a Buzzard's view indeed!
Overview: This is a very rewarding hike that gives you a unique view of the western Superstitions that not many others get to enjoy. You have several options: hike to the lower saddle and western point, hike to the alcove saddle, hike the lollipop loop.
WARNING: For those attempting this hike's various options, you should have good off-trail route finding ability. It is recommended to download and follow the posted "official" GPS Route.
For the SUMMIT, an extra special WARNING: If you plan to tackle this route, expect very steep scrambling, very loose rubble/silt, and a short cabled exposed section that demands a cool head. The cable section is the summit gate keeper. Be warned that if you shoot up that cabled line, you are fully committed to this hike.
Hike: The TH starts at Big Camp. You can choose to drive or walk past Big Camp in and out of the creek bed a little ways and then head east to the ridgeline that stretches out in front of you and Buzzards Roost. You will cross a wash and soon be below the ridgeline. Once you access the ridgeline, stay on it heading north. You should eventually find some cairns that seem to run along the east side of the ridge.
Eventually you will start veering slightly to the east. You will walk by an alcove and out into some brittle bush. There is a slight path there and some cairns. Once you get thru this brush, the trail heads almost straight up to a saddle. You will encounter a barbed wire fence. Stay close to the rock outcropping on your left and climb up and over this area where you will come to the top of the saddle.
Be sure and mull around the saddle area as there is a lot to see. You also have the option to climb up and out to the western point where you will have even more far-reaching views to the north and west. There is a patch of some very large ocotillos too.
Once back at the saddle, head east. You should be able to pick up the cairns as you start to climb up toward the base of the Roost. The route will take you up and to the east of the base. To get to the alcove saddle, do not take that first gully up. Keep hiking until just before you need to go straight up (east) and then hang a right. Here you will be doing some very steep climbing eventually veering to the right. There is limited direction you can go as you make your way up this area so you can't get too far off track. You will eventually come to an area where all you see is air. Be careful here.
Next, head east again and then north toward an elevated area. The key word here is north (toward Weavers Needle). We have placed a rock that you can step on to and up onto a boulder area. You may have to take your pack off to twist into position to get up this boulder. Once there, you have reached the Alcove Saddle. Above you are the alcoves that are fun to explore around. And of course, the views are really something as you can see many of the landmarks of the Superstitions to the North and to the South is the Hewitt area and Picketpost in the distance.
After you've enjoyed this vista it's time to head down. This is a little tricky as you probably realized on the way up due to some scree here and there. Just take your time and before you know it, you will be at the base of the Roost where you can go back to the trailhead the way you came or you can continue the loop by heading east.
To continue the loop from the eastern point, continue to hug the base of the Roost. There will be cairns on occasion until you get to the point where the cairns will point you in an upward direction. Unless you intend on doing some serious climbing, ignore those cairns and continue on a route (that's not quite as close to the base now) heading south. You will again be getting somewhat close to the base where you will encounter a fence between the base and an outcropping.
Once across the fence you will now be heading west staying pretty close to the base of the Roost. As you veer around somewhat of a corner, yes you need to go up that steep hill. Next instead of staying high, you will head in a diagonal direction toward the saddle area that will start coming into view. You will be able to see the alcove you passed on the way up and that's how you go back down hooking up with the stick of the lollipop.
Summit Route: The Buzzards Roost summit route is a dangerous and demanding class-3 scramble with a short mild class-4 section near the top. The short class-4 section is primarily due to exposure with risk of death. If you plan to tackle this route, expect very steep scrambling, very loose rubble/silt, and a short cabled exposed section that demands a cool head. The cable section is the summit gate keeper. Be warned that if you shoot up that cabled line, you are fully committed to this hike. Going up is easy. Coming down is another story.
Water Sources: Possible sources - Whitlow Canyon (Creek & Reed's Water) and Randolph Canyon (Dripping Springs) would be the most reliable water sources. Milk Ranch Creek seems to be running dry unless there is a lot of rain or during monsoon.
Camping: There are several spots along Elephant Butte Road but Big Camp is really very nice. You will need a permit.
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.
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.