It's been four years since I've hiked from this trailhead. There is a big difference between then and now. Back then I was nervous about stories of getting lost in the Superstitions. In fact, I got lost! Nothing major, but enough to keep me out of the area for four years! I remembered the trail being wide, extremely long and boring. I'm happy to report this was a much better trip. Knowing the surrounding mountains proved to be a big bonus. The trail is still wide, but hardly long and boring. I obviously was out of shape and came at the wrong time of year. It's kind of like hiking the Siphon Draw section of the Flatiron. If you come at the wrong time of year, it'll be bone dry. I'll never forget the death march I took my sister and her family on a couple years ago. I was telling them how incredible the area was and assured them it would stack up to California standards. As luck would have it, it had to of been the driest year on record. Come to think of it, we don't talk about hiking anymore...hmm
From the First Water trailhead head out on the Dutchman #104 trail. In about six minutes comes the Second Water Trail junction. Hang a left onto Second Water. Soon after the junction the trail crosses a rocky creek bed. To your right and back is Superstition Mountain. The trail continues to weaves through the hills. An excellent mixture of wildflowers inhabits this area. About twenty-five minutes into the hike (1.1 miles) the trail crosses another creek bed. This one is more narrow and less rocky then the first. The trail jumps across this usually dry creek and immediately heads up a minor canyon. This is the first time the trail noticeably ascends. A tributary to the creek crossed a minute ago is now crossed. Along the way, notice the bold gray rocks in the area. Follow this canyon up to Garden Valley. Garden Valley looks like a big onion on the USGS topographical map. You're probably not going to find any onions in this high valley. There is a smooth and wide trail. Probably what most people vision a hiking trail to be.
Hiking through Garden Valley is a stroll. Hackberry Mesa is to your upper left and Black Mesa to the right. A third of the way into Garden Valley (1.8 miles) comes the Black Mesa Trail junction. Continue on straight. The trail takes you to the northeastern end of Garden Valley. Along the way is a large swimming pool sized depression on the left. Exiting Garden Valley, the smooth trail gives way to a light rocky scramble. The trail is still very well defined but you'll need to watch your step. About 2.5 miles into the hike the trail begins to descend out of Garden Valley. The trail meets up with Second Water Canyon which takes you down to Boulder Canyon Trail (3.5 miles). Battleship Mountain stands ahead of you to the east with Geronimo Head looming overhead. Battleship Mountain is hard to distinguish from this vantage point.
Note: from the 2.5 to the 3.5 mile points, the trail descends about 490 feet. Although nothing extreme, it's good to keep in mind for the return trip.
I hiked this as an out and back trip. Most probably hook up along the way one of the several side trails. Black Mesa Loop is a popular choice. You could do a shuttle hike with Canyon Lake trailhead. A closer loop to First Water trailhead would be by Hackberry Spring. This is described and mapped in the "Hikers Guide to the Superstition Wilderness". Although seeming easier and close in, the likeliness of getting lost seems more prevalent on those less distinctive trails in my opinion.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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.