Cows are pretty good climbers
This is a rough off-trail hike approaching Haunted Canyon from the South using Signal Mountain Road as the starting point. Signal Mountain Road heads north from US 60 from Top-of-the World. At one time it was possible to drive from US 60 the entire way to Haunted Canyon. The mine has now eaten part of the road. Getting to the Trailhead is half the fun The unnamed spider of roads at the bottom right of the Third Edition of the Beartooth Publishing waterproof map of the Superstitions is Signal Mountain Road. US 60 and Top-of-the World are just half a mile due south of where the map cuts off. Some of the mine workings are just off the map to the right of the 33 22' 30" notation on the map. Signal Mountain Road is a 4WD high clearance road but it doesn't have any rock ledges that are as hard to get over as the one on FR 213 to the Tortilla Ranch trailhead. (The Second Edition of the Beartooth map of the Superstitions is much less helpful and accurate as to roads in the area.)
Several possible routes down to the valley
There are at least four possible routes down to the valley. See map
1. The one where we parked and went down (moderate slope but very thick brush on the lower half)
2. The one we came up (moderate brush and less steep)
3. A route from a stub road that is slightly east and lower than where we parked for route 1. It starts out 600 feet lower but the brush is very thick.
4. A route from the next ridge to the west of route 2. It appears to have much less brush than the others with moderate slope. We didn't take it because it was farther from where we parked.
We didn't drive the whole way down to the mine workings. It may be possible to skirt the western edge and avoid any significant elevation change. I asked at the BHP Pinto Valley Mine guard house about the boundaries and which roads are open but they didn't know. We didn't see any "No Trespassing" signs although the first road we hit at the bottom has seen recent use into Powers Gulch.
FR 898 (a little farther east along 60 but still in the community of Top-of-the-World) is closed with some large boulders.
Map Color Coding
- The 4 numbered points match the possible starting points above
- The magenta route is an exploratory drive
- The blue route is the standard hike through Haunted Canyon to Tony Ranch
- The red route is our counter-clockwise hike which used the road between points 2 and 1 to complete the loop.
Hike: We first looked for a route down along the northwest side of the high voltage tower and decided that the ridge headed down from the east side of the tower was the better choice. We decided the brush was thinnest along the top of the ridge and tried to stick to it on the way down. About half way down, the brush thickened and there were points where we lay down and slide underneath the brush. Once we got to the bottom we looked for an alternate route back up the same ridge and didn't see anything better. At the point we decided to try one of the other routes on the way out.
Once we hit the road at the bottom, we took it north into Power Gulch where it ended. This is a well traveled road.
Backtracking a few hundred feet we then headed northwest toward Haunted Canyon. This road was easy to follow but it hasn't been traveled in several years. The first spur road headed west along a gated fenceline. We decided to explore this road on our way out. A little farther but before reaching Wood Creek, we checked out a spur road heading west going about 0.2 mile before turning around. It appeared to continue for at least another 0.2 mile.
Returning to the road north, it became less distinct and was washed out in places but was distinct until it crossed Wood Creek. The road continued along the west bench of Wood Creek but became hard to follow in spots. Upon reaching Haunted Canyon, we turned around
We returned to the fenceline and headed west and then south on a spur road to it's end above a dry creek. The route up didn't look too brushy, at least once we descended through brush to the creekbed. The next ridgeline west had a lot less brush but would have farther away from where we were parked.
We were able to follow game and cow paths as we ascended and then ran into a fence. Looking back along the fence we saw that it was clear down to the creek and that there was a stone fence and corral on the other side of the creek which we hadn't seen from the end of the road. We stayed near the fence line until it began to hug the west side of the mesa at the top of this ridge--we wanted to bear east to hit the road closer to where we were parked. Either cows are great climbers or they found an easier route than we did--as evidenced by cow pies in spots where we had to stop to catch our breath on the climb out.
The trip across the mesa wasn't as easy as expected due to sections of thick brush and it's not as flat as is shown on the topo maps.
The only reason to attempt this hike is to retrace the old drive into Haunted Canyon. For years, I've seen these roads in the SE corner of the Beartooth map of the Superstitions and wondered about them.
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.