Saturday, March 8, 2014

Three Trails in the Superstition Mountains

There are many, many miles of trails in the Superstition Wilderness and we managed to hike a few close to our home base at Lost Dutchman State Park. We barely scratched the surface of this beautiful place, it's definitely worth a return trip.

First, Boulder Trail (#103). Located ten miles up the road from our park, we found free parking at the Canyon Lake marina, restaurant and campground (otherwise a Tonto Nat'l Forest pass is required). The trail head was right across the street. Come early for one of the dozen or so parking spaces reserved for hikers; when we finished our hike the parking lot was almost full with people lunching at the restaurant.

We hiked the first 2.5 miles of this 7.5 mile trail and enjoyed fantastic views of Boulder Canyon and the surrounding hillsides full of dramatic and colorful geologic formations. The lighting was such that my camera could not do the colors have to see it to believe it. This was a beautiful hike over rolling hills.

The trail takes us along the rim of Boulder Canyon.
The Needle looms in the distance.

We pass right next to spires of tuff covered with chartreuse lichen.
Rugged dark brown lava provides striking contrast.

Barrel cactus gone wild!

We turned around at this vista point, just before the trail dropped down to the canyon bottom.

We've seen thousands of cholla buds lately and I finally saw an open bloom!
The hills will be alive with color when they all open up!

Hike #2: The Hieroglyphic Trail. Located on the edge of a populated area, with only 500 feet of elevation gain, three miles round trip, and lots of petroglyphs as a reward, this is a very popular trail. Make sure you use the directions in the link above, all other options to get to the trail head will not work!

The trail climbs gently to the entrance of the canyon.

Nice view for a grinding site!

Looking down canyon from the petroglyph site.

For our last hike in the area we chose the nine mile Black Mesa loop. We drove to the First Water trail head, just down the road from our camp. The loop consisted of: Second Water Trail (#236), Black Mesa trail (#241), and Dutchman's trail (#104).

This was another beautiful hike with lots of dramatic views, many pools of water leftover from the rainstorm one week ago, fairly gentle rolling hills and a few pleasant surprises along the way for us.

This is the only crested saguaro we've seen since arriving at Lost Dutchman 5 days ago.

We were fortunate to run into two guys who had just seen a Gila Monster and told us where to look for it....
Sure enough, when we searched the area we found it!  It didn't like all the attention and scurried off into the bushes.

Wonderful rock outcroppings and the Needle in the background.

Swoopy layer of volcanic tuff.

The hedgehog cactus is starting to bloom. This was one of three we saw.

By the way, the bird activity at Lost Dutchman has been excellent! Tomorrow we give our legs a rest and move to Cave Creek Regional Park.

This Gilded Flicker decided our bird feeder wasn't too small after all!


  1. We love hiking Superstition and it looks like you had fun. The photos are great! We've yet to spot a gila monster .. lucky you. Never heard of a crested saguaro ... cool.

    1. I'm constantly on the lookout for Crested Saguaros, they are pretty rare.

  2. Looks like great hikes. Thanks for the directions! I'll Pin these for future reference.

    That view with the lush greenery looks like a rain forest.

    I love the purple blossoms on the hedgehog:) That gila monster is very cool!

    What a very strange crested saguaro!

    Looking forward to what you find in your new location.

    1. Since it's been so much warmer this winter we are fortunate to see the blooms popping out even as we move North.

  3. great hikes! love the photos....

  4. What gorgeous photos! We just missed most of the cacti bloom in Tucson as we were there for the month of February. I saw many buds and knew it would be much prettier this month. Thanks for sharing -- great bird photos too!

    1. Thanks Emily! We're moving North, so very slowly seeing blooms pop up.

  5. How awesome that you spotted a Gila Monster! It looks bigger than the one we saw. Also love all the cactus blooms :)

    1. It was a long and narrow gila monster. Lighter in color than I expected. So exciting!

  6. Great pics and a Gila Monster! Nice! Love, love, love the Superstitions!

    1. Yes indeed, we are very glad we spent time near these mountains!

  7. Looking very stickery on those trails. But warm and alive so

  8. Replies
    1. Love the GREEN Sonoran desert! Yes it's warm and we are watching out for snakes!

  9. A Gila monster...that's a find. Beautiful cacti blooming. We were a little too early for the blooms last week in Phoenix.

    We must go to Lost Dutchman State Park!

    1. Yes you should go to Lost Dutchman, very pretty in this neck of the desert!