Cliff Dweller’s Airstrip and Soap Creek Wash River Hike

I noticed on a map that the Cliff Dweller’s airstrip in Marble Canyon is right next to a wash (canyon) that leads down to the Colorado River.  I called the Cliff Dweller’s Lodge, made reservations for the night (a side trip on a business trip to Phoenix) and asked about the dirt airstrip. It turns out it isn’t theirs, but is owned by the Hatch family that runs Hatch Expeditions river running. So I called them and they said, “Land at your own risk, have fun.” Thank you, Steve Hatch! I really mean that.

The strip was a little soft and bumpy at the start but smoothed out right away. There are chains at midfield, but there was loose gravel beneath them and I couldn’t push the plane by myself there and I didn’t want to taxi in. But there seemed to be enough room, it just meant my plane wouldn’t be tied down. I rode my folding bike to the Cliff Dweller’s Lodge which is nice enough and the outdoor porch dining was perfect.

Early the next morning I headed back to the plane to drop off stuff and grab a day pack. The hike literally starts midfield across from the plane! There is a small drainage ditch that heads off perpendicular to the runway. It gets deeper and deeper until it’s a full-fledged canyon with walls hundreds of feet high. There are two places, one in particular, where you meet another canyon.  The canyon involves a lot of scrambling over boulders and rocks, but it isn’t technical except for one 30-foot drop with a knotted rope.  (On the way back I noticed you can skip the rope with a side trail).

It took me about two hours to reach the green/blue Colorado. I hung out in the sun on a big flat rock and almost went to sleep, then hiked back out. It’s pretty cool that when you’re still fairly deep in the wash, the first thing you see that tells you that you’re nearing the end is the windsock at the airstrip.

Cliff Dweller's Lodge Airstrip
Cliff Dweller’s Lodge Airstrip
Soap Creek Wash
Soap Creek Wash
Overflight of Marble Canyon
Overflight of Marble Canyon

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