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Red Hills Needle Canyon, AZ

175 14 2
Guide 14 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Superstitions NW
3 of 5 by 8
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 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 13.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,290 feet
Elevation Gain 500 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,422 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 20.51
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Historic, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
6  2018-10-13 chumley
20  2015-02-21 wallyfrack
50  2014-03-01
Dutchman Trail #104
20  2014-01-04 RowdyandMe
26  2013-02-04
Battleship Mountain - Superstitions
23  2010-01-05 snakemarks
30  2008-12-19 kanode
Author kanode
author avatar Guides 7
Routes 57
Photos 1,107
Trips 64 map ( 519 miles )
Age 71 Male Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:14am - 6:23pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
The other Needle Canyon
by kanode

This is a creekbed hike through Needle Canyon in the Red Hills. The hike starts at the First Water trailhead, heads south on the Dutchman trail, then east on the Boulder Canyon Trail to the entrance to Needle Canyon. The exit from Needle Canyon runs into the Bull Pass Trail which is used to return to the Dutchman trail and back to the First Water trailhead. This Needle Canyon has nothing to do with Weaver's Needle but is named for a white needle on the east side of the Boulder Canyon trail roughly halfway between the Bull Pass and Cavalry trails. It's the only obvious route headed east in the area.

The only route finding challenge was picking up the point where the creek crosses the Bull Pass trail. The creekbed is wide at that point and has two channels. On the first attempt we went past the intersection. On backtracking, we found the trail and cairns hidden in tall grass but the trail was within a 100 feet of where the GPS said it should be. If you are nearing a large tree (a cottonwood from the leaf color), you've gone too far.

This hike is great when water is flowing and the air temps are above 60 degrees. Without water, it would be a much easier hike but not worth the effort of the return over Bull Pass. If the temperature is much below 60, you'd try to keep your feet and calves dry which would mean fighting a lot of brush and scrambling on the sides of the canyon . When dry, this route could be used as an alternate backpacking return from Charlebois Spring. It would be longer but avoid the ascent and descent over Bull Pass. It took us an hour longer for the canyon half of the trip but more than half of that was spent taking pictures and looking around.

The Boulder Canyon segment hasn't seen much recent traffic and is somewhat overgrown. Hikers may be using the creekbed when it's dry rather than using the path on the benches.

According to Tom Kollenborn's Chronicles, an miner named Al Morrow lived and worked in this canyon for 19 years. No details are provided on the location of the mine and we didn't see any trace of it or any artifacts.

The start of Needle Canyon is not where it's shown on Topo maps. The early section starts about 500 feet north of the map location (north of the 2300' butte rather than south of it) and makes several big U-turns not shown on the map. From the point the canyon makes a major move south, the map is accurate. The side trails which loop in front of Red Hills Mtn 2073 and then head north to connect to the Cavalry trail were brushy and didn't seem worth the effort.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your canyon trip to support this local community.

2008-12-22 kanode
    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
    Red Hills Needle Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Nice hike on a relatively cool day. We started hiking from First Water Trailhead at 9:15am and made good time down the Lost Dutchman Trail. These section of trail is a chore but goes by quick. Along the way I took off my fleece and stowed it in my pack. Two women dressed for snowshoeing in Flag commented that we were from out of town. I told them we're locals. :lol:

    From there it was easy going as we connected into Boulder Canyon where there were some good pools of water. We headed north and connected into Red Hills. The going was relatively easy as we made our way up canyon. There were more pools of water but nothing flowing. We eventually connected back on trail and headed west over Bull Pass and took a lunch.

    After lunch we followed the Black Mesa Trail and made good time as we dropped into Garden Valley. We decided to continue straight and passed Hackberry Spring. We continued hiking and headed past the old corral on our way back to the road and we were back to the jeep a little after 3pm. This was a nice and chill multi-loop hike.
    Red Hills Needle Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Been wanting to check out Needle Canyon in the Red Hills area so off we go on a perfect weather day in October. Lots of standing water in the canyon, we even saw small traces of running water as well. The first mile or so in the canyon was really easy to trek through, then we hit what I will call a "marsh area", lots of water, high grasses, and mud which made trying to stay dry difficult as we zigzagged from side to side. We saw lots of frogs/toads, found a couple of rusted cans/containers, and even some graffiti. Bull Pass trail was a little overgrown but was a nice change following the boulder hopping through the canyon. Started seeing other hikers on the Dutchman Trail once we hit the Black Mesa Trail marker.
    Red Hills Needle Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    8 miles of this hike is on the Dutchman Trail and pretty smooth sailing. The rest requires a little more effort.

    The brief trek in Boulder Canyon before you reach Needle Canyon was an ankle twisting rock hop. If there is any kind of a trail there, I didn't see it.

    I was surprised at how much water was in Needle Canyon, considering how little rainfall we've had over the last year. It wasn't flowing, but there were many deep pools with decent looking water in them. Judging from the waterline, this place can hold a lot more. I imagine during a rainy season it's quite spectacular, although, I don't know how you'd trek your way through it. There were a few sections of (reasonably) barrier-free trail along the sides and I took advantage of these wherever I could find them. But mostly, the creekbed was my only option and, even without water, it was very slow going.

    Humping it up and down Bull Pass wasn't as hard as I was expecting, or maybe I was just so glad to get out of the canyon and away from the endless rock hopping that I didn't mind the climb. I think this was actually my favorite part of the hike. It definitely had it's share of cardio moments, but there were some great views up there and the trail itself was varied and interesting. I might be overstating it's appeal, but I enjoyed it.

    It was a beautiful day for a hike, but beyond the first quarter mile from the Trailhead, I didn't see a soul all day. Now, that's how I like to roll!
    Red Hills Needle Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Tour de Western Superstitions.

    Time includes off-trail exploration, searching for Spanish petroglyphs, stopping for first lunch, and stopping for second lunch.

    Neither Boulder nor LaBarge Creeks are running, there is water sitting stagnant in rock catch basins thoughout Needle and Boulder canyons, due to lack of full exploration of LaBarge, all I can say is that it is completely dry where I hiked by it.
    Red Hills Needle Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Finding info on this area is difficult because of inconsistent naming. There are other routes through the Red Hills and a Red Hills trail in the Mazatzals. There's another Needle Canyon nearby at Weaver's Needle. The trail on the south end of Black Top Mesa used to be called Needle Cutoff Trail. Now it's just a section of the Dutchman Trail.

    I probably should have named this hike: Red Hills Needle Canyon - Superstitions
    Al Morrow's mine may have been in the other Needle Canyon

    Whatever this hike is called, it's a great hike when there's water flowing and it's not too cold to get wet!

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To First Water Trailhead
    From Mesa follow Highway 60 East to Idaho Road. Turn North onto Idaho Road which is SR88 and follow North 2.2 miles. SR88 bends right just past Scenic St. and Idaho continues North. Be sure to go right and stay on SR88. Follow SR88 5.2 miles to the signed turnoff for First Water Trailhead, this is FR-78. Turn right on to FR-78 and follow 2.6 miles to the end.

    This trailhead feature restrooms without running water. The large parking area fills up in season. When full utilize the Horse Lot 0.5 miles back.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 43.1 mi - about 59 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 136 mi - about 2 hours 16 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 187 mi - about 3 hours 3 mins
    page created by kanode on Dec 21 2008 10:33 pm
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