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Warning the 2019 Woodbury Fire & 2020 Sawtooth Fire damaged a majority of the Superstition Wilderness.
Hoodoo Watchers Paradise
This trail begins off of the Dutchman basically at the Peralta Trailhead and climbs through some scenic views until it reaches the Dutchman Trail 104 at Crystal Spring on the southeast side of Bluff Springs Mountain. Bluff Springs itself is northwest of Crystal Spring along the Dutchman another quarter mile.
This trail has some steep climbs and difficult route-finding sections. If it is raining, the prospect of hiking through Barks Creek could be a dangerous one. I do not see a problem with taking children on this hike when it is not raining, as the return is almost all downhill. Just don't let them wander out of sight ahead of you due to the likelihood they could take a wrong turn and your party could get separated. However, kids who are easily tired might not make it very far up the steep beginning. (Then again, if your goal is to wear them out, this may be the perfect plan :)
While the trail itself doesn't appear to be significant, the area is rich with Dutchman lore. Barks Canyon is named after Jim Bark, who was involved in the Barkley Basin/Circle U ranching operations nearby in the Deutschman's time. Bluff Spring Mountain has been extensively searched for clues in the last century. The area had some mining operations, and the Ely Anderson trail still exists from long before the land was settled, and Mexican mule trains were used to haul out the ore. It is not known what they mined for on the mountain, but it was not necessarily gold. History indicates that the area near the end of the trail was used as a camp for the Mexican miners, with variations based on how much one believes about the Peralta Mines and Dutchman's gold. William's Camp is another mining site off the trail, and old artifacts, mostly junk like cans and bottles, can still be observed. Please leave them for future hikers to find. (Modern trash should be packed out)
After traveling a few dozen yards on the Dutchman, Bluff Springs Trail splits off to the north and begins a substantial climb. Known as "Cardiac Hill", due to the fact it will get your heart rate up, it quickly ascends 400 feet until a good saddle that has a view of Peralta Canyon. The trail continues to climb another 200 feet more until more level ground is encountered.
Reaching the flat section, one could proceed up a nondescript drainage to do the unmarked "Cave Trail" as Bluff Spring Trail curves to the east. However, it is not recommended to do that trail from this direction. Proceed east on the Bluff Springs trail and contour around a rather large hill to your north.
The trail continues and is somewhat closed-in in sections due to vegetation. The hiker should eventually notice that they have reached and are essentially paralleling a creek to their east. Some hikers will likely accidentally descend into the creek and off the trail, which is easier hiking. However, it makes the route finding very difficult. Let me explain: The hiker should pay close attention at this stage. This is one of the most likely points a hiker could get lost on the Superstition's popular trails. The Bluff Springs trail dumps you off into a creek with smooth rock and some gravel in the streambed. Some hikers may already have been going northwest in the creek bed for a few minutes if they descended too soon. The markings at this point are inferior. Essentially, you need to know that you want to TURN here and proceed NORTHEAST up the creek bed that is in on the hiker's right, rather than continue northwest up the creek bed in front of you. Although it looks like most people have gone northwest, it is NOT the trail but is due to many people going the wrong way. (Those proceeding in the reverse direction should realize that the trail itself is slightly to the south of the creek bed that heads southeast.)
For those planning a loop hike, this is the first intersection with Bark's Creek. This is the departure point for both the difficult "Upper Barks Canyon Trail" (which is known to be misnamed) and easier "Lower Barks Canyon" hikes. The creek to the southeast and northeast is Barks Creek. To the northwest is an unnamed drainage that presents a challenging climb up to Weaver's Overlook. Stay on the Bluff Springs Trail in the creek bed going NORTHEAST.
After following cairns upstream in the creek bed (there are short sections out of the creek bed that are cairned), a well-defined trail can eventually be found on the right side (north/east) in a generally grassy area. The cairns are usually pretty good in this section, and the absence of significant vegetation means that hikers shouldn't have much difficultly finding the trail where it crosses to the northeast side of the creek. This is a leisure stroll until the trail leaves the side of the creek and begins a steep haul up the west side of a small mountain.
This is the departure point for the "Barks Canyon Complete Route" (found by staying in the creek, rather than the trail.) Continue north on the Bluff Springs trail as it steeply climbs to vistas that present an amazing view to the west of hoodoos and the most rugged-looking terrain one is likely to see just about anywhere.
After completing the climb, the trail levels and begins to curve to the northeast. When another creek/drainage is encountered, the signed trail intersection can be found for the Terrapin Trail. Some people miss this sign as it is somewhat hidden next to the vegetation on the trail's east side. If it is not noticed, look over your right shoulder from time to time in case you passed it. The Terrapin itself can be found on the other side of the smooth-rock drainage and is indistinct at the beginning. The signed trail for the Terrapin is the departure point for those executing the "Weaver's Needle Loop" or the "Weaver's Needle Crosscut Loop", or just those who wish to take the Terrapin.
Continue on the Bluff Springs to the east alongside the creek. The creek bed itself heads off to the north in a short time to "Williams Camp" and a possible ascent to "Bluff Springs Mountain". Stay on the Bluff Springs Trail as it heads east.
For the rest of the trail, you can admire Bluff Springs Mountain to your north. Where the trail turns north, one could depart on the "Ely-Anderson Trail", or continue to follow Bluff Springs Trail to its end and intersection with the Dutchman a few hundred yards further to the north.
The intersection with the Dutchman is right next to Crystal Spring, which is unreliable. Following the Dutchman to the north and then following a drainage to the northwest, one can find the actual Bluff Springs, for which the trail is named. The Bluff Springs are also not reliable but sometimes have water, so obtain a water report before setting out to camp.
The only signed trails along Bluff Springs are the Terrapin and Dutchman. All of the other routes, including the Cave Trail, are not signed, and one would need to pay close attention both to stay on the Bluff Springs Trail or to find their points of departure.
The incredible views of the hoodoos and ancient volcanic debris seen alongside the trail make it a popular option for those executing day hike loops or simply for those preferring an alternate path into the interior western Superstitions.
Triplogs: Consider your options before +Adding a triplog to this guide.
• Day hikes to consider:
- (moderate) Barks Lower Canyon Loop
- (moderate) Cave Trail
- (moderate) Bluff Springs Loop & Weaver's View
- (difficult) Weaver's Needle Loop via Peralta
- (difficult) Barks Upper Canyon Loop
- (difficult) Bluff Springs Mountain Loop
- (difficult) Ely Anderson Trail
- (difficult) Bluff Springs Mountain Summit (including the descent to Terrapin)
- (strenuous) Barks Canyon Complete Route (to Weaver's Overlook)
• Backpack loops and others starting on #235
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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.