Deep in the Gila mountains, a fast-moving stream of water shoots down a narrow slot canyon. Aptly named Whitewater Canyon, it is traversed by a series of metal bridges. From this elevated catwalk system, visitors can enjoy the running water, misty air, lush vegetation, and steep canyon walls.
This beautiful canyon trail actually began with a utilitarian purpose. In the 1890s, a nearby gold and silver mill required a steady supply of water to power its machines. Workers built a pipeline from Whitewater Canyon, and a series of catwalks to maintain it. Many of the bolts used to support the channel are still lodged in the canyon walls. The Civilian Conservation Corps replaced the pipeline with a wooden trail system in the 1930s. This in turn was improved in the 1960s with metal grating and wheelchair access.
Erosion and subsequent flooding caused by the Whitewater Baldy Fire destroyed the Catwalk in 2012. Thankfully, the trail was rebuilt, and provides a beautiful and unique canyon experience to this day.
Know Before You Go
Reaching the trailhead requires fording two streams that run over the road. This is usually quite easy, but the water levels can come up to upper tire levels after heavy rain. There is a per vehicle fee of $3, paid at a self-serve station at the trailhead. The National Parks Annual Pass is honored here. Rattlesnakes will sometimes find their way onto the trail, so exercise caution. Further downstream, coatis have been known to come up north to enjoy the wet and wild habitat. Coati sightings are a rare treat in the United States, so be sure to keep your eyes open!