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Bluff Spring Mtn Loop via Dutchman, AZ

no permit
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Guide 12 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Superstitions SW
3 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 16 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2 feet
Elevation Gain 855 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,000 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 26
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
19  2019-04-06 ALMAL
12  2016-03-24 Craigbhikin
15  2015-01-24 VolcanoCLMBR
35  2015-01-01 jameslcox44
23  2013-02-18
Jim's Arch
11  2013-01-19
Marsh Valley Loop
18  2013-01-01 jameslcox44
28  2012-02-18
BTM BSM Hidden Valley Loop Hell
Page 1,  2
Author writelots
author avatar Guides 19
Routes 39
Photos 5,577
Trips 337 map ( 3,894 miles )
Age 46 Female Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Mar, Feb, Apr
Seasons   Winter to Early Spring
Sun  6:10am - 6:29pm
2 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
An up-and-down-for-days loop
by writelots

Overview: This is a delightful loop for a long dayhike or medium 2-night backpacking trip in the popular Superstition Wilderness. It provides amazing views of landmarks like Miner's Needle, Black Mountain, Bluff Spring Mountain, Weaver's Needle and the hoodoos of the Superstition Ridgeline. In winter 2012, there was water in all of the named springs enroute, and perhaps a dozen first-rate campsites throughout the hike. I felt like there were many canyons and peaks that I wanted more time to explore.

History: There's already a lot of historic information about the area and the trails involved in this hike in other descriptions for the same area, such as the Bluff Spring Trail and Lost Dutchman Loop

Hike: We completed the loop counter-clockwise, starting on the Dutchman's Trail #104 and ending on the Bluff Spring Trail #235. However, in retrospect we think the hike might be done better in reverse - that gets the big climbs done the first day and uses the more gentle grades for descent. However, the description will match our route so I don't get horribly confused.

From the Peralta Trailhead, it's approx. 2 1/2 miles of smooth sailing across the northern edge of the Barkley Basin. The views along this stretch are long if not spectacular, with the wide basin stretched out at your feet. In the far distance I could just make out the top of Picketpost Mountain to the east. The first (of many) junction is with the Coffee Flat trail, which continues along the basin edge. The Dutchman trail turns abruptly north, however and begins to climb up onto the east shoulder of Miner's Needle. Spend some quality time with pictures of the needle and it's tiny eye climbing up to the junction with the Whiskey Spring trail, which at 3280' is the high point of the hike. Of course, this isn't the last time you'll hit that elevation on this roller coaster ride, so don't think your uphill days are done! Staying on Dutchman again, head back down the gradual descent into the upper arms of La Barge canyon.

This area is a maze of small drainages and low hills, and it seems to continue as far as your eye can see. The trail map, too, is a maze, with a big hole around Bluff Spring Mountain. Joe says it can be summited off the south slope, and the triplogs seem to agree, but I'm going to have to leave that for another trip.

Although the Dutchman intersects the Bluff Spring trail a little over a mile past the the saddle (about 5.4 mi into the hike), you want to keep that trail for later and stick to the Dutcman's northerly descent. Bluff Spring is on the map high above the trail, but we didn't look for it. The huge old saguaro of many HAZ photos stands nearly alone about 1/4 mile off the trail. This venerable giantis one of the largest, potentially oldest specimens I've ever seen.

After passing Holmes Spring (approx 6mi in), the floor of La Barge Canyon started to flow on and off with clear water - though the streambed was choked in many places with bright green algae. The spacious campsite at La Barge Spring is actually a short walk up the Red Tanks Trail #107 from the Dutchman junction, about 7.5 miles from the trailhead. The area has room for a number of tents and hammocks, but the impact from overuse is obvious. Please practice leave no trace. The spring box/trough is across the creek and up a steep (vertical) bank.

Just up the trail a quick 10 minute walk is another large campsite near where the map locates Oak Spring. We didn't find the spring, but the campsite was thick with old oak trees, hackberries and mesquite. The creek was running gently and the campfire ring was large enough to accommodate our group of 7.

Past Oak Spring, the trail stays high on the east wall of La Barge canyon, ducking in and out of bosques and open stretches. The confluence with Music Canyon is particularly scenic.

Approximately a mile from La Barge Spring, the Peter's Trail comes in from the east, and the Dutchman turns to follow the canyon west. Just past this junction is the confluence with Charlebois Canyon and another large campsite at Charlebois Spring (9mi from TH). We found Charlebois to be somewhat less attractive than La Barge, though it seemed that it could accommodate a larger group.

The trail continues along the base of the buff colored cliffs and rugged slopes of La Barge canyon, past the junction with the Cavalry Trail (10.4mi), the Bull Pass Trail (10.8 mi) and on to the junction with the Terrapin Trail #234 at Needle Canyon (11.3 mi). Views from this area of Black Mountain are fantastic. Turning south now onto the Terrapin Trail the climbing begins again. At the Bull Pass junction, you're only a hundred feet or so above the level of the trailhead, but you've got to climb back up to that 3280' again and descend once more before you're home.

The trail begins climbing up and over a series of passes high above the scenic and rugged Needle Canyon. This canyon is narrower and steeper than La Barge, and provides amazing vistas to take your mind off of the steady (if not horribly steep) climb. Views from Terrapin Pass open up to the south, and on a clear day I imagine Canyon Lake would be visible (I could just make it out through the haze). From this pass, the trail descends to cross the floor of the canyon on the eastern slope of Weaver's Needle, and then begins to climb again up to Bluff Saddle. Although the view from the second saddle is not as dramatic, this is where the fun rock hoodoo action really begins as you enter the high basins of Barks Canyon.

At just over 14 miles, the Terrapin Trail ends at the Bluff Spring Trail, once again at the 3280' elevation mark. Although the trail map says that Bluff Spring Trail takes only 2 miles to reach the Peralta Trailhead from this point, it seems impossible. The trail continues to descend and climb repeatedly as it crosses through Barks Canyon, up and over the rugged south face of the range. This is the most exciting 2 miles of the whole trip, with scenery changing every twenty feet or so. Weaver's Needle and Miner's Needle bob in and out of view until, finally, you can see the trailhead almost directly below you. The final descent is truly steep and - after the miles of up and down all day, a bit cruel as a finish. But with your car in sight, it's smooth sailing all the way home!

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2012-02-01 writelots
    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
    Bluff Spring Mtn Loop via Dutchman
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    BTM BSM Hidden Valley Loop Hell
    This was supposed to be an easy day with only 22 miles, well groomed trails, and gentle ups and downs in preparation for a longer one next week. I put together a Supes loop which would also get us up by Charlebois again, to find the Master Map of the Supes that we failed to find last week. Joe was in, but asked to add a little 2 mile round trip, an exploratory mission. Not one to pass up a bit of adventure, I said sure, without really looking at it. (Not that that would have changed things)

    We started out at the First Water TH at first light, knowing that this week we'd be back before dark. We knew that the "itching with a B and Moaning" would probably be at an all time high on this hike, since, between the two of us, we were running on a total of 3 hours sleep. We passed a few groups of Back Packers on our way to our first stop on top of Black Top Mesa. The views were just gorgeous up there. We spent a little time searching the South end of the Mesa for the petroglyphs. We found a Sun, Snake, a couple of names from the early 1900's, and some pictures we could not Id.

    Next, we were off for our little 2 mile detour. The first mistake we made was to get on the Lost Black Top Mesa Trail (Thanks nonot fo the description) instead of getting on the continuation of Bull Pass. This actually was a pretty nice trail that got us to our "Side Trip" quicker. On the way, I saw off in the distance what looked to be part of an old rusty car. As we got closer, it was actually a dead horse. It didn't look like it'd been there all to long :o

    So now we start our "Side Trip". The mission, enter the drainage at the North end of Bluff Mountain, climb to the base of the Water Falls, find the ropes, climb said ropes to the top of the Mountain, go over to the top of the falls, take a few pictures, and return. On the Map, about a mile one way and 700' in elevation change. It took us 2 hours and 20 minutes to make it to the falls. :tt:

    We ate our lunch here and both decided we did not want to go back down what we'd just come up. so now it's time for a change in hike plans. We ended up hiking to the other end of Bluff Mountain (The opposite direction of our TH) and met back up with the Dutchman at the Ely-Anderson intersection.

    From here it was the Dutchman, off past Charlebois (With a stop, finding the Master Map!!), and back to where we'd started our "Side Trip" some 12 miles and almost 9 hours previous at Bluff Pass.

    At this point it was time to just get his friggin' hike done. We marched at Zombie warp speed and made it back to the truck just a few minutes short of 9pm.

    The hike looked very little like what was planned, but as always with Joe Joe, and adventure.

    Thanks Joe for...........
    Bluff Spring Mtn Loop via Dutchman
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    BTM BSM Hidden Valley Loop Hell
    24 mile hike shocks and destroys weak ego

    6:40am - head to Black Top Mesa (BTM)
    9:30am - Bruce found sunburst and oro on BTM
    10:30am - off trail to summit BSM Aguafall
    12:20pm - ropes
    12:50pm - BSM Aguafall
    3:26pm - crest high point before heading down Ely-Anderson
    4:10pm - halfway point - finish EA, chat with scout troop that cached water in cactus
    5:30pm - Master Map found after 8-9 attempts
    7:00pm - Bull Pass - no headlamp - luckily Bruce lent me keychain led powered by watch battery
    7:54pm - Parker Pass - hallucinations
    8:56pm - hike over, full body pain

    lessons learned: unknown
    Bluff Spring Mtn Loop via Dutchman
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    The group of 7 ABCers got a late-ish start from the Peralta trailhead, but it was fun to touch base with some of the other HAZers heading out at the same time (ahem, Tibber, Trishness, desertgirl). It was a wonderful weekend for the hike - fantastic weather, good company and an overall nice hike.

    We ran into the 'girls with sticks' group again at the junction with the Red Tanks trail and shared notes on conditions and options. We considered camping at La Barge spring, but one of our mates had accidentally hiked on to Oak Spring and extolled the virtue of that spot, so we moved on. At first glance it looks great for hangers, but it really isn't as good as La Barge in that respect. Trees are just in the wrong places and intervals.

    While hanging at camp, ran into another HAZer (shout out to Johnlp). He (almost) whispers to me "are you a HAZer?" My first thought is 'how does he know?'. My second is 'do I want to admit it?'. My third is 'for crying out loud, when did you start talking to yourself so much?'. Always nice to meet more HAZers.

    Next morning we continued on north. We tried to find petroglyphs at the junction with the Peter's Mesa trail, but our directions were too vague, so we only found rocks. There was water on and off throughout the canyon - some of the pools more attractive than others. The second day seemed MUCH longer than the first - I suspect because of all of the ups and downs. But it was beautiful, still nice weather and just great trail.

    Next time will do this loop the opposite way - get that fun stuff out of the way and go UP the steep stuff rather than down it. Yup, as my buddy Bill says - it's another miserable day in the Sonoran Desert!

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To Peralta 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 1.9 miles to Peralta Trailhead.

    The trailhead has restrooms minus running water. The parking lot is huge. It does fill up in season on weekends. Since there are no lines the rangers ask that you park straight between the posts in the main lot. Please do your part with this simple request and make room for the next guy. 0.5 miles before reaching the trailhead is an overflow lot which is also suited for horse trailer parking.

    From PHX (Jct I-10 & AZ-51) 45.2 mi - about 1 hour 8 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 97.0 mi - about 2 hours 16 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 192 mi - about 3 hours 15 mins
    page created by writelots on Jan 29 2012 12:59 pm
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