Drive up Hobble Creek Canyon past the golf course, keep going straight where the main road curves to the left, and dip down into the hollow where the right fork of the canyon begins. Follow the road past the USFS Cherry Campground and wind your way along the creek, watching out for “caution cows” on the road. Pass the makeshift target shooting range and grumble about the thoughtless individuals who have left the place a trashy mess. Regain your serene mood as you continue to follow the canyon’s path past grove and meadow and crag. When you reach the USFS Balsam Campground you’re nearly there; a quarter mile or so more and you see the sign right before the pavement ends. Wardsworth Canyon.
The trailhead has space for a few vehicles, but there’s usually no problem finding room. Pass through the gate and you’re on the trail. It’s gentle and shady to begin with, and Wardsworth Creek bubbles away immediately on your right.
Not far up the trail is a hitching post, and there may be evidence of horses along the trail too. Past that is the first creek crossing. There used to be a halved log that served as a bridge; but it appears that some vandals ripped it out and discarded it downstream. Now assorted smaller logs bridge the stream but you have to be a bit more careful with your footing. Fortunately, the stream is shallow and easily crossed or even forded.
You don’t go very far before the trail again crosses the stream. This bridge is still in decent repair. Right after this crossing the trail climbs steeply up the hill to the left of the creek. Don’t be daunted by the climb; it’s one of the few steep sections of the otherwise gentle Wardsworth trail.
Once you crest the steep section and descend the shorter but still steep stretch on the other side, you have a fairly level stretch for a bit, then one more hill. The path here splits; the right side gains less elevation but has a moderately tricky washed-out section of about twelve feet in length. The left side bypasses this washout on higher ground. Past the washout the two forks rejoin and the trail once again becomes gentle.
From here, the trail largely parallels the stream on its left, with numerous shady stretches and not much elevation gain. There are some opportunities to explore or even cross the stream on fallen logs but the narrowness of the canyon and the steepness of the far hillside won’t let you get very far. Stick to the trail to get further up the canyon.
Eventually the trail will climb a bit more but the slope will remain very manageable. You’ll start to see beaver ponds and the occasional fire ring where people have camped. Finally, about 1.5 miles from the trailhead, you’ll reach the Dry Canyon Cutoff (FR 128). This steeper trail heads north up a ravine with a brook that has managed to create a small falls. Stick to the main trail (FR 010) and follow the main stream to enjoy the upper Wardsworth Canyon area.
The farthest I’ve been is a mile or so beyond this point, where an old picnic table can be seen next to the stream. I’ve heard that the trail goes for another two or three miles beyond, and hope to explore that area sometime.
Wardsworth Canyon isn’t a popular trail, as it doesn’t lead to any particular destination or attraction. Its attraction to me is the beauty and peace of the canyon and its little stream, and the possibilities of further exploration that it offers.