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Herman's Cave, AZ

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Guide 16 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Superstitions SW
4.1 of 5 by 8
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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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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
4  2018-02-25 The_N
7  2016-02-21 crappiekid
12  2015-11-13 wallyfrack
6  2012-02-11
Dripping Springs Super Loop
27  2012-01-14 WilliamnWendi
11  2011-12-02 hikemonk
10  2009-12-26 johnlp
18  2007-05-05
Tortilla Super Loop
Page 1,  2
Author Fritzski
author avatar Guides 43
Routes 0
Photos 597
Trips 59 map ( 132 miles )
Age 66 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Nov, Mar, Jan → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:13am - 6:24pm
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Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
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A Real Hole in the Wall
by Fritzski

Beginning from Peralta Trailhead, this out & back hike starts out 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. Well let me tell you a little about Herman - The man, the myth, 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 completely 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). It was Reiney and Herman who 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 any more 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 Tr. east out of Peralta for about 2.6mi through the beautiful Barkley Basin. As you approach the Coffee Flat Tr. 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 Tr. 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 Cat Claw 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 Tr. intersection. You want to go right on Red Tanks and proceed up Upper La Barge 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 hindsightJ), 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 Tr.

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 just use your perseverance and creativity to get up there.

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, its 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 its pretty much a downhill to flat cruise all the way back to the trailhead. I didn't think this would be all that strenuous of a hike, but I ran out of 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 actually 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 well known modern-day "Dutch hunter" Ron Feldman worked a camp, I'm guessing 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 actually 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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Herman's Cave
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    After a short squabble with the timid ranger we were off. He paced back and forth twice then came over and asked Bruce to park the car six inches more to the left. We were unaware it's standard procedure to park "between" the posts. I was impressed that Bruce kept it together as he typically has choice verbiage in these situations historically.

    51 degree to start in early Feb is gift. I enjoyed Coffee Flat up through Randolph and into Red Tanks Canyon the most. There were some nice wildflower displays in Barkley Basin too. Heading down through Upper La Barge Box it was hot and I wasn't feeling good "heading down" of all things. The wildflowers here are the best of the loop as of now. Well that you walk through anyhow, we saw some sweet distant displays too. Albeit good substantial stretches, I give the entire loop a moderate. Definitely worthy of a trip if you enjoy poppies.

    Heading over to La Barge Spring was draggy. We had a late lunch since Bruce wouldn't shut up about "I'm starving" (just a non-stop whiner all day). We started getting the shade advantage pushing "super" past it boundaries to Charlebois. 8+ visit and I still couldn't find the Master After talking up Charlebois it was a let down compared to Randolph and Red Tanks Canyon, yet still worthy of the extra jaunt IMO.

    I have no clue how Bruce put up with me until this point as I'd been queezy since the start. Then I hit the mojo juice and I was on fire and feeling like a rock star for the finish.

    Great loop and Bruce got to see a lot of new territory along the outskirts :y:
    Herman's Cave
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Alright who is the resident Coati/mammal expert? Coming up Miner's canyon we saw what I was certain must be a Coati. But after reading up on them now I am not certain. I am certain that it was not a bear unless it was a cub with a monkey like tail. It was definitely not a raccoon or ringtail. I've a few things on-line so far. Coati is not short for Coatimundi which literally translates to "Lone Coati". In general the long-form refers to to adult males who are solitary animals. The mother and pups are considered "Coati". Now the puzzle surrounding my sighting is the coat. The animal we saw was a solid dark, dark brown with maybe an even blacker mask around the eyes, not white that is typical of the darker coated Coati. That version however only adds to the puzzle because that Coati should only be found much further south. Did I get a picture? Yes, after three nearly fatal and failed attempts at trying to jump to the highest point which was a sharply topped boulder that angled out over the canyon, struggling to get at my camera, I got out 3 shots of the typical wildlife photo: A lot of bushes. But good news! After comparing all three photos, and with an Astronomers like precision, I found a tail! It's a dark dark brown and that's my proof. I'll post all three pics.
    Continuing up the rocky ankle-threatening Dutchman through Miners Canyon we ran into a group of (7-8) joggers coming down, the courage to do this always amazes me. I kept an eye to the southeast hoping for a glimpse of Buzzards Roost beyond the Coffee Flats. I took a few photos maybe Tibber and crew can help me identify. I had hoped to make the bushwack up to Circle Peak to get an even better view but we ran out of time to do that.
    At the top of Miner's Canyon where Whiskey Springs intersects we took our first break. We watched a group of hikers climb up to the base of Miners Needle peak confirming an approach up the south face that I noticed from Barkley Basin. Of course last time I hiked this area I noticed the approach from the north face stemming from the last of Dutchman's switchbacks at the top of Miners Canyon. It would make an interesting loop for another day. Remembering that from this point Whiskey Springs intersection pretty evenly split the Miners Needle loop we decided to and later re-decided not to return on the Bluff Springs portion of that hike. It became apparent that we would run out of daylight coming down Heart-attack Hill and that seemed like bad accident waiting to happen. We did a straight out and back keeping consistent with the hike description.
    Before we left a large group of hikers caught up with us. We didn't get to talk to them but they sounded like they were a club and the other half of their group turned out to be the ones on the Needle. Sounded like a fun group.
    Whiskey Springs Canyon was pretty. The trail was a little rocky throughout and in portions pretty tightly pruned. Made things a little slow going both ways. The description says there a few nice camping spots. I can confirm, one was down right idyllic, but for being right on the trail.
    At the bottom of Whiskey Springs Canyon is the La Barge and the Red Tanks Trail 107, you have to cross Labarge creek. A giant wall juts out from the north wall to pinch Labarge Canyon as you look to the east. Some how I seemed to drawn to it which is good because Herman's Cave is just on the other side of that wall. The Red Tanks trail crosses back over to the other side of creek and cuts high, side stepping house sized boulders before dropping down to the canyon bottom. Keep a sharp eye here because the rail immediately backtracks to the west about 20'. I never saw a low hanging tree like the description talked about but the trail starts heading up the north side of the canyon. At this point if you really look hard enough you'll see Herman's cave hiding on he other side of the wall(It kind of hides until you get far enough east to turn around and look). If you do see it, I would not recommend and you will probably not be tempted to race up the steep gravelly terrain. The trail heads east and gains elevation. About 15' from a wash going down into the canyon is where we found a "trail" only for the fact that it provides somewhat level footing but it was pretty well over grown and blended well into the rest of the growth. There wasn't duck but as we hiked west and cutting across the steep grade we began to see ducks and trampled flora indicating the trail. It's no picnic but it gets you there.
    We ate lunch in the cave which for as big as it is doesn't offer a lot of desirable seating but it got the job done and cooled us off at the same time.
    Hiking the Red Tanks Trail back was a tempting option but we didn't plan for it so we kept to the plan. Whiskey Springs was much fun going up as it was coming down. I think we lost most of our time in this section. Still we saw at least one jogger so it is obviously easier for some than for others.
    Miners Needle never looks more impressive than the view you get dropping down from the saddle.
    We reached the trail head just as the last firey clouds began to fade. There we met Lucy who was an off-leash small breed who thought that she was a large breed. She also thought that she wanted to come home with us. Lucy's owner commanded her to get in the car, which she did, except that it was our car! For the next two minutes Lucy jumped from seat to as 4 dumb humans grabbed for her. It was good for a laugh but I just kept waiting for Lucy to "Claim" our car, thankfully she never did.
    Herman's Cave
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Well I attempted to hike this loop in the rain no less... :o I woke up Sunday and decided the rain didn't look too bad & the doppler radar showed the rain mostly hitting the westside and heading NE. So I drove to the Peralta TH and still felt good since the skies were still dry and the creeks were as well. Last time I did this loop counter-clockwise, so this time I would go clockwise to mix it up a bit. Started on Dutchman to Whiskey Springs to Red Tanks and up the beautiful Upper La Barge Box with a sidetrip up to Herman's Cave. It started sprinkling below Miner's Needle and started raining harder on my way up to the saddle. It continued raining at a moderate pace for the rest of the day... :roll: After eating lunch at Herman's Cave, I headed back up the trail past Hoolie Bacon towards the Red Tank Divide. The trail is now hugging La Barge Creek again which is flowing rather nicely at this point. I see some cairns that take me up a sidecreek near 'La Barge Spring No 2' on the topo... I'm using my Beartooth map which doesn't have as much detail and is tough to examine with the wind & rain. Well this sidecreek is flowing rather nicely while I'm wading up to my knees & ducking under thick foliage following this random line of cairns... This line of cairns either disappears, is too faint to follow in these conditions, or I just got on some dead end trail... I get out of the creek, wander around a bit trying to sniff out the trail, run across some old campsites & very faint paths, hike a couple ridges/hills to scout of the trail to no avail. :( Decide that at 2pm I need to give up the search and head back the way I came in. So when 2pm rolls around I swallow my pride and hike the 8-9 miles back to the TH. :out: It's uncomfortable enough to be wet and hiking in the rain, I certainly wouldn't want to add dark to the situation. :lol: Those rock hopping creek crossing have now transformed into knee-high wades. Luckily I rolled into the TH around 6pm to enjoy my warm dry vehicle and was able to go thru Upper La Barge Box again.

    After getting back and trying to determine what went wrong, I can confirm from the topo on HAZ, google earth, and the GPS track from mcoulter that the actual trail didn't go up that sidecreek and followed La Barge creek just a little longer and was actually on the next ridge over just east of the drainage I was in... Now I've lost trails many times before and have had to backtrack to the last cairn to refind it, but in this situation I would have had to backtrack a few cairns back and look for a totally different set of cairns... :twisted: I feel like rehiking this loop just to destroy those mischievous cairns and better mark the correct path. But even if I would have found the proper trail, much of it would have been in creek/canyons that would have been in possible flash flood conditions. Its funny... I thought that having hiked this trail before would ensure me having an easy time with route finding. :rollH:

    Mileage logged is a rough estimate of how far along on the loop I got, sidetrip to the cave, wandering around a bit looking for the trail, and eventually returning back on the route I took in.
    Herman's Cave
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Great hike. Had 9 scouts, and 6 adults. Boys enjoyed the cave :lol:

    No water at Whiskey Springs, but great time. Boys would like to go again. This was a good packpacking trip for their second time out. Weather was great. 70's during the day, and low-40's in the evening. Camped about 5.6 miles in at Whiskey Spring. Nice area that was shaded, and had plenty to keep the boys busy.

    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
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