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February 23, 2020

Rainbow Canyon - Blair Valley

From Yaqui Pass we made the short drive to Blair Valley for a couple nights.  This is a popular weekend spot!  At least a couple dozen units were here when we arrived, but only three after the weekend crowd went home.

Most folks who visit Blair Valley are here for the ‘main events’ South Mountain, Moteros or Pictographs.  We’ve done those, several times.  We are here this time for a couple new-to-us hikes  -  first up is Rainbow Canyon.

In Afoot and Afield ~Jerry Schad says “Spectacular exposures of colorfully banded and folded metamorphic rock gave ‘Rainbow Canyon’ its so-far unofficial title.”   The Nimble Hiker scrambled easily over the the rocks on a previous visit.  Today it is the geriatric hikers turn.

This hike can be done as a loop from Blair Valley, or an out-n-back from the trailhead off S-2.  Today we’ll use the S-2 trailhead at mile post 27.5ish.  There’s a parking area on the east side of S-2, follow any of the washes from the parking area into the canyon.

From here this should be ~2.5 mi (R/T).  There are a total of 8 dry waterfalls to scale, before the canyon tops out.   Our plan is to do an out-and-back, not the loop up.

Following the wash we come to a wire fence that can easily be bypassed.

And continue up the wash that is surprising lush with native vegetation. 
Barrel Cactus
Fishhook Cactus
The 'rainbow' in Rainbow Canyon could be for the variety of colorful vegetation found, and not the colorful rock formations.

In less than a quarter-mile we enter the canyon.

 The walls are indeed marbled and colorful.

Amazing that so many distinct colors are displayed.  And we reach the first of the 8 dry falls to scramble over in the canyon.

To scale the first dry fall Fran needs to get her right foot into the toe hold seen just above her hiking stick.  She's too short for the reach!  I'm tall enough but the arthritis does not allow the required mobility.  ARG! turned back at a Ez-Pz 6' dry fall!  

We'll be back !!!

Rather than just go-away we took time to explore the flowers, where I picked up a couple jumping cholla.

Fortunately, I keep a cholla removal tool in my day pack.  A pocket comb placed under the cholla will lift it off.

The geriatric hikers are disappointed we did not complete the canyon, but cannot complain of the unexpected vegetation and colorful marble walls we did enjoy.  


  1. Yep, the desert here is starting to show some of its floral colors...

    1. In another month it will be in peak bloom. Not as spectacular as some years, but always a special time when it is full of life

  2. This was a great hike! The rock was amazing in formation and color. I am so jealous that you saw the barrel blooming! Darn! Not on cactus was blooming while we were there. Lots of great foliage color for your hike.

    1. Rainbow Canyon should be named after the color from the blooms, not the color of the rocks! We really enjoyed this area, even tho the dry falls were a bit of a barrier ... this time.

  3. Oooooh, those cholla are scary little buggers! I'm glad you were well prepared and able get rid of it. We carried a comb on several hikes in the desert last year. Don't leave home without one!!

    1. The pocket comb is kinda like the American Express of desert hikes - don't leave the trailhead without it! They are called 'jumping' cholla for a reason!

  4. When I was younger, it was cute to be short....now it's just a d amn inconvenience!

  5. I've only driven by the Blair Valley parking. Surprised to hear there is colorful rock as so much of AB is rather dull mud brown. And I too am jealous about the flowers.

  6. For sure MUD is the color of much of the ABD! The best wildflowers this year for us have been in the bajada of Rainbow Canyon. Rocks here are amazing!


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