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Peter's Canyon - Upper Loop, AZ

Guide 8 Triplogs  3 Topics
  4 of 5 
no permit
81 8 3
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 3.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,285 feet
Elevation Gain 150 feet
Avg Time One Way 5.3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 3.6
Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Possibly Connect
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
5  2016-01-28 SUICIDEKING
27  2012-02-19 johnlp
14  2009-01-23 nonot
12  2008-12-14 te_wa
13  2007-12-24 nonot
10  2007-12-24
Peter's Mesa
Author nonot
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 236
Photos 2,001
Trips 477 map ( 4,527 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:35am - 5:45pm
Official Route
3 Alternative

Pleasure and Pain
by nonot

Page data is specific to the upper canyon only. To get there, hike on the trail approximately 4 miles on Peter's Trail #105 from Tortilla Ranch. Just until you are about to leave Peters Creek and climb up Peters Mesa, this is your starting point for a counterclockwise loop.

Looking at your trail map of the Superstitions, you may have noticed that Peter's Canyon extends far past Peter's Cave and the waterfall mentioned in those trip logs. There are two old trails on some maps, both named "Peters Canyon Trail" that split from Peter's Canyon. One follows the creek to the headwaters of the canyon and Peters Trail, the other heads up a short, but steep unnamed canyon. This trip attempts to take advantage of both halves of these trails, so that one can spice up the trip from Tortilla Ranch to Charlebois. The first leg of this trip will be a real treat, but you'll have to pay for it somewhat on the second leg if you do the full loop. Remember, nothing comes for free!

Crossing over the 2nd Saddle, Peters Trail follows Peters Creek downhill until it suddenly takes a southwest turn, climbing for Peters Mesa on the way to Charlebois Canyon.

This is the point you will want to take advantage of your knowledge of this area. Head north, following the creek. It twists and turns, but is gradually sloping. With as much water as there is following the recent winter rains, you may have to contemplate a bit at a few creek crossings, but for the most part it is very easy and level. Since the recent rains have replenished the Superstitions water sources and vegetation is thriving, you may see that signs of deer are everywhere. Keep your eyes open and you may spot as many as a half-dozen whitetails grazing on these seldom-traveled trails.

Within 10 minutes of leaving Peters Trail, you should arrive at a rather impressive cowboy dam. Cowboy engineering isn't quite up to snuff, as the dam has failed, but the structure that remains is still fairly impressive. It is also a magnificent area to grab lunch.

Once on the move again, follow the creek, admiring the impressive scenery and take notice that the once open landscape continues to tighten up into a canyon. Continue on, staying in or next to the creek. What may look like impassable obstacles without getting wet may make you want to climb around, but if you are persistent, you should find an easier route.

Soon, you will find yourself among white, red, and gray vertical rock walls, full of boulders and waterfalls. The final quarter mile until the merge is the most difficult as there are car-sized boulders blocking the path, distracting scenery, and wall-to-wall water obstacles. Rather impressively we managed to get through the area without getting our feet very wet.

At the junction, I was expecting to be able to see, or at least hear, Peter's Canyon waterfall, but the other waterfalls in the canyon drown all other sounds out, and it appears the waterfall I was in search of was a bit further downstream. At this trail junction with the unnamed canyon, you will finally see that what appears on the map to be a trail in the creek of a steep canyon is an absence of trail in a canyon devoid of water, but harboring a jungle.

Henceforth this canyon will be named "Bushwhack Canyon". The first 0.4 miles from the creek up the canyon is some of the most gnarly, impenetrable vegetation you will encounter in your travels anywhere. If you wanted to hone your bushwhacking skills, this is the place. I can't comprehend a trail originally went up this canyon. Things sure have changed. I was reminded of Joe's Iron Mountain trip log of what a trail could turn into when it isn't maintained.

The good news is that the vegetation is mostly all a type of thorn-less bush, so you won't get clawed to death. After getting through this brief unpleasant section, attempt to maneuver to the eastern side (hiker's left going uphill) and you will find a much easier path through the grasses and sparse bushes.

Topping out on Peters Mesa, take the trail east, and then skirt around the drainage slightly to your north getting over on the north side. Conserving your elevation, you should reach Peters Trail right on the top of the saddle you see after following the contour around the edge of the peak. Look back and admire the gorgeous view.

Rather than climb back onto Peters Mesa, one could probably elect to make this a shuttle trip to Tortilla Flats, if you elect to take Peters Canyon all the way downstream, however I am not aware of anyone who has attempted this yet.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your canyon trip to support this local community.

2007-12-24 nonot
    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.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Info is below 'Directions to trail'

    To Tortilla Trailhead
    From the junction of Idaho Road & SR-88 follow SR-88 23.0 miles east to FR-213.

    If you do not have 4x4 you will need to park here and hike 3.4 miles to the trailhead. Otherwise drive in. The first 0.25 mile section is the most difficult.

    The trailhead is not well defined. If you are hiking out on Peter's Trail #105 steer right(west) at the end to the old windmill and water tower. If you are hiking out on JF Trail #106 or Hoolie Bacon Trail #111 continue straight/right to the fence. JF Trail #106 takes off immediately. Hoolie #111 is 0.8 miles off of #106.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 60.7 mi - about 1 hour 50 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 154 mi - about 3 hours
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 205 mi - about 4 hours
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