Herman's Cave, AZ

Guide 19 Triplogs Mine 0 0 Topics
4.2 of 5 
no permit
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 13.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,400 feet
Elevation Gain 1,015 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,680 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 21.9
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Page 1,  2
Author Fritzski
author avatar Guides 43
Routes 0
Photos 597
Trips 59 map ( 132 miles )
Age 69 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
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Preferred Feb, Nov, Mar, Jan → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  5:34am - 7:30pm
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🔥 2020 Sawtooth Fire24.7k
🔥 2019 Woodbury Fire123.8k
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A Real Hole in the Wall
by Fritzski

Beginning from Peralta Trailhead, this out & back hike starts east on the Dutchman Trail. Continuing on the Dutchman, it then turns north to connect with the Whiskey Spring Trail, which proceeds to the Red Tanks Trail, which is then followed east for a short distance through Upper La Barge Canyon to the world-renowned "Herman's Cave" (See Notes: #1)...

"Who the heck is Herman?" you may ask. Let me tell you a little about Herman - The man, the myth, and the legend. When Jacob Waltz lay on his deathbed, two people were at his side. A local Phoenix friend named Julia Thomas and a young German immigrant boy named Reinhart Petrasch. Legend has it that in his last hours, Jacob tried desperately to explain the location of his secret gold mine in the Superstition Mountains to Julia and Reiney (#2). After his death, these two utterly inexperienced city slickers headed into the wilderness where their fate would then be sealed, but not before ensnaring a few others in the legendary trap known as the "search for the Lost Dutchman Mine."

After their initial search came up empty-handed, Reiney mailed his father Gottfried and his brother Herman to come to Arizona to assist them, which they did. In the end, after many fruitless years, Julia spent every penny, lost her business, gave up, and returned to the city as a pauper (#3). Gottfried also gave up, returned to Montana, and died shortly thereafter in 1914 (#4). Reiney and Herman were unable to escape the lure of lost treasure and spent the rest of their destitute days living in the desert wilderness looking for something they would never find. Evidently, Reiney couldn't take it anymore and ended up blowing his head off with a shotgun in 1943. Herman then died of natural causes ten years later, an old and broken man. But Hey! He did end up getting both a cave and a mountain named after him!

All right, to get started on the hike, you take the Dutchman Trail #104 east out of Peralta for about 2.6mi through the beautiful Barkley Basin. As you approach the Coffee Flat Trail #108 intersection you will be rewarded with some great views of Miners Needle and Cathedral Rock as they begin to dominate the skyline. Miner's Needle with its distinct "eye" has been a focus point for the Lost Dutch search in years past. It was at the base of Cathedral Rock that human bones thought to be those of Mexican miners possibly killed by Apaches were found in the 1930s.

At the Coffee Flat intersection bear left and remain on the Dutchman Tr. as it begins its climb to Miner's Summit and the Whiskey Spring Trail #238 The climb is not too arduous and take time to check out the views behind you along the way (#5).

At about the 4.5mi point you will cross the summit and bear right onto the Whiskey Spring Tr. as it begins its descent into Whiskey Spring Canyon. As you reach the bottom of the canyon the trail flattens out, enters some shady areas of Hackberry trees along the wash, and encounters some areas of fairly annoying Catclaw Acacia. At just over 5.5 miles you will come to Whiskey Spring which had filterable water flowing and some nice camping areas nearby (#6).

At about 6 miles in, you'll come to the Red Tanks Trail #107 intersection. You want to go right on Red Tanks and proceed up Upper LaBarge Box Canyon. The canyon is fairly narrow, and as the trail crisscrosses the wash, it winds through some areas of thick vegetation and boulders. There is a tricky point at about 6.5mi where a low bent tree crosses the trail. Do not go straight (in hindsight), but double back across the wash to your left and look for cairns showing the way to the trail, which climbs out of the bottom and up on the north side. The canyon floor appears quite lush as you look east along the continuation of the Red Tanks Trail.

As you are negotiating this little area, you will come around a bit of a corner, and Herman's Cave will suddenly loom large above you to the left - and I mean ABOVE. The cave is high at the base of the Herman Mountain cliffs, and you must scramble up a steep slope of scree and boulders to get there. Although there are some faint trails, they are much easier to spot on the way down, so use your perseverance and creativity to get up.

The cave is very large, but its inaccessibility and the fact that the floor slopes out at a steep angle prevent it from ever having served as a useful shelter. Evidently, Herman spent many years searching in this area and located his camp close by (#7).

When you've had enough poking around, it's time to turn around and go back the way you came. As you begin to make your way back out of the canyon, look up to the top of the ridge on your left, and you may notice an unnamed (as far as I know) arch rock. As it sits near the top of Picacho Butte, I'll go ahead and name it "Picacho Arch". I know, what an imagination!

The climb back up the hill out of Whiskey Spring Canyon, which didn't seem like much going down, may get your full attention this time. Once at the top, it's pretty much a downhill to flat cruise back to the trailhead. I didn't think this would be all that strenuous of a hike, but I ran out of the water, and the three of us were all pretty well spent when we finally shuffled into the parking lot.
  1. This is evidently the very same route taken by up to three different people in their attempt to follow Jacob Waltz into the mountains to find his mine. On all these occasions, he was followed to a small canyon on the north side of Coffee Flat Mtn. which empties into Upper LaBarge Box. In all cases, the followers were detected, confronted, and threatened at gunpoint with their lives.
  2. This is according to one popular version of the legend. The other has Dick Holmes and Gideon Roberts at the bedside receiving directions to the mine. Holmes is the one who purportedly ended up getting the box of gold nuggets from under Waltz bed.
  3. Some accounts claim that this is false. According to the records of her property holdings, she did not die a pauper.
  4. Another probably more accurate and interesting account is that Gottfried ended up in a Phoenix insane asylum where he attempted to commit suicide by jumping out a second-floor window and eventually died in 1918.
  5. The old trail alignment of the Dutchman Tr. can be faintly seen mostly on the west bank of the ravine below just above the wash. The small, flat, overgrown area is evidently where the well known modern-day "Dutch hunter" Ron Feldman worked a camp. I'd guess around 25 years ago.
  6. Whiskey Springs got its name from the stills worked there during the prohibition years. One of the stills was actually carried out and is now on display at the Blue Bird Mine and Gift Shop off Hwy 60.
  7. At least one account has Herman living in the cave. Unless there is another cave of which I am not aware, I do not believe this to be feasible.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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

2001-12-24 Fritzski
    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 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 enormous. 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
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills

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