A father and daughter hiking team feared lost on the treacherous Hell’s Gate Trail is safe, the Gila County Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
The pair, from Flagstaff, had planned a three-day backpacking trip through the Hell’s Gate wilderness area along Tonto Creek. When the pair did not return home Saturday night as planned, the man’s wife called rescuers, said Gila County Sgt. Terry Hudgens.
On Sunday, a DPS ranger helicopter searched the area for signs of the pair, but could not locate them. On Monday morning, the helicopter went back out, this time searching farther south down the canyon where the pilot spotted the pair three miles upstream from the Narrows.
The pair waved the helicopter off, however, the pilot decided to land a short ways away. A paramedic on board hiked to the pair. The father and daughter explained they had hiked the canyon once before in three days, but it was taking them longer this time because the water in the creek is flowing much higher. When the pair reached a pool Sunday night they would have to swim across, they decided to camp on its banks and wait until morning.
“They didn’t want to sleep in wet clothes,” Hudgens said.sw
By Monday, the pair had swam across and was continuing down the canyon, with several more pools to cross on their 20-mile journey. The pair said they were fine and would continue on the hike.
The Hell’s Gate trailhead is located 12 miles east of Payson off Highway 260. The steep trail descends down into a canyon where Haigler Creek intersects with Tonto Creek. Most people camp at this intersection and then hike out the way they came. Some continue down Tonto Creek, passing through several deep pools until they reach Gisela.