Hiking out to the Dripping Springs
For our final adventure on this trip to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona we needed to get a special permit at the visitor center to drive out and hike to a spot called Dripping Springs. They only allow 5 cars at a time to drive out the single lane gravel road to the trail head and as luck would have it there were a few left to be had. The ranger gave us some directions because the trail is not well marked and we would be very close to the “closed to the public” areas of the park. Also included in the talk was a warning about the area being a place where illegal immigration and drug smuggling takes place and to report anything suspicious.
The day was perfect with temps in the high 70s, low wind and a clear blue sky overhead. The first part of the drive is out the 10 mile Puerto Blanco Scenic Drive which ends at a nice picnic area, but we needed to go another 6 miles on a little rougher, single lane gravel (permit required) road to reach the Dripping Spring trail head. Along the way we passed a couple border patrol trucks with one having a large scanning device on top checking out the desert around it. Seeing them made us feel fairly secure that we wouldn’t meet any illegals along our way. The US border Patrol has a pretty strong presence in the park. Besides that the drive was uneventful and we didn’t meet any oncoming traffic which is a good thing when you drive a dually truck on a single lane road.
At the Dripping Springs trail head there was a few parking spaces and some placards with trail information. We met a couple from Washington just coming back and they said they didn’t see the spring as the trail gets rocky when it ascends and they missed it. The ranger told us this happens quite often and to be sure to look for marking cairns (piled up rocks) and when you come to a flat ledge about 20 feet by 3 feet take the right hand cairns path.
We headed off determined to see the Dripping Spring and not miss the path. The first part of the hike is across kind of desert grassland that reminded me of being in a John Wayne western with all the rock outcroppings, Saguaro cactus and the trail looking like wagon tracks. Anne lagged behind as she just couldn’t help stopping every 100 feet to photograph the beautiful landscape.
Next we started to zig zag our way up into the rocks following the cairns marking us the way. Once we climbed maybe 300 feet we did come to a ledge of sorts and saw the two cairns. Go left and you head up a more difficult hike to the summit or go right and you head to the Dripping Spring. We headed right and after a few more minutes clambering up the rocks we were at the spring’s entrance. The Dripping Spring to tell the truth is rather underwhelming. It’s a small opening in the rock face with a very small pool of water leaking out and a crap load of bees! They were swarming all around the water and since the ranger mentioned the possibility the bees were Africanized here, we didn’t hang out there too long.
The best part of the hike isn’t the Dripping Spring but the magnificent view you get from its location up on the rocks. With the clear weather you could see for many miles out into the Ajo Valley below and the color of the desert landscape contrasting with the deep blue sky was amazing. We spent a good while up there photographing and just drinking in the views. If you’re visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument I highly recommend this beautiful little peaceful hike that is guaranteed to be away from the crowds.
Video Clip from Hiking to Dripping Springs
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