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Not Just the Needle
If you have ever driven north on SR88 (Apache Trail), you have undoubtedly passed the Needle Vista Viewpoint and thought to yourself, "that's for the tourists." Having seen Weaver's Needle from just about every angle, this viewpoint held little interest for me. Today, I thought it might make a good starting place for a bushwhack over to First Water. I had plotted out a prospective course based upon the washes shown on topo maps but was pleasantly surprised to find that the "on-the-ground " reality was clearly plotted out by equestrian trails. What developed was a relatively short hike that gave quite a bit of bang for the buck.
Departing from the Viewpoint parking area, you are very soon presented with an unnamed wash free of just about all debris and catclaw. The first half of this hike is a cakewalk through the desert as you follow the wash in a generally easterly direction. The few snaking turns make it questionable if you are always traveling east, but keep ongoing. Soon you emerge from the bowels of the wash, and visible will be the Needle. At 33.49425N, 111.45686W you will come to a split in the wash--take the path to the right. Not long after this intersection, you should begin to recognize the lichen green covered slickrock, which identifies the First Water and Hackberry Spring area.
Continue through the wash until you reach 33.49422N, 111.44720W which is a second point for making a decision. If you head down and to the right, the trail will take you to First Water. Instead, bear left and begin an assault up Peak 2519. While it appears steep and strewn with loose rock, it is surprisingly forgiving, and maintaining your footing is not at all difficult. As you ascend, make frequent scans across the horizon for views far into the distance in every direction. Eventually, you will be able to see the entire Valley of the Sun. Continue up the peak, and if you feel so inclined to take a break, someone has left a knife for you to use in carving that apple you brought along for a snack (33.49542N, 111.44735W). The climb will connect you with the fence line that runs east-west along the ridge. If you cross over the fence from time-to-time, you will maintain an elevation that permits views of both the north and south sides of the ridge.
As the ridge begins to drop, you will be faced with the decision of how to descend. At this point, you will begin the bushwhack portion of the hike. Making your way down the corridor between Peak 2519 and Peak 2462 seemed a reasonable option, and it placed me right into the throat of another wash. Feel free to select your way down.
This hike is not recommended when flash floods or rain in the immediate vicinity are predicted. The hike's return portion proceeds through a somewhat narrow, steep-walled wash with points from which quick extrication is next to impossible.
I dubbed this the "Double View" because the view from the Visitor's parking area pales compared to those available on the ridge.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.