This is just the kind of hike I really enjoy -
a predominately off-trail adventure into a lesser traveled nook of the
Superstition Mountains. I find this type of hike to be a little edgier and
usually a bit more interesting than your well-established trails.
Aylor's Arch sits atop the mystical (some say) Palomino Mountain just west and
across the Dutchman Trail from the well known Black Top Mesa. It was named
after fortune hunters Charles and Peg Aylor who established a camp just to the
north of the mountain in the 1940's. The site was later named "Caballo Camp"
and is thus shown on topo map.
To get to Palomino Mtn. You first take the Dutchman Trail from First Water
trailhead to the 3.8 mile point which is just slightly beyond the Black Mesa
Trail intersection at a small clearing with a lone scraggly tree in the middle.
To help keep your bearings, the omnipresent
Dead Women's Cave
will be looming above you to the south in the side of
Black Mesa for the duration of the hike. For a good description to this point,
I recommend you reference Joe's
Charlebois from First Water
Now the journey actually begins. If you look to the south, you will see a small
low saddle. Make your way easily through the spread vegetation to the top and
then descend into the creek bed below. Go right or south and follow the wash as
it makes its way through a
in the craggy ridge ahead. The going is easy and along the
way you will come across an
old exploratory mine shaft
on your right. Shortly thereafter you will find
yourself at the base of a narrow ravine heading toward the top of the mountain.
is characterized as a rock fortress formed by sheer cliffs
on all sides with the exception of this one opening being the only avenue of
assault. While the climb up this
isn't the worst bushwhack in the world, there are spots where it gets
a bit choked and the angle gets steep with loose gravel. Definitely wear long
As you begin your ascent you may notice a large pile of mine tailings at the
base of the cliff right below the arch, which has
now come into view
. For this reason I chose to favor the left side of the
drainage to make my way toward it. My advice is not to bother due to the fact
that since it was obviously
, there isn't much to look at. From the amount of tailings,
it would appear that it was a rather large mine and due to its proximity to the
Aylor camp, I would imagine that they must have had something to do with it.
Looking around, there were
other small "side" mines
, but I was just convinced that the Dutchman
treasure lay buried right there before me :).
The top of the ravine is the narrowest, but it is fairly short and the bushes
not mainly of the more vicious types. You will finally
and find yourself surrounded on three sides by the type of sheer
vertical that gives you that uneasy little twist in your stomach when you near
The top of Palomino Mtn. is formed three vertical fins or spines that run
north-south. The eastern most spine is by far the longest and makes up the
magnificent wall that looms above from the Dutchman Trail below. It is at the
northern end of this fin that you will find the
When you emerge from the ravine you will be between the west and middle spines.
There are convenient
between each of the spines. The tricky part for some may be the
scrambling and bouldering required to "hop" the spines. For those that are
comfortable with this sort activity, the options to explore are numerous
depending on your self-confidence.
To get the
best close-up view of the arch
, one must get to the area between the middle
and east ridge. This basically involves getting over the middle spine by
straddling the top of for a short distance till you get to a point where you can
descend down to the flat From here, a little more scrambling is required to
make your way north as far as possible on the flat till you are pretty much
right under the arch. Being by myself, this is as close as I dared try and
Thinking about the possibility of crossing the arch... I wouldn't recommend it.
It is only about the diameter of a good-sized tree trunk and its consistency
does not look all that substantial. I went as far as I dared on top of the east
toward the arch
, but the exposure finally got the better of me. How about
sitting inside the arch? Possible, but I'm ninety percent sure you would want
technical rock climbing equipment to approach it from underneath.
After you've thoroughly explored the top and had a good look at the arch, its
time to head down. The route is the same at the narrow top portion of the
ravine, but as it begins to flare out, I took the west or left side down this
time. It proved to be easier and once I got back down to the creek bed I
decided to explore a bit further west which was fortuitous because I discovered
the secondary trail shown on the topo quad, although showing no signs of use was
quite well defined and easy to follow. This is the trail on the topo (not shown
on the Beartooth map) that goes right through the letter "a" in the word Canyon
in Little Boulder Canyon. Where it forks, you can take either way back to the
Dutchman Trail. Knowing exactly where these trails intersect the Dutchman would
provide a more efficient route for future trips. Once back on the Dutchman it
is just a matter of hoofing it back to the F.W. trailhead.
I really enjoyed this little adventure and would totally recommend it for anyone
looking for something a little different - "Off the beaten path", so to say.
My only misgiving was that it was a cloudy day and my photos were a little dull... maybe better next time!
- Dec 02 2001 Fritzski