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Barks Upper Canyon Loop, AZ

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Guide 37 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Superstitions SW
Rated
3.9
3.9 of 5 by 13
 
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Distance Loop 1.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,400 feet
Elevation Gain 885 feet
Avg Time One Way 2 - 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 4.05
Interest Off Trail Hiking
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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5  2019-01-29 jjburnes
14  2019-01-14
Robbers Roost - Superstitions
DixieFlyer
7  2018-11-17
Robbers Roost - Superstitions
hikerdw
23  2018-03-23
Cave Trail Bark's Canyon Loop
markthurman53
25  2018-03-10 adilling
8  2017-02-18
Cave Weavers Robbers Loop
joebartels
27  2016-05-21 PeraltaPhil
7  2015-12-27 DennisWilliams
Page 1,  2,  3
Author Fritzski
author avatar Guides 43
Routes 0
Photos 597
Trips 59 map ( 132 miles )
Age 66 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → 6 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:14am - 6:21pm
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7 Alternative
 
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Alice in Hoodoo Land
by Fritzski

Although this description of Upper Barks Canyon "proper"covers not much more than one mile of distance, the total hike is actually done as a loop starting on Bluff Springs Trail out of Peralta Trailhead. You then depart Bluff Springs Tr. for the off-trail / Upper Barks portion then hook up with Peralta or Cave Trails for the completion of a 5.5 or 6 mile loop.

Why the analogy to "Alice in Wonder Land"? Because between your map, your GPS, and your line of sight, absolutely nothing seems to make any sense!

When I think about Upper Barks Canyon it reminds me of a passage I once read about the Superstitions that reads as follows: "The Superstition Mountains are utterly inhospitable, these forbidding peaks have been called the most savage piece of land in North America, a stone maze built by the Apache Thunder God. Or, as one old prospector once put it: Walk in for thirty minutes and you'll find yourself in the slag dumps of hell." I found this to be a very intriguing description of the otherworldly mystique that makes the Superstitions so awe inspiring.

This hike could also easily be described as the "longest mile". When executed closely to Carlson's prescribed route in his book "Hiker's Guide to the Superstition Mountains", a distance of slightly over one mile may take as much as three hours. The real irony lies in the fact that the balance of those hours will actually be spent on only the last half mile! The good news is the adventure and stunning scenery makes it all worth while.

I would jokingly recommend you do this hike with only one other partner. Its too remote and inaccessible to safely go alone, yet with any more than two opinions on which way to go you'd end doing more debating than hiking.

Two factors make this a difficult hike. First, it is very rugged, requiring quite a bit of scrambling and occasional bouldering, and second, route finding is about as difficult as it gets. Even with the deck stacked in my favor with as many as ten waypoints programmed into my GPS within only one mile's distance (about one every 500' if you do the math) it was still very questionable at times on which route to take. The deep, tight, canyon terrain never really allows you to get your bearings.

As Carlson mentions in his book, there is no one right way to do this hike, but since he's "The Man" in my book, I'll describe it as done by his published route.

To begin you set out by ascending "Cardiac Hill" on Bluff Springs Trail to the top then down the other side till you are paralleling a creek. At about the 1mi point on the Bluff Spr. Tr. it makes a sharp turn to the right to cross the stream bed into a smooth rock area, instead you want to continue straight and look for a "use" trail that goes up along the right slope of the drainage. This trail is quite well defined and easy to follow, but at about the UB/.3mi point you must depart the trail to the left and head west through a low saddle. If you chose to remain on the trail you would swing wide, the trail eventually fades, and although the going is easier, the scenery is not as good. Anyway, with the vegetation being fairly sparse and a clear wash area, the going isn't too bad for a while. As you gain elevation, take some time to turn around and checkout the great views behind you.

At the UB/.7mi. point you will top a saddle and be rewarded with some breath taking scenery. You'll find yourself on the edge of a large smooth rock basin literally surrounded by fantastic hoodoos, walls, and rock formations in all directions. This is easily one of the most awe-inspiring spots I have ever seen in the Superstitions. Because the hike definitely becomes more difficult from here, I would highly recommend an out and back hike to this point for those not up for anything harder.

From here you head out across the basin and up the right side of the drainage ahead (of course there are always at least three drainages to chose from, so good luck!). It is at this point that things definitely tighten up - the boulders get bigger and more concentrated and the vegetation starts to choke down. It was at the top of this ravine that my GPS was telling me to scale a 12' sheer wall that had to be at least a 5.7 climb difficulty with no telling what was on the other side. Keeping to the theme of a hike rather than a technical rock climb, we chose the closest ravine to the left and slowly worked our way to the top.

It is at the top of this ridge that you will finally view Weaver's Needle Overlook - your ultimate destination. The trouble is that it looks like just about any other of a myriad of rock walls surrounding the area. A good familiarity with its topography and a distinct yellow coloration near the top will help you identify it.

The battle is far from over yet. Despite the fact you are looking right at your finish point, it just so happens to be at the top of a rather ominous cliff wall looming high above you. The trick lies in the fact that the route to the top still lies hidden from view. Proceed toward the base of the cliff till you are able to get beyond an outcropping on your left. You can then bear left up the wash behind it at the immediate base of the cliff. If done correctly, you will come upon a "use" trail emanating from the top and thus avoiding any bouldering.

Once you come out on top you will merge with the Overlook Trail. From here you can choose to go down the Peralta or Cave Trails. Either way, I think you'll find it a rather concentrated dose of hiking in a distance no longer than six miles total. If you consider yourself a bit on the hard core side, this one should definitely satisfy your weekly fix!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Note
This is a moderately difficult hike.

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

2001-12-09 Fritzski

    One-Way Notice
    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.

    Most recent of 13 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Barks Upper Canyon Loop
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    Cave Weavers Robbers Loop
    Enjoyed the route, the weather I could do without. Bruce covered our day top to bottom.

    Putting this route together I was looking to extend Robbers as much as possible. Rain hampered the mega loop so we stuck with a respectable loop. The key to the loop was getting down from Weaver's Overlook to Terrapin. Low and behold I stumbled upon a route by @juliachaos that helped bridge the gap!

    Heading north on Weaver's Overlook Route Scout showed the turn coming up soon. My waypoint rattled off turn into the abyss. Surprisingly the turn was cairned and looked well traveled. Tensions eased a touch. With all the recent rain everything was very green. The route is fairly well cairned with a hiccup or two. We wanted to follow it out but needed to get over to Terrapin in the Crosscut vicinity.

    After a busy week I stumbled upon the rest of the story... backwards. @Nonot has a great description for Barks Canyon - Complete Route. Soon that led me to @Fritzski on his Barks Upper Canyon Loop. Which in turn he put together from the Grand Poobah Jack Carlson.

    Based on the above two mentioned descriptions the route off Weaver's Overlook down to Barks used to be a bloodbath. I faired well in shorts. Abandoning the route directly over to Terrapin there was one nasty section. Bruce led since he wore pants. I followed step by step without issue. The route down was more fun than a concern. Hope to explore the area more someday.

    Wildflowers
    Paint brush, blue dicks, fairy duster among others. Saw a bunch underway that could bust a move in a week and change the horizon.
    Barks Upper Canyon Loop
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    Upper Middle and Barks
    Trip 11 in the Superstition Wilderness Trails West book describes the Middle Trail which was used by the Quarter Circle U Ranch as a direct route to Bluff Springs from the ranch headquarters. Today we hiked the upper part of the abandoned trail, combined with the Barks Upper Canyon Loop.

    We followed the Bluff Spring Trail to Barks Canyon, then went off trail SE to connect with the Middle Trail at the bedrock, 7-YY, on the map of the book. We tried to locate the one large pointed rock cairn as described but no luck, as I suspect we need to drop down a little more than we did. From there it was due north to the lower saddle which was fairly easy off trail hiking using some of the many game trails. At the saddle we took a short break then proceeded down toward the basin ravine and connected with the Bluff Springs Trail higher up. From there we hiked back to Barks Canyon and completed the Barks Upper Canyon Loop which we haven't been on in a while and is much improved, involving very little route finding. Although we were close to the very busy Peralta TH we enjoyed a lot of solitude on this great little hike :y:
    Barks Upper Canyon Loop
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    I've been trying out a few routes lately in the Supes lately so thought it was time for Bark's Canyon.
    I thought the route finding in this canyon would be a bit tougher after reading different reports on this one. I may have read older writeups as there were plenty of cairns to keep us on track for the entirety of the hike. I almost wished there was a bit more problem solving needed, but I suppose it's a heck of a lot better than getting lost! Either way, it was a very beautiful and scenic hike (and an awesome day outside!). Opted to take the Peralta trail down. It doesn't get any better than the Superstitions!

    Also had a fun wildlife seeing today. After ten minutes of walking on the Bluff Springs Trail we sighted 7 small javalina travelling together on the hillside.
    Barks Upper Canyon Loop
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    When I was in Colorado in 2012, I took note that people were out climbing the slick canyon walls of Clear Creek whether it was raining or not. In Arizona, climbers are much more fragile when wet (along with a lot of our crags), so I convinced James to come out on a hike with me. You know, a hike... basically a long, crazy approach with no climb at the beginning, middle, or end.

    James didn't seem entirely convinced, but agreed to it for the mere possibility of us seeing a few small waterfalls in the Supes.

    We woke up pretty late and dawdled for a while before finally getting our butts on the road. We were each prepared with water, a headlamp, and food. I asked James if he had packed a rain jacket, and he looked at me like I was an alien. Oh yeah, I forgot that because Arizona climbers don't go out in the water, very few own rain jackets. We geared up, put on our winter hats, and drove out to the trailhead.

    The drive itself was very interesting. Lots of mud and tons of puddles. Subi was repainted a nice earthy tone that she hasn't sported in some while. We arrived at the TH at 1:30 and sauntered up the Bluff Springs Trail, admiring the various clouds and mists and running waters where there had been none before. We came to the correct junction (take note of Nonot's observation that the GPS routes posted do not reflect Upper Barks proper) and began boulder hopping our way up the flowing creek. We had a difference in opinion as to where the true canyon was at that point, and proceeded to take the (incorrect) right branch. We did note this fairly quickly, but decided that we were there to explore, and therefore it didn't matter. We pushed our ways through much brush, and MUCH catclaw, and then began seeing a few cairns here and there on the left bank. The trail brought us up to a hoodoo-covered saddle, where we took a few pictures before crossing to the other side and into the correct canyon branch.

    We were growing a little weary at this point, as it's much more difficult to avoid all the water and push through brush than to just walk through a dry wash. We looked down the canyon and observed Barks Canyon and the Bluff Springs area, but decided to continue over the next ridge toward the Needle. I think it's important to note here that a lot of the trail description relies on being able to see the Needle; however, due to the fog, it only peeked out a couple times, and only to such an extent to make us say, "I think that's the Needle.. did you see it? It was there... well, a moment ago...." A snack was in order, and so we sat on the saddle and munched crackers and drank more water. A clear, cairned trail traveled down the slope, which convinced us to keep going. We traveled along, and then spotted the true base of the Needle. It was very exciting, and quite eerie to see it disappear into the clouds. We wondered how it might be up on top. Would it be above the clouds? That would have been a really cool experience.

    The cairns wandered along, until I was looking across at familiar territory: the route up to the top of the hill and to the Overlook. We scrambled upward and found the Overlook trail. I showed James the cool little campsite. The Needle was still with its head in the clouds, but it seemed as though the clouds were about to dissipate. We moved on, making our way down the Cave Trail, and stopping a couple times to look back and watch the Needle peer out from behind the mist. It was so cool! Snapped a few more pictures and then dropped out of sight.

    The Cave Trail was a completely different experience from the other times I've hiked it. Very disjointed. We guessed that some of the rains had knocked cairns over, so we would get lost, wander back, find trail, build up fallen cairns... wash, rinse repeat. Seeing the Cairn Cave helped morale quite a bit. Slid down the Devil's Slide, avoided washing in his Bathtub, got lower.. the light was bleeding from the sky and the clouds were turning pink. James recognized the area as a climbing area, so he (with the stronger headlamp) led the way down back to the Bluff Springs Trail and back to the lot.

    This was such an enjoyable trip! We loved how the clouds dampened every sound. Every now and then, we'd stop and just stand and listen to the nothingness... and then an airplane would fly overhead. Thoroughly exhausted from the excursion, we went back to his place, and crashed on the couch. Even "just approaches" can be tons of fun.. especially when it's off-trail and with just the right amount of "mini-epic."
    Barks Upper Canyon Loop
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    Cave Trail Bark's Canyon Loop
    john suggested this combo a couple weeks ago to put on our list
    thought we would try it today
    we were surprised to see the peralta parking area less than half full
    started up bluff springs trail a little before 8:00
    went up cave trail, which i haven't done, although i've been down it three times
    a different perspective and route-finding issues than going down
    almost to the cave, caught movement and turned to find a big horn ram dropping quickly out of our view
    no pic, but an awesome sight :)
    decided to scramble up on top of geronimo's cave
    great views from the northern top out; the southern one looks a little higher
    one concern was finding the entry point to upper bark's canyon from the cave trail
    i had two tracks loaded but we found a good use trail with plenty of cairns dropping down into the canyon
    from there we followed the drainage, trying to stay on rock rather than go through sticker bushes
    one sketchy downclimb for me and a few patches of catsclaw and scrub oak
    the bushwhacking was not bad at all
    reached the bluff springs trail crossings and saw our first people of the day near the peralta rock (another landmark i hadn't seen)
    continued into lower bark's canyon
    the least water i've seen here, but still enough little pools and several bedrock areas with flowing water to make it worthwhile
    took dutchman trail back
    the full canyon was an experience
    not sure we took the same line as other tracks
    my posted route looks a lot like chumley's
    nice day, high clouds, a good breeze, plenty of solitude
    some new stuff and good company made for a fun day
    Barks Upper Canyon Loop
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    Another fun day out with Larry. I could wander around Dacite Mesa all day and not get bored and that's pretty much what we did. From the saddle we headed for the Gargoyle and then went around back and across the small valley to the area above Fremont. From there we meandered our way south on a different route, back down to the old, dead tree where you cross the drainage to head up to the Roost. We made it to the Roost for lunch and Larry enjoyed his first visit and the photo ops.

    Coming up out of the Roost we headed east to the ridge above Peralta Canyon for some excellent views of the Cave Trail and Weavers. Then it was back on the trail to Fremont. Larry had the great idea of coming down through Bark's, which neither of us had done. We hiked out to the Overlook area and found the trail that lead down. No surprise, there's more cool stuff down there! We did a little off-trail work down a giant-boulder drainage which was fun and then made our way down to Bluff Spring's Trail and out.

    Just another spectacular day in the awesome Superstitions!
    Barks Upper Canyon Loop
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    Well Van and I got kind a early start. Van decide to take me to Robbers Roost. It was my first time there and I wanted to see the Gargoyle. So we took the long way around and the views never stopped. After leaving Robbers Roost I decide to surf a little While Van ate lunch.
    I know the trail back should have been the Cave Trail but I talked Van into trying the Barks Upper Canyon. This was also awesome after awhile the cairns stopped and we freelanced the rest. It was interesting and of course we always comeback.
    Lets see what next Monday brings
    Barks Upper Canyon Loop
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    Back in October, when Bob made the comment on one of Glenda's triplogs that he wanted to "tag along" on a hike with us before the end of the year, I assumed he was kidding. I flashed back to our Battleship hike when he (and Joe) spent most of the overall trip time waiting for me to catch up. So, when he PM'd us a couple weeks ago saying it was almost the end of the year and we should plan something, I had a momentary panic attack like it was almost the end of the world. Is he really serious? He is either a glutton for punishment or his memory is worse than mine.

    Just in case he said that during a weak moment, I followed up with a lot of excuses, giving him a chance to come to his senses and opt out. First, I told him I had a broken leg... um, yes, I am still logging hikes, that's why I also have tendonitis in my elbow from using my poles as crutches. No problem, he says. Then, I said that I would be even slower than usual because I was actually in a full body cast and my meds kept me pretty heavily sedated. He says he doesn't mind going slow and besides, he wants cookies. OK, that's something I can understand.

    Still concerned that he will regret getting himself into this, I approach from a different angle. I told him he could hike with us under the following conditions:
    1) He must hike with his shoes on the wrong feet and leave them untied.
    2) He will need to carry all of the packs.
    3) He has to go out drinking all night before the hike and arrive at the trailhead wearing his disheveled clothing from the day before (I did offer to pay the bar tab).
    He agreed to those terms and the plan was set.

    Since Bob never shows up for a hike empty-handed (and because misery loves company), he brought Wally. He said he tried to get Joe to come, but... and then muttered something I couldn't really hear (I'm guessing it had to do with Joe's memory being better than his). Oh, no... poor Wally! Now, I will be torturing two people whose time could be better utilized scaling Mt. Everest. With the addition of a witness, I was reluctant to enforce the 'handicap' rules I had placed on Bob, although I did suggest that he and Wally swap shoes (they thought I was kidding). To Bob's credit, he did arrive with a three day beard, a cooler full of leftover beer from the day before and his pants and pack held together with duct tape. This show of good faith left me no choice but to don my pack, bite my lip and prepare to die.

    I made it as far as half-way up cardiac hill before I assumed what would be my permanent place in line. In the pain train of elevation gain, I was doomed to be the caboose with this group. Bob was thoughtful enough to hang back and keep me company (or possibly because he knew CPR and thought it might be necessary at some point), all the while chattering effortlessly, as though he didn't require oxygen for this easy trek (I made a mental note to reply to his comments as soon as I could breathe again). I was able to redeem myself (somewhat) coming down into Barks Canyon (as the downhill desert slalom is one of my stronger skills), but it was short-lived. From there, it would be straight up to the saddle and it was all I could do to stay in the same zip code as these people. On the few occasions when I paused long enough to look up, the scenery was spectacular, but I couldn't spare the time to take any photos. (Please enjoy the photos from my last trip. I'm sure not much has changed since then.)

    The majority of my humiliation was over once we reached the saddle, since it would be mostly downhill the rest of the way. I would still be bringing up the rear, but at a much more respectable distance (shouting distance). I was able to catch up with Bob at the Cairn Carnival because he had stopped there to contemplate the man-made travesty. Apparently, this greatly angered him and he said in a low, quiet (scary?) voice, "These don't belong here", then went into some sort of zombie Tae Kwon Do trance. He just stood there for a moment sizing up his enemy, then he approached the wall dead center and swiped all the tiny cairns off to one end. After stepping back to survey his work, he fought his way through the army of giant cairns, TKD kicking their heads off. Mission complete, he snapped back into real time and continued hiking as though nothing had happened. Bob is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet and I think it would take a lot to make him mad, but I'm pretty sure that's one place you never want to go.

    Just in case I was getting too comfortable being an actual part of the group, my phone rang for the second time that day (it was buried in my pack and I had forgotten to turn it off) and it irritated me enough to stop and take care of the problem. That one minute pause allowed the others to get a half a mile ahead of me, so when I reached the scary down-climb at the devil's bathtub, I had an attentive audience of three standing together at the bottom looking up at me. This could have been one of the worst moments of my hiking career, except for the fact that I have gone this way so many times I can do it in my sleep. I came down on my feet (no butt scooting), only briefly putting one hand down for balance (because I am not as good a limbo dancer as Bob).

    Wally needed to be back by noon (which would normally have been plenty of time for him to do this route twice), but it was now 12:30pm. I pointed this out to him because he is too polite to say anything and I thanked him for his patience and said he should go on ahead of us. After everyone agreed it was totally cool to take off, he did and vanished almost immediately. Much to our surprise, we met him again at the junction of the Bluff Spring Trail as he was coming from the other direction. For the first time on our trek, I was in front (downhill) and we reached the turn-off from the Cave Trail at the same time. I guess he had been going too fast to make his turn and by the time he slowed down enough, he was half-way to Iowa. So, we said our goodbyes again and he turned up the heat. The very familiar steep stretch of trail ahead of us was my time to shine, so I thought I'd see if I could keep up with him. Much to everyone else's surprise, I did... leaving Bob and Glenda to battle it out for my old position.

    After we were all back at the TH and Wally took off, we broke into Bob's beer cooler for a cold one (which he opened with the door of his car!) :lol:

    Bob, you are a blast!... Wally, you are a real gentleman... and, both of you are saints for putting up with me! Glenda, you totally kicked butt on this!

    Thanks, everyone, for a super-fun day!
    :y:
    Barks Upper Canyon Loop
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    The hike description for this one is rather intimidating, as far as route finding, but we didn't have much trouble at all. The trail is fairly well cairned for the most part and we never wandered too far off the track. Upper Barks is very rugged and quite steep. Getting through it requires a lot of bouldering and some vertical climbs. If you're into that sort of thing, it's a real blast and the scenery is outstanding! I can't remember the last time I took this many photos on a hike. There was also a lot of brush and tall grass, so we tried to stay vigilant for snakes. I think this hike would be better (safer) in cooler temps.

    Even though it was Saturday, we didn't see anyone else until we topped out near the overlook. We had just turned on the Cave Trail when a very young couple surprised us coming from the other direction. I don't think they were carrying anything. Glenda asked them if they had come up the Cave Trail and he said, "I don't know." (?!) They didn't know what trail they were on or where they were, but they didn't seem too concerned about it. :? He did ask us where we thought they should go, so I told them to walk out to the overlook and then go back down the Peralta Trail, since that would get them back to the parking lot with no possibility of getting (more) lost. He pointed to the trail we had just come up on and said, "Where does that go?" Don't even think about it! We didn't see anyone again until we were halfway down cardiac hill.

    Awesome hike, perfect weather, terrific company! :y:
    Barks Upper Canyon Loop
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    I love the Supes; they're just so magical! The colors are more vivid, the air is fresher, and the scenery is breath-taking! Or maybe it's just all the caffeine I had before starting on the trip. ;)

    We started our fanciful day on trail and ended on trail, but the best parts were sandwiched in between. Route-finding and bushwhacking through Barks Canyon, checking out hoodoos, and climbing up and around rock walls and boulders, all makes for a great day of adventuring. Even got to check out the ever-so-awesome Fat Man's Crack, as we are calling it. Had lunch up at the little campsite overlooking Weaver's Needle (bonus to see Four Peaks off in the distance!), and then returned via the Cave Trail.

    I think what made this hike particularly great is that we focused more on exploring and playing around on and between the rocks, rather than sticking to one rigid route. Had plenty of time to look around and appreciate everything around, instead of trying to get done in the quickest amount of time possible. Beautiful day, and so nice to get back out to that area!

    Permit $$
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    Directions
    Map Drive
    or
    Road
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To Peralta Trailhead
    7.6 miles east of the junction Idaho Rd / US-60. Turn Left on to FS77 which is Peralta Road. Follow FS77 5.6 miles to a left and up turnoff. Continue 1.9 miles to Peralta Trailhead.

    The trailhead has restrooms minus running water. The parking lot is huge. It does fill up in season on weekends. Since there are no lines the rangers ask that you park straight between the posts in the main lot. Please do your part with this simple request and make room for the next guy. 0.5 miles before reaching the trailhead is an overflow lot which is also suited for horse trailer parking.

    From PHX (Jct I-10 & AZ-51) 45.2 mi - about 1 hour 8 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 97.0 mi - about 2 hours 16 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 192 mi - about 3 hours 15 mins
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