Waves of Desert
Overview: One hundred percent off-trail mean desert hike to some of the most beautiful views of the Superstition Wilderness.
Hike: This is an extension of the Geronimo Head hike. Follow that hike to Peak 3509.
Study, print and if possible load this GPS Route into your GPS. As you can see from Peak 3509 you will be hiking a ridge over to the base of Malapais. This is the easiest hiking of the day so enjoy it. You might want to log a waypoint at 33.506888, -111.379137 into your GPS. You need to go west of this conglomerate of rock. One in our group did downclimb it, it's just easier in the shallow ravine to the west.
We chose to ascend Malapais via a wide ravine on it's northwest face. In doing so we stayed on the west side. About a third of the way up we climbed out of the ravine. There were a couple of not very helpful random cairns. The ascent is steep and loaded with cactus but not as steep as the initial ascent from the parking lot. It may be possible to ascend the ridge on the west side of the ravine however there is a band of cliffs two thirds of the way up. It "appeared" there was a break in the cliffs. The ravine looked like a safer approach as we didn't want to waste resources.
On top at the north Peak 4159 you are rewarded with views and a sense this whole thing has merit. Continue on over a half mile to the south Peak 4229. Like other mountain tops in this area it's loaded with a maze of desert vegetation. On the south peak you are rewarded with far reaching views in all directions: (West)Superstition Ridgeline, (North)Four Peaks, (East)Tortilla Mountain, (South)Miner's Needle if you squint. Tortilla Peak would offer more views to the east. Malapais has views down into the labyrinth of LaBarge and Boulder Canyons making it among the premier viewing spots in Arizona in my opinion. Full overhead views of Battleship and Black Mountain too(rarely seen elsewhere).
Return: The most prudent return is to backtrack. If you are familiar with Peter's Canyon you can drop down to various points. One time I dropped down to Tortilla Creek. That proved much easier than the bullish entrance route. You "might" be able to drop down off to the south. It looks extremely rough. The best break in the cliff band appears to be a good mile away at Squaw Canyon as labeled on topo. However that would likely have to be a shuttle option as it's unlikely you'd return to Tortilla Flats. Carlson did a loop with the entire length of Peter's Canyon, better eat your Wheaties for that one!
Warning: Do not attempt this hike in temps over 80 degrees. Not only would it not be enjoyable it could be dangerous.
Be Prepared: Pants are a must for this hike. Preferably tough pants as you may be sliding on rock surfaces and scree slopes depending on your route. One hiking pole helps on the loose slopes, two would be cumbersome. Some may prefer gloves. Tweezers are a good idea as your chances for cacti encounters are rather high. For 80 degree weather I recommend 5 quarts+ per hiker. Snacking food to sandwiches are recommended to keep your energy level up on this strenuous hike.
Water Sources: Virtually none, bring plenty. In October we saw several 10-20 gallon pools in Upper Geronimo Ravine, but you'd have to be mighty thirsty to even drink it filtered. I have witnessed the creek barely flowing Dec-Feb though it's less likely you'll need it in those lower temp months.
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.