during this trip was to locate the “Balanced Rock”. However, it was then getting to be mid-afternoon and time for two old tired “goats” to head home. That search is saved for a future adventure.

Note: Part of this route is presented in Dana Burden’s book “Tallest Saguaro – Short Route” and “Tallest Saguaro – Balanced Rock” (1). Because of differences, I’ve chosen to name it “Unida Wash and Beyond”.

Trip Details

Distance: Take Constallation road for 10.5 miles from its junction with 93 just East of the Hassayampa River bridge in downtown Wickenburg. A 4-wheel road leads off Constallation to the trail head where there is plenty of parking space. The road, while rough in many places, is suitable for two wheel drive vehicles, just keep on the road and out of sandy wash areas.

Difficulty: Some “scrambling” is necessary to detour around the drop-off falls in Unida Wash and on the trail leading down to Slim Jim Wash. There is some exposure along the ore car rail and along the old discovered trails on the sections overlooking the Hassayampa River.

Time: The trails traversed are about 7 miles long round trip. Allow 8 hours for a round trip from Wickenburg.

Features: A wash with a variety of rock formations, a mine and mine shaft, tallest saguaro, stamp mill foundation, lots of desert scenery and awesome overviews of the Hassayampa River.

Equipment: Lots of water, camera, lunch, a first aid kit with tweezers for cactus thorn removal(s), pair of gloves for the scrambling and hiking boots. A GPS unit, while not necessary, would be a good addition if not familiar with the territory.

Data: A PDF map file and GPX file of waypoints and tracking data is available. A utility program, GPSbable, can be downloaded from WWW.GPSBABLE.COM which converts waypoints, tracks and routes from one format to another, whether that format is a common mapping format like Delorme, Streets and Trips or even a serial or USB upload or download to a GPS receiver such as those from Garmin and Magellan.

1 Desert Hiking, Out Wickenburg Way by Dana W. Burden, Library of Congress Control Number 2004095910, is available in a number of shops in Downtown Wickenburg, including the Old Livery Mercantile, which also sells the book online.

Last 5 posts by Lee Pearson

1 comment to Desert Trekking: Unida Wash and Beyond

  • Allan Hall

    Hello Lee:
    Very nice article on the hike from Unida to the Hassayampa River. I’ve been thinking of doing this hike myself and your article has definitely raised my incentive.

    I will shortly be publishing an article about hiking down Slim Jim Creek to the river that might be a good companion piece to what you have done.
    Best Regards,
    Allan Hall