A Legendary Superstition Crossing
With a suitable off road vehicle and a cooperative logistical effort and planning the JF trail can be accomplished as a day hike making it the shortest distance trans-superstition option available. It can also be part of a more aggressive multi day back pack as some major east west routes intersect with the JF. This north south route separates east from west in the Superstitions offering panoramic views in either direction from the high points several times during the trek giving a different take on many familiar points of reference.
Do not approach this wilderness trip lightly. Sufficient planning and preparation is a must and consideration given to what if something goes wrong. Make sure to have enough food and water and you have left your itinerary posted or with a friend. There is little chance of finding water or any substantial shade on this hike.
John "Jack" Fraser, who owned the JF Ranch in Fraser Canyon took over the Reavis Ranch property after Elisha Reavis died in 1896. Fraser was a rancher and as such used the JF brand on his cattle. In some old stories his name is mixed up with Jack Frazier, who owned a store in Roosevelt, Az. The confusion over spelling of names is a common problem in sorting out historical facts.
The hike can be accomplished in either direction but is described here from north to south. From the inner trailhead at the end of FR 213 there is a turn around at the fence line. The trail starts at this unmarked fence line. In a hundred yards there is a Superstition Wilderness sign. You are on the JF trail # 106. The trail starts its gentle but steady grade up thru another fence line. A faint trail leads off to the left here for those interested in a side trip to the Miller Mines area (not much left). JF continues straight however and at about .8 mile from the beginning meets a signed intersection with the Hoolie-Bacon Trail. Hoolie continues straight, JF goes left towards the southeast. The grade continues now with the trail being fairly rocky. At times you can detect a double track as though this was used as a wagon or jeep road for a distance. The use of cairns is generous as the trail is encroached by grasses and sometimes is elusive.
At 2.05 miles in a large healthy juniper is on your left. A scratch and sniff reveals a wonderful aroma. Off to your right here is the Lost Dutchman Mine Jr. It's a bushwhack to get to. Read up on the details (there's an app for that on HAZ) before attempting to visit. Reaching the saddle a few moments later offers a nice panoramic view and some sitting rocks on your left. Moving again there is a nice camping spot at 2.33 miles. Look around and you'll notice there are no saguaros. Lots of sotol and century plants but no saguaro. The trail descends into a wash now and as it comes out of the wash seems to fade away. When you lose the trail it is generally above you as it contours around the hillside towards the next wash. At 3.0 miles there is another fine camp site. At 3.3 miles the first of many Manzanita to come appears. And at 3.39 there is another fine camp site. This is near Clover Spring where there was some water even in the dry season. There was also some pieces of tin roof in this area which begs to be explored. The views are exceptional now. The entire Superstition Ridgeline is visible as well as the "Valley Of The Sun", and Fountain Hills. At 4.07 you hit a ridgeline with panoramic views opening off to the northeast. Castle Dome, and Mound Mountain are just a few of the landmarks you can spot from here. The trail now passes on the northeast side of the next two hills. There is more vegetation on these northern slopes and you will find yourself fighting thru some cat claw but the major enemy here is the small leaf holly. Scenic hoodoos with many openings are next and a good spot for a rest. From here you top out with excellent views all around and begin a steep rapid descent thru more, you guessed it, small leaf holly, which towers over and protects the trail from trespassers. Its like a jungle scene from "Romancing The Stone", and a machete would come in handy. The geology is impressive along this trail with large amounts of quartz, crystal and about midpoint on the trail you will find geodes.
Ahead now far in the distance is a natural arch silhouetted by the southern sky. The trail continues to be elusive and you must pay attention thru the next wash as the trail turns more easterly on its way to Tortilla Pass. Soon after meeting more small leaf holly up close you will see stone and barbed wire fencing ahead. Civilization you might think. Well maybe at one time, but at least it means you are close to the intersection with Rogers Canyon Trail at Tortilla Pass. The intersection is marked, with the JF turning right here. There are awesome views of the Queen Valley area to the south towards Superior. A good place for a rest before the long descent. Its about 1.7 miles down to Randolph Canyon from here losing about 800 ft of elevation. Its all loose footing and throw in an abundant supply of cat claw to keep you entertained. An occasional moo from a wandering cow may catch you off guard as you re-enter the world of saguaros. Off to your right a considerable distance is a mountain with no less than four natural arches. Your arrival at Randolph Canyon means one more grade and the trail becomes more distinct and smooth. Its home free from here as you cross a wash and come to the end of the wilderness. A windmill looms ahead. Turn right at the windmill and follow the old road bearing right at the Woodbury trail and continue to the gate and trailhead known as Woodbury.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
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.