This is a fun hike that few people do and even less stay the night. The trail begins above cedar breaks and ends in highway 14. The total hike from peak to exit is about 12 miles. You descend rattlesnake creek trail for six miles until it connects with the ash down gorge trail. Once you reach ash down it is another 5-6 miles until you exit out at the landslide area in highway 14.
Two things to note: 1. Taking two cars is a must. Park one at the top and one at the bottom so you don't have to hike out.
2. The ash down gorge trail goes through the river nearly the entire time. You will get wet up to your knees. It cannot be avoided.
If backpacking Take 2 liters of water and a water filter. The two liters will last you to the base where you can filter from the river.
This 3,200 foot decent throught the Ashdown Gorge Wilderness area is a great location when the summer sun pushes daytime temperatures in the desert national parks above 100 degrees. I enjoyed the Rattlesnake portion of the hike. The Ashdown Gorge not so much, hiking below towering walls of weak limestone with ample evidence of fresh debris at you feet is a little unnerving.
An outstanding hike! Make sure you have someone to shuttle you to the top and leave a car at the end of the trail. The trail starts out along the edges of Cedar Break NP. It winds down through thick forests and meadows. Plenty to see. As you descend in elevation you come across Rattlesnake creek and follow it for sometime and then cross over to make the final descent to Ash Down Gorge. The trail here is quite narrow and very steep. Watch your footing! Soon you will see Ash Down Gorge and will enter the river bed. As you follow the river down make sure to look all around because the views are amazing. When you reach Tom's head at the confluence of Rattlesnake Creek and Ash Down make sure you take the time and go up to the waterfalls. There are two spectacular falls at the end of each. One is Rattlesnake creek Falls and the other is Lake Creek Falls. There are also some great little slot canyons here. When you retrace your steps back to Ash Down you will see a different view of Tom's head. A good place to stop and filter some water. You will continue down the river and make sure to keep an eye to the right above or you will miss Flanigan's Arch. About another mile or two down stream the canyon opens up. We encountered a minor problem at the trail end. Since the large landslide in 2011 the trail no longer exists. A large dam was created and we had to scrambled up the slide through fallen trees, holes, and a lot of debris. Be prepared for the final ascent out. A well worth hike and makes for a long day. Make sure your shoes are sturdy enough to handle all the terrains. We only seen two other people on this hike which made it very pleasant.
Walking through alpine meadows in the early morning. Deer on the trail. Sunrise over deep red, yellow and orange amphitheater. Hillsides full of wildflowers. Lush pines, and a cool mountain stream to soak your feet in at the end. What's not to love?