Cielo Falls State Park, Apaches Lake Camping Guide

The spectacular Christmas vacation of 2021 was spent in Apache Lake, Arizona, at one of the premier winter campgrounds in the country. It was one of my first times ever being out west and so I was extremely eager to see how it would be.

I had read several accounts of the unique experience that campers have during the popular winter season and knew that there were going to be plenty of “newbies” who’d never experienced anything like it before. There’s nothing like a large multitude of mountains rising up above the earth to take a breath and realize that everything has been designed just for you.

My friend and I got ready about two hours early on Christmas morning and decided to start our Christmas camping trip by heading northwest from our cabin. We knew that if we continued to the south we would likely run into some of the larger and busier campgrounds but wanted to start out on the right foot and not risk catching an early start.

So we made a decision to start out on the east side of the Grand Canyon. From there we planned to make three different treks; a 300 mile ride in a blizzard storm, a desert camping trip (no water needed, no showers, no eating places) and a mogollon camping trip. My intention of this first trek was to build up my endurance for an eventual 300 mile trek up the Inca Trail in preparation for the 300 mile race.

On our first day we woke up early and loaded up the car with food and gear for the three-day adventure that awaited us at the top of the Grand Canyon. My first thought upon arriving was to stock up on any possible beverage stops including a coffee or juice stop, a water bottle refill, and also a cola and tea.

We drove up the road and quickly found some lodging in a little town a few miles from our planned starting point. We quickly packed out our gear, took a quick shower, ate some breakfast, and then set off on our adventure.

The first thing I noticed on our journey was that we had an extreme lack of food. Nothing was available so we had to improvise. However, after surviving the blizzard, I was determined not to let it hold me back. Thus, on our second day we made our way over to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon Lake.

Being prepared for the extreme weather that the area experienced during the winter months, we packed our gear for the two fastest hikes I have ever done: The Shuttle Loop and The Apache Lake Shuttle Loop. I can honestly say that I gained more respect for myself after completing these two hikes. The Apaches Lake Shuttle Loop is a challenging hike due to the fast grade and winding road.

On our July 2021 July magnolia camping trip we made the decision to climb The Saguaro River. We knew this would be a tough and long day. The road up to the river was rough. However, once we made it past the log bridge, we were rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of the Saguaro Mountains.

The following morning we woke up, packed up our gear and hit the trails. The trail head was guarded by an outfitter who lived in a nearby town. We made it to the top of the canyon and had a chance to catch sight of two hummingbirds, two owls, and two mountain goats. After about half an hour of hiking, the sun was just rising and we decided to take a break.

The following day we decided to follow the trail to the East campground. As we were leaving the campground to get away from the sun, we saw two little boys playing in the forest.

We were so lucky, they didn’t have to go home that night. Upon arriving at the East campground we met with Senator Washburn and his aide, Gene Sterretti. They told us about their plan to restore the Saguaro National Park. The following afternoon, we went on a ride to the cabin where the campaign was holding its historic forum.

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