December 02, 2018
This hike was inspired by the “Soda Springs – Caja del Rio Canyon” trip listed in the book, “60 Hikes within 60 Miles” by Stephen Ausherman. It does not follow his route exactly. We started at Diablo Canyon and used a shortcut up to the Caja del Rio Plateau. This shortcut route begins 1.77 miles from the trailhead at Diablo Canyon. Look for cairns to the left and follow them up to the rim. The last time I was here was 6 plus years ago and this part of the route is greatly improved by use and frequent placement of cairns. We went up the way I remembered which included a 32% slippery slope. I think I’ll probably go the new way from now on. The traverse I alluded to in my route description is greatly reduced by this new route. The map shows the way we went in red, the correct way to go is shown in blue.
Once on top, we headed to the East on the well-named Sagebrush Flats to the Soda Springs Trail (number 306). There is more signage then there used to be although we had to look at the ground to see them. Trail 306 more or less follows the version on the official topo map until you get about .59 miles down the trail. It looks like you go to the North but the trail actually turns more to the Southeast directly to the Rio Grande. It helps that the wrong way is blocked by rocks.
At the bottom is a good place for lunch in the Sun. This area is where the Soda Springs reside but I have never seen them. Next, we turn North following the Rio Grande on a sinuous trail. You know you’re getting close to the Buckman area when you start seeing mudstone. At this point, Michael continued on the standard route while CK, Nancy, and myself decided to try a shortcut while avoiding the sand hiking in the Cañada Ancha Arroyo. It ended up being more difficult and slower. Micheal chose the right way to go. We arrived back at Diablo Canyon during the magic hour with long shadows and the Sun reflecting off of canyon walls.
This hike was 9.59 miles long. We climbed 1954 feet in total. These stats are for part of the route shown in red on my map. The blue line shows the correct shortcut route to the mesa top. The black line is the correct part of the route that Michael took. We were CK, Nancy King, Michael, and SK Lund. Our hike time was 5 hours and 40 minutes.
The map is attached to the image gallery. It can be used without permission with no assurances of accuracy. Use it at your own risk. Re-publishing any part of this report, map or photos can be done with acknowledgment to SK Lund.