Three years ago I started documenting my hikes. To commemorate the occasion I again returned to hike in the Circle X Ranch area. This year my goal was to reach or at least get as close as I could to the improbable Balanced Rock. This 40-foot monolith sits precariously on it’s perch above Echo Cliffs. I have passed by on Mishe Mokwa Trail several times in the past, but today I made a run for it.
I would not be visiting Sandstone Peak this year or the other rock formations off of Backbone Trail. Nice to see them from below though.
I turned the corner – Echo Cliffs and Balanced Rock come into view. Amazing!
Photo 1 – On zoom – One can easily make out Balanced Rock sitting above and to the left. The name is well deserved. Photo 3 – Shot of Echo Cliffs and Balanced Rock from another angle.
At the canyon bottom I reached Split Rock. There is a picnic table a lots of shade. This is just a few yards from the turn-off to the trail which took me out to Balanced Rock.
I had tried to hike this spur trail to Balanced Rock a couple of years ago but it was really overgrown and impassable due to the all the poison oak. I had prepared myself to walk up the creek bed, as I had read this was the only way to get out there. But as I walked along the trail searching for a good place to enter the creek it became clear that someone had worked the trail. It was rougher than the Mishe Mokwa but not to bad at all. Thanks to whoever cleared the way. I began climbing and heading in the direction of the rock. About a third of the way there I came to a T-junction. Up steeply to the left or down steeply to the right. There was a yellow ribbon marking the trail to the right. I figured, incorrectly, that the trail going to the right must lead down to the foot of Echo Cliffs. So I went up to the left. I climbed a couple of very steep hills until I came to something that looked nearly straight up. I turned around. I went back to the T-junction and this time followed the yellow tape. From this point forward there are quite a few yellow ribbon markers which will led me to a point right below Balanced Rock. The trail is a little sketchy in places, like walking across the tilted rock shown in photo 5. There are a couple of steep hills and a couple of short scrambles.
Looking straight through Carlise Canyon with Balanced Rock on the left.
Photo 1 – Closing in. Below the rock hidden by those bushes on the left is the most significant scramble of the hike up a wall of rock. Not bad, just slightly more challenging than the scramble to Sandstone Peak. Photo 2 – The trail goes under the rock. I scrambled up to the left.
Beneath Balanced Rock
I reach Balanced Rock.
I had a hard time backing up far enough to get the whole rock in the photo. For scale I leaned my hiking poles near the middle of the rock, but they’re very hard to see in this photo. It felt great being able to get so close to this rock, to be able to reach out and touch it. I wasn’t sure I would ever get the chance.
I moved to the left of the rock to capture a different perspective.
Photo 1 – I start back along the same route. I love this huge rock, which to me looks like a movie monster-sized octopus rising out of the water. Photo 2 – Passing Balanced Rock on the return trip.