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W Boulder Cyn to Willow Springs, AZ

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Guide 4 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Superstitions SW
4.3 of 5 by 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 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 7.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,317 feet
Elevation Gain 1,370 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 7 - 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 14.25
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
9  2013-11-05 vanman
15  2009-12-03 jostream
13  2007-01-28 kanode
4  2001-03-04 Fritzski
Author Fritzski
author avatar Guides 43
Routes 0
Photos 597
Trips 59 map ( 132 miles )
Age 66 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
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Preferred   Feb, Mar, Oct, Nov → 7 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:11am - 6:28pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
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There was really a trail here once?
by Fritzski

Warning: No trail in sections

I would recommend this trail (or lack thereof) to that masochistic someone looking for a challenge that has basically exhausted almost everything else on his/her list. I say this because although your ultimate goal, Willow Springs, may be really neat (I wouldn't know, I didn't make it), getting there is a bear to say the least. In other words, unless Willow Springs is really awesome, the coolness/effort factor was low. Although getting lost is a distinct possibility and taking careful note of landmarks along the way is recommended, the real reason I would rate this hike so difficult is simply the complete lack of any discernible trail and the completely overgrown vegetation. If as the old Geographic Survey topos indicate that there was a trail here, it has long since disappeared. My guess is that if there was once an established camp at Willow Springs, they accessed it mainly from the North out of the Massacre Grounds area.

The trail starts at West Boulder Saddle out of Carney Springs trailhead (see Dacite Super Loop). From the saddle I just basically continued straight ahead right down into the stream bed and followed it downstream (left) from there. Although workable, this approach caused much "head scratching" and some fairly heavy duty bouldering. Believe it or not, there are cairns to be seen. Basically when the route was obvious they were aplenty, but always had a way of disappearing when you really needed them. I'm being generous when I say that every so often a hint of what once was a trail would appear, only to beg the question of who ever else was insane enough to be down in this jungle.

Following my simple but arduous stream bed strategy (virtually all of it at varying heights above the right bank) I made it about 3/4 of the way to Willow Springs by my estimation (3.5 Hrs). Had time not been a factor, I probably could inched my way further along but there were no signs of things easing up at all.

On my return I learned of several improvements to my original route. #1. From W.Boulder Saddle don't go straight down into the creek basin. Instead, follow the Ridgeline trail to the West (left) for about a quarter mile. You will see several cairns with one down and to the right of the trail. This should basically line up with a large dead tree down in the creek bed. Head down at that point. #2. To avoid some radical bouldering, when you get to the point where you can see the creek starts to head around a corner to the North (right), instead of following it, climb the ridge above and to your right, go over it and down into another smaller creek bed. Follow that one until it merges and continue.

If I ever get desperate wondering what treasures lie at Willow Springs I may someday try it again. I just wish somebody else would do it first with a machete. It would actually be somewhat easier if the creek bed was dry, although not a free pass by any means. Unfortunately this creek does not lend itself to boulder hopping as do some others. My concern about going when it was dry would be the heat. I went on a cool day and it was still a bit close down in there.

So there you are. I'm sure everybody's all excited to go, but I didn't want to pull any punches either. Actually if anyone has done or does this hike to Willow Springs I would personally invite them to email me so I can first congratulate them and next find out what's really back in there.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2001-03-02 Fritzski
    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 Triplog Reviews
    W Boulder Cyn to Willow Springs
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Mike and I had talked about checking out Willow Springs since last year and today we finally made the trek. We started at Lost Goldmine since we planned to come out on Peralta. We headed up Carney, went over the saddle and down the other side to the creek bed. We made pretty good time since there was very little water and things weren't too overgrown. Down near the bottom we realized it was going to be tough bushwacking and that's when we started seeing numerous white dots on the eastern bank. We followed those until the creek opened up again and back down we went. It was really cool hiking down there with 5057 visible most of the way.

    Once at the spring we took a lunch break and then headed off-trail up the eastern slope to a saddle on the ridge. Cresting that saddle, we had a great view of Weavers. We enjoyed the view for a few minutes, then headed to a lower saddle that we knew was above Peralta. We made it down to Peralta and back out to the car.

    This was a fun hike, but it was longer and tougher than I expected! The views were great and the remoteness of the spring makes it very enjoyable!
    W Boulder Cyn to Willow Springs
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This hike was torture on my arms and legs, but it was very enjoyable. I took a sick day from work and I've got two giveaways of my little white lie. 1. My car is covered in dust, and 2, my arms look like I've been wrestling with a cat. But all in all, this was totally worth it.

    For a birthday present, I was given Carlson's Hiker's Guide to the Superstition Wilderness. I read it cover to cover and it got me feeling like I needed to view the history of the Supes, not just use the mountains for enjoyment. It was a similar feeling to when I was able to read about the Battle of Gettysburg, and then get a chance the next day to tour the battlefield.

    Adolph Ruth was mentioned several times through the book and he ended up being shot and killed back in the Supes. I figured it would be a good idea to check out his old camp. The route from West Boulder Canyon looked more interesting than the route from First Water. The First Water route is rated a 4 here and the West Boulder Canyon route a 5.

    I got to Carney Springs about 7:30 and headed up the trail. It didn't take long for me to shed my coat and fully drench my T-Shirt with sweat. I got to W. Boulder Saddle and scoped out a place to head down. My intentions were to hike along the Ridgeline trail a while then descend down the second side canyon into the main, but I didn't. I saw the first cairn off to the side and down I went. Heading down was actually kind of fun. There are spots of severe bushwhacking, but over all it wasn't too bad. You get used to being clawed at and having stuff fall in between your backpack and your neck. It is all part of the enjoyment.

    After a mile or so, you have to head to the high ground. There were parts that were overly cairned, spray painted, and ribbon marked for my taste. I really didn't see the point. There is only 1 canyon and there is no way to get through the stuff down there, so that leaves only 1 option. Head high and go around it. Getting lost would be impossible so using that many markers was overkill to say the least.

    After heading around, you descend back into the canyon. This is where it gets fun. There are spots of smooth granite floors, spots with large boulders, spots where you have to scoot low under some trees, and spots that would present very cool water falls. For my trip, there was no water along the entire path. It was very fast going once I got down there.

    I reached the Willow Springs around 11 which put my travel time from the car at roughly 3 and a half hours. I ate my leftover pizza and polished off a bottle of gatorade. I filtered water out of the spring to refill my bladder and headed off to find the corral.

    The things to look for are the trees. They are too neat and too out of place. I didn't even realize I walked through the gate of the corral until I was already in it. I can imagine with a little attention, this would have been a decent place to hang out. There is plenty of shade, an ever running spring, and seclusion.

    I headed back and made good time. I kept getting drawn into the canyon where I should have stayed high, but oh well. It made for some interesting tracks and track backs.

    I got back to the car just before 3, which put my hike time back right around 3 hours.

    I'm planning on a Battleship hike in January, but I hope to get another history lesson before then. Maybe something around Bluff Spring....
    W Boulder Cyn to Willow Springs
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    We followed Fritzski's description of his way out which appears to match the West Boulder Trail route on the topo maps. We did not encounter any heavy bushwhacking since we did not drop directly from the Ridgeline trail into West Boulder creek.

    The southern end of the West Boulder trail route involved light bushwhacking, then there were a couple short sections of moderate bushwhacking (maybe a quarter mile total). This was at a time when there was no flowing water. Flowing water would make the trip much more difficult

    The 11 hour round trip included about an hour of cairn building and a half hour search for a lost camera.

    We left the Ridgeline trail at:
    N 33° 24' 32" W 111 22' 30"
    and headed due North and down to the small creekbed that parallels the Ridgeline trail and then up to the saddle at:
    N 33° 24' 36" W 111° 22' 32"

    From the point we crossed the above small creekbed, our GPS track was a close match to the West Boulder trail route shown on the topo maps.

    We dropped straight down to another small creek bed and then headed west. Most of the time we were on the north bank but sometimes in the creekbed.

    We soon ran into lots of cairns on the north bank. At times, 3 cairns could be seen at once. There wasn't a trail but it was easy to pick a route from one cairn to the next. They were usually 10 to 50' feet above the creekbed on the north or east side and tended to follow the contour lines. The cairns lead you west to the junction with West Boulder creek and stay above it to the east.

    We lost the cairns at one point as another creekbed came in from the East. We backtracked 50' and spotted the cairns continuing across this creek but somewhat to the West. We had to head west in this new creekbed for maybe 100' and then climb out.

    Eventually the cairns drop you into the eastern channel of West Boulder creek. There is a short section where moderate bushwhacking is required but the creek bed soon opens up with a wide vegetation free channel with boulders or solid rock the rest of the way to Willow Springs. This starts about:
    N 33° 25' 12.5" W 111 23' 06.3"
    It only took an hour to get from this point to Willow Springs

    Route finding was easier on the way to Willow Spring than the way back--even though we had our outgoing GPS track to help.

    Thanks to whoever did a lot of work building cairns!

    Permit $$
    AZ State Land Recreational Permits are available for an individual ($15.00), or a family limited to two adults and children under the age of 18 ($20.00).

    Land Parcel Map

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To Carney Spring 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 0.6 miles to Carney Spring Trailhead.

    This trailhead and the first 0.5 miles is periodically enforced as being on State Land, see permit for info.
    2 easy ways to avoid the small lot and fee.
    - Lost Goldmine TH / +0.9 miles GPS Route
    - Peralta TH w/restrooms / +1.3 miles GPS Route

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 46.3 mi - about 1 hour 6 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 95.8 mi - about 2 hours 12 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 191 mi - about 3 hours 10 mins
    128 GB Flash Drive... $14
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