This is a really neat day hike. It follows a loop from the Dutchman Trail, through the First Water Creek bed, out into the wide West Boulder Canyon, down into O'Grady Canyon, and then back on the Dutchman.
From the First Water Trailhead take the Dutchman Trail south until it crosses First Water Creek for the last time. I counted seven creek bed crossings to this point where the trail veers up and to the left and the creek goes right. At this point you should see two dead branches sticking straight up and a large cairn ( yours truly :) ). From here the directions are simple: Just follow the creek (and I mean actually follow the creek, i.e. Stay right in it). No matter how tempting it is with all the water in the creek to try and parallel it, don't do it. You will eventually be thwarted by impassable vegetation at some point (this from experience). Basically it is a rock hop through the creek bed. I found trekking poles to be invaluable for balance (no wet feet!).
The really neat part begins where the creek makes a bend due south through a narrow canyon toward the back side of the Superstition ridgeline. Things will begin to close in, the trees and vegetation will begin to thicken and soon you will find yourself climbing through a long series of pristine pools and waterfalls. Once again, the best bet here is to stay in the bed and use your imagination to negotiate around the pools and boulders. Only once did I deviate up to the left slope above the bed on smooth rock. If you look you will begin to see cairns in this area to help guide you. You will eventually come to an awesome mini rock-walled canyon with a cascading waterfall. You will need to boulder up the right side of it and check it out from the top. I was tempted to try Mother Natures version of a water slide!
After some more pools you will eventually emerge from the canyon into the large valley (W. Boulder Canyon) at the base of the Ridgeline. Here the hike opens up and becomes much easier and basically follows the contour of the large hill to your left all the way to O'Grady Canyon. Stay with the creek bed, but take the branch that bears left hugging the hillside. About half way to O'Grady you will see cairns directing you to keep bearing left up the creek bed to a shallow saddle heading N.E. I believe this to be a shortcut back to the Dutchman trail. This hike stays straight (S.E.), finally departing the creek bed and eventually skirting left around the next hill down into O'Grady Canyon (also marked with sparse cairns). Turning N.E. into O'Grady I found that the trail tends to crisscross the creek bed in no real formal way. Once you are abreast of Tim's Saddle on the right (east) the trail begins to be well defined but looks seldom traveled. Eventually after an invigorating climb through a small pass you will intersect the Dutchman trail close to Parker Pass. Along this section are some great views of the Needle back over your right shoulder. From here just follow the Dutchman Trail north back to the First Water trailhead.
This hike may be easier in dry conditions, but I recommend it The wetter, the better! Good luck and enjoy.
Forest Tonto Pass is a forest wide permit for recreational sites and campgrounds. Typically not for trailheads.
To First Water Trailhead From Mesa follow Highway 60 East to Idaho Road. Turn North onto Idaho Road which is SR88 and follow North 2.2 miles. SR88 bends right just past Scenic St. and Idaho continues North. Be sure to go right and stay on SR88. Follow SR88 5.2 miles to the signed turnoff for First Water Trailhead, this is FR-78. Turn right on to FR-78 and follow 2.6 miles to the end.
This trailhead feature restrooms without running water. The large parking area fills up in season. When full utilize the Horse Lot 0.5 miles back.
From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 43.1 mi - about 59 mins From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 136 mi - about 2 hours 16 mins From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 187 mi - about 3 hours 3 mins
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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