Trip Report – Submitted by Scott H.
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This is a fantastic hike that can be done in a loop of about six miles. We made it an 8-mile hike by taking side trips to Tri Peaks and Indian Head Peak. We started at the upper (eastern) parking lot for the Mishe Mokwa trail. I prefer this to the western parking area, which is at a lower elevation, and therefore, requires more climbing. The hike from here up to Split Rock Camp (about 1.7 miles) is beautiful. You proceed along the south rim of a deep canyon, seeing fantastic rock formations on the other side, including some cliffs that produce a great echo, and Balance Rock. This is a very large rock that looks for all the world like it could tumble down the canyon in the slightest trembler. It’s possible to walk to Balance Rock from Split Rock Camp, although we didn’t on this hike. If you make this short jaunt, you will observe that the rock is really quite stable at the base.
Split Rock Camp is a very nice spot to rest and have a snack. There’s usually water flowing in a little stream through the camp. Beyond the camp, it’s an uphill climb to the former Boy Scout Camp. Here you will see a sign for Tri Peaks, about a half-mile hike (more uphill). If you have the legs for it, it’s well worth the trip. The peak is made up of giant slabs of rock tumbled together to form interesting caves. There’s a geocache in one that requires a 150-foot descent in darkness, wriggling through some tight spots. This wasn’t for us on this hike. You can spend a lot of time exploring all the nooks and crannies.
Descending from Tri Peaks, you can either return to the scout camp area, or bear right when you get to the junction for the trail to the Backbone Trail. We took the trail to Backbone to get to Indian Head Peak.
Indian Head is an amazing place, featuring great views and many hollowed-out overhangs, some quite large. There are many great camping spots (but no water). The trail to Indian Head is sketchy. The trail to it leaves the Backbone Trail at a wide, flat spot in the trail. I left a line of rocks veering off to the right at the spot. Along the way, there are other rock lines left to show you if you’re on the right track. If you lose the trail, it’s not critical, since you could probably make it by going other ways. The idea is to work your way up to the base of the rock of the peak, then follow the base around to the right. Eventually, you will come to a place where you can climb up, though you need some skill to get up about an 8-foot crevice in the rock. You can also chose not to climb to the top, but just go out on the rock to the right to a very large overhang cave with wonderful views.
When you’re done, return on the trail to the scout camp area, and continue the loop trail, heading toward Sandstone Peak. It’s quite an uphill climb (about 0.9 mile) to the trailhead for Sandstone Peak. Then, it a fairly short climb with about a 200-foot elevation gain to the top. This is the highest elevation on Boney Mountain. We bypassed it on this Sunday, because we had been there many times before, and it looked as though not one more person could fit at the summit. The beauty of Tri Peaks and Indian Head Peak is that they are relatively unvisited, especially Indian Head.
After you pass Sandstone Peak, it’s all downhill. Don’t miss the junction for the Mishe Mokwa trail that will take you back to your starting point. If you miss it, you will end up at the lower (western) parking area. You will love this hike, guaranteed.
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