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Parker Pass, AZ

Guide 88 Triplogs  1 Active Topic
  3.3 of 5 
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,300 feet
Elevation Gain 378 feet
Accumulated Gain 475 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6.98
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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9  2021-01-03
Aylors Arch and Black Top Mesa
12  2020-01-04
Aylor's Arch and Black Top Mesa
17  2019-08-10 adilling
6  2018-10-13
Red Hills Needle Canyon
19  2018-01-12
Marsh Valley Loop
7  2018-01-11
Aylor's Arch and Black Top Mesa
21  2017-12-16
Aylor Arch - Black Top and Black Mesa
17  2017-12-16
Aylor Arch - Black Top and Black Mesa
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 241
Routes 829
Photos 12,070
Trips 4,849 map ( 24,809 miles )
Age 51 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → Any
Seasons   Late Autumn to Spring
Sun  5:16am - 7:39pm
Official Route
13 Alternative

Warning the 2019 Woodbury Fire & 2020 Sawtooth Fire damaged a majority of the Superstition Wilderness.
Central Avenue
by joebartels

First Water Trailhead to Parker Pass is a popular stretch of trail in the Superstition Wilderness. This is probably oversimplified for most. Newcomers to hiking searching for a close-to-the-city beginner-trail will find this a good introduction.

First and foremost... The best time of year to hike the western Superstition Wilderness is from November to mid-March. From First Water Trailhead, you will follow the Dutchman Trail #104 to Parker Pass. There is no water available at the trailhead. The only water available on route is First Water Creek. ( which is referred to as FWC )

The trail crosses FWC 7 times before reaching "Stingray Saddle" ( more on that later ) FWC is seasonal, meaning it runs after a rain. Sometimes that means there are springs along the way that run dry too. In this case, looking at the topographical map, I don't even see any springs.

A little background on the flow of FWC... Its origin is just northeast of a ridge with an elevation reading of "4542" on Superstition Mountain. So it comes down from Superstition Mountain swiftly, then zig-zags along a section of the Dutchman Trail. Eventually, it scurries on down to Canyon Lake. First Water Creek terminates into that alcove of the first bridge you cross at Canyon Lake. Hmm... interesting!

Okay, let's get on the trail already... There's a good chance a forest ranger will greet you in season. Usually a friendly hello, and they remind you to pack out ALL your trash. A trail heading away from the restrooms isn't the trail. The trail you want is across the parking lot from the bathrooms, near the large panel signage.

The first section goes down huge flat white-ish slabs of rock. In about a quarter-mile or 5-7 minutes, you come to the Second Water Trail #236 junction. Second Water shoots off to the left and looks more maintained. Continue straight / right on the Dutchman. The first creek crossing isn't FWC. It's a major feeder coming from the Massacre Grounds and ultimately from the upper reaches of Superstition Mountain too.

The next seven creek crossings are FWC. The trail goes from open to brushy. On your right will be numerous rock formations along the way. I should mention this is also a popular horse trail. So beware of the steaming land mines. Remember horses get the ride of way, step aside, and let them pass.

I want to say this trail is a no-brainer, and you can't get lost. Though it's unlikely, there is one iffy junction. Right after the very first crossing of FWC, you might wonder where to go. Just remember to stay right. The left circles a knoll and is also a crossover to Second Water Trail.

Continue on the Dutchman crossing all seven creek crossings. There's a nice (very)mini hidden canyon if you follow the creek. It's somewhere between crossings 3 and 4, I think. It looks like there's enough dip to get a swimming hole going after a rain. However, it would be rocky on the bottom! You probably shouldn't be out here when it's warm enough to swim anyway, so forget that altogether.

About 5-8 minutes after the last crossing, the trail lifts to a saddle. This isn't Parker Pass. I've dubbed this saddle Stingray Saddle. From Parker Pass, the saddle looks like a white Stingray lying in the desert. Trust

It's 1.55 miles to "Stingray Saddle" and only 200 feet of elevation gain you'll barely notice. From here, the trail drops down a bit. Then it continues up to Parker Pass at 2.3 miles. The views from Parker Pass are fair at best.

Once you get the Superstition bug, you'll want to go further. A loop with Black Mesa is an easy and popular option if you think you can hang out for 8.5 miles. If the creeks are flowing, a great option is "Upper First Water Creek". Maybe even up the ante with another 3.5 to 4 miles to Weavers Needle for a hearty outing. If that's too easy, try going up to the top of Black Top Mesa. Which is another 3.5 miles and straight up.

Oh yeah, the whole idea here was an introduction to the Superstitions. Since this really isn't an exciting trail up to Parker Pass, I've put a little meat on the bone. You might have noticed faint trails-of-use leading away on route to Parker Pass. I checked out all I found, and here's my favorite. From "Stingray Saddle", use-trails are head off both sides. Take the one heading northeast, not southwest. ( think Four Peaks ) It heads straight up from the saddle. Watch out for cacti, more so the possibility of sliding back onto one. Once on top, you'll have some nice views and the possibility to play on what I call the "Fins". ( not for kids! )

On top, looking north-ish, you have two thin fins on the left. ( think I labeled them twin fins in the photos ) In the middle is the upper wide fin. On the right is the main mound, which is probably the safest option. I wouldn't go on the twin fins, but I'm sure some bright soles have. The upper wide fin is doable, with a very minor move. In all honesty, the views aren't any better from up there, but it's kinda fun if you're really bored. At any rate... from somewhere up there, you can get in great views, including the Four Peaks, a full view of Black Mesa, Weavers Needle, the terminus of the ridge between East Boulder Canyon & Boulder Canyon, Superstition Peak, a section of the Ridgeline, and the full trail back to the trailhead if you squint really hard.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2001-10-15 joebartels
    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.

    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
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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