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Rock Creek Trail #195 - Superstitions, AZ

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Guide 17 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Globe > Queen V NE
2.9 of 5 by 8
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance One Way 3.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,445 feet
Elevation Gain 1,014 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,040 feet
Avg Time One Way 3-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 7.27
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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15  2018-11-24
Rock Creek Spencer Spring Loop
8  2018-11-24
Rock Creek Spencer Spring Loop
6  2018-11-24
Rock Creek - Spencer Springs loop
22  2017-02-04
Rock Creek Spencer Spring Loop
24  2017-02-04
Rock Creek Spencer Spring Loop
9  2017-01-24
Eastern Soup Fun
15  2017-01-22
Government Hill
11  2016-10-08
Rock Creek Haunted Loop
Page 1,  2,  3
Author Fritzski
author avatar Guides 43
Routes 0
Photos 597
Trips 59 map ( 132 miles )
Age 66 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Feb, Apr
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:12am - 6:23pm
Official Route
9 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Culture Nearby
A Trick in the Trail
by Fritzski

Be advised this trail was decommissioned in 2001. The bush gods have apparently reclaimed the forest. Travel may be difficult and painful.

Of the many "Rock Creek" Trails that undoubtedly exist, this one is a shady, pleasant stream side trail in the eastern Superstitions. From the Miles Trailhead it follows Rock Creek upstream from its confluence with West Fork Pinto Creek about five miles to its end at Forest Road 650. From the parking area proceed west about .6mi on the West Pinto Trail (#212) past the scenic meadow and out buildings of the old Kennedy Ranch to the intersection of the Bull Basin Trail (#270). Here you go left, taking the Bull Basin Trail southwest as it begins to follow the Rock Creek to the Rock Creek Trail intersection at about 1.3mi. There is a pleasant open area here that looks to be popular for camping and you may notice an ancient rock grave(783) next to the trunk of a large tree. Jack Carlson, author of the excellent book "Hiker's Guide to the Superstition Wilderness", informs me that some cowboys found an anonymous body laying at that very site and just buried it where they found it.

The Forest Service has officially decommissioned the Rock Creek Trail (formerly #195), so the old sign has been removed. I attempted to resurrect an old large cairn that appeared to be toppled over to help re-mark the intersection. In any event, the Bull Basin Trail climbs sharply left out of the creek bed, so if you merely stay in it you'll be fine. The trail itself is still in very good condition and quite easy to follow.

Continue along the creek bed as the trail meanders from side to side through occasional narrow slots and shady stands of sycamore trees(765) beneath the impressive and aptly named Sawtooth Ridge(766). There are several springs(773) shown on the topo map plus a few more seeps and pools along the way, but nothing too appealing as far as filterable water during a dry September. At about 2.5mi you will come across an impressive little waterfall(776) not so much due to its height (@15'), but its very broad and straight and must be something to see when the water is flowing.

At about the 3mi point there is a bit of a "trick in the trail", so to say. Considering myself as a somewhat wizened veteran of Superstition trails, I'm embarrassed to say I got taken in "hook, line, and sinker". Here's the devilish scenario: You're happily following the creek bed along it's left bank and due to the thick tree cover you can't see the opposite bank. Unbeknownst to you (especially since you're not paying attention to minor details like a map) you run into a tributary flowing in from the left and just to make it more devious, there is actually a nice trail (probably created by other poor hikers suckered in like me) continuing right along the same left bank as it so gradually and innocuously veers left and heads up the tributary away from the main creek bed.. The worst thing was how far I went up this thing before I finally admitted to myself that I screwed up! I'm at least a full mile up this thing when it starts to become a nasty bushwhack, but lo and behold there is a striking area of cascading bare rock pools which then I convince myself the trail was "obviously" named for, so I keep going! It was only when I topped out at a dead end in the middle of nowhere(772) that the truth became undeniable. I seem to have a definite propensity to make even the most potentially pleasant hike some kind of a "sweat and blood gruelathon".

Anyhow, once back at the offending fork, it is easy to relocate the correct trail and I'm on my merry way again. From here it is more of the same with an easy to follow trail through nice riparian scenery(768) all the way to the 4.25mi point where the trail makes an abrupt departure out of the canyon and begins a steep climb up the bush covered slope to it's end at FR650 for about 5 miles total. Aside from some kind of a nonsensical shuttle setup, your return is merely back down the way you came.

Although not a spectacular trail as far as the Supes go, this is a very pleasant hike and one to include if you enjoy the neat Miles Ranch area.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2002-11-04 Fritzski
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One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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
Rock Creek Trail #195 - Superstitions
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Rock Creek Spencer Spring Loop
If you use your imagination there are "trails" out there. :lol: This loop is packed with features and we were likes kids on a mission. On the way up Rock Creek "trail" we stopped at the unknown Cowboy grave then over to an old mine which was collapsed but still had lots of cool stuff around. Farther up Rock Creek "trail" we stopped at the waterfall and checked out an old corral. The next section was the easy part of the hike. We walked FR650 to Spencer Spring "trail". We took some time to check out the ruins and hunt for nice pot sherds. The upper section of Spencer Spring "trail" was faint but we stopped at Spencer Spring, then down to a neat slot canyon with a waterfall and finally another old corral. The final stretch going back on West Pinto trail was a luxury. After the hike we stopped for grub at Hermanos and saw Bifrost & Slowandsteady. Just another nice day on the "trail".
Rock Creek Trail #195 - Superstitions
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I started my morning headed towards Rogers Trough to do White Mountain, but no vehicle is getting across Queen Creek right now and I saw first hand why. I pulled up behind a pickup who had a friend outside mulling over whether it was crossable. I kept thinking that there was no way that it was uncrossable and I even thought for a minute that the guy ahead of me might be being a little cautious and if he did not go, I was just going to go around him and try, but just then he went for it after his friend on the outside seemed to give him the thumbs up. He was done for as soon as he hit the water, his front end briefly went hood deep he lurched forward a little and then there he sat about bed deep in Queen Creek. I got out and said to his friend, "well I am not going this way," turned around and headed back to the 60 for a plan B.

I figured I could not go wrong with Miles trailhead for a plan B, although, it did cross my mind that even that road may be impassable due to the rock slides that always occur out there after a big rain. I got lucky and it was clear sailing to the TH. Every drainage was flowing along the road and it was very apparent from the start that the area had been hammered recently. I ended up stopping before Miles and went in Paradise Trail to do a variation of the Bull Basin loop, but with Government Hill and its long ridgeline as an off trail linking route between the two trails. Paradise was a tremendous start to the day. It was nearly impossible to keep your feet dry on the trail, the creek was raging and trailside was one cascade after another, topped off by the main attraction which is less than a mile in. From the flowing water of Paradise, it was across the snow dusted ridgeline to Government Hill for some fantastic views. In particular, the Ancha are in rare form and look more like a range in Colorado right now due to the amount of snow its holding. From Government Hill it was down to Bull Basin, more cascades, more water and then the rugged detour up Rock Creek Trail to view its falling water highlight.

It was impossible to stay dry going up Rock Creek, as it was just calming down from what looked to be a pretty intense little flash flood. The crossings were deep and fast, but all manageable. The horrible trail along the bench was probably worse anyways. Its a real shame the Forest Service decommissioned this trail, it was probably a good one in its day, now the falls are slowly becoming perhaps not worth the hassle. A couple stretches of the trail along the bench are becoming a tad brutal with acacia, deadfall and general overgrowth, during lower water this can be remedied through simply walking up the creek bed, however, that was not happening today. The hike back from the falls went much quicker, as I took up to wading more stretches of the creek when I could, rather than bushwhacking along its edge. Once I hit Bull Basin, it was a pretty quick hike back to the car and other than the fact that West Pinto looks nearly impossible to cross on foot right now, nothing overly exciting occurred.

A great plan B!
Rock Creek Trail #195 - Superstitions
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Rock Creek Haunted Loop
I created this loop for a hike Bruce and I did March 8th 2014.

Rock Creek Trail #195
This one still rates pretty high in my world. Arizona Cypress keeps life in balance. Rock Creek is generally easier to follow than the trail. Once again catsclaw is not an issue for more than a few yards of the entire hike.

Bull Basin Trail #270
This one grew on me a tad so I upped it from a 2 to 3 rating. It has recently been cleared six feet wide from Rock Creek to maybe the saddle with Government. Still a shadeless toaster for long stretches.

Haunted Canyon #203
This loop utilizes the absolute best segment of this trail. Which is a large stand of cypress. Naturally I love it.

Tony's Backyard
Due to overgrowth I downgraded this one to a 3 rating. Whoever traveled this trail on horse in past years is long gone.

Overall nice temps. Pants saved skin but too hot. I like this loop but will look to switch out Haunted for Spencer next round.

Sycamores are just beginning to turn.
Rock Creek Trail #195 - Superstitions
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Water is certainly something to be celebrated in the Supes and today was my turn to go play in the water. I was very envious of all the HAZers who made it out yesterday while I spent all day cramped inside a gym coaching. I decided to head to Miles TH to avoid the groups of 15 that are plaguing the Western Supes ;) My modest plans included checking out the falls on Rock Creek that are pictured in the Hikers Guide to the Eastern Supes and check out some pour over areas in Wildcat Canyon that I thought might look pretty cool with some water going over them. Chumley was initially a go for the trip, but when I could not promise him 100 foot water falls, or give him exact mileage and aeg he canceled :roll:

I could hear the West Fork of Pinto Peak raging the moment I turned off my car at Miles and Rock Creek was flowing pretty strong where it runs into West Pinto at the turn off for Bull Basin so I felt my chances were pretty good that I would at least see some nice cascades along the trail. It was kind of slow going at first the trail is a tad over grown in spots, a little acacia in along the benches. I got pretty soaked from swimming through branches hanging over the trail. The Falls or perhaps more appropriately large cascade were pretty cool, I was satisfied, on to Wildcat Canyon.

I just thought some areas in Wildcat Canyon would be pretty cool with some water running through them. It turns out I was right, there was lots of water running through Wildcat Canyon and it had really transformed the area into something pretty scenic. I stopped for a photo shoot with the pups at a pretty cool pour over section and had a quick snack before heading back to TH.

Paradise Trail was a dud. That trail can be a real treat with running water, but no such luck this time. In fact, it was very dry with only some puddles near Paradise Spring.
Rock Creek Trail #195 - Superstitions
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Rock Creek Haunted Loop
We did a loop I put together as linked above, mainly to tackle Rock Creek #195. The drive in on FR650 is non-shy high clearance.

Rock Creek Trail #195
After hiking up 3 miles on the road we took old #195 down. There isn't even a hint where it starts as it was decommissioned thirteen years ago. With a loaded gps route we picked it up quick. Soon you enter Arizona Cypress, you can make out a trail if you pay attention.

Low ratings and warnings from others boggle my mind. I found Rock Creek to be scenic, enjoyable and dare I say enchanting. Believe we had perfect weather. Tag in the key is to follow it down. Since I know I enjoyed going up Spencer I will definitely put the two together as a loop in the future. Perhaps my love for cypress forest is not shared? Perhaps recently taking on Sawtooth Ridge made it more enjoyable being able to associate the jagged peaks? I'm guess all of the above. One thing for sure, miles of catclaw never panned out... 15 feet around one boulder and a few snags was all she wrote.

In no shape or form is it "easy" to follow or brush free. The key is to go down ( loop or shuttle ), keep an eye out for trail stretches, cairns, an eye on the gps periodically and some Wally sense ( move in the direction it feels it should go ).

Bull Basin Trail #270
Bruce stumbled upon a grave. Not sure if it was near the junction, if so perhaps the 24-GG unknown cowboy. We scurried up a well groomed mine ( Carlson mentions magnetite-hematite or chrysolite asbestos ) trail thinking we were on #270. Corrected and got back on track. The first half mile south/up from the #195 intersection is enjoyable cypress. After that it didn't excite me.

Haunted Canyon #203
When #270 intersects #203 you are back in a cypress forest. For those that don't get it. Arizona Cypress is a beautify gnarly looking tree. The bonus being trails typically maintain themselves in mature stands. Underbrush is typically minimal and you can see through storybook views. The short stretch from #270 on the #203 to the turnoff for Tony's Cabin is camping heaven.

Tony's Backyard
A treat as always.

Underdog finally scores a bone!

fragrant bushes with small white flowers,
Rock Creek Trail #195 - Superstitions
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Rock Creek - Bull Basin - Haunted Tony- Loop
The drive on FR650 was a first for me. Rumored to be High Clearance but 4 x 4 not required. I concur. High clearance is a must as well as a good set of tires. I only hit the trailer receiver hitch once going down into a steep section. We parked at 8.75 miles in, but I would have thought we'd traveled twice that far. It took us 56 minutes to make the drive from US60 (and I'm not known for driving slow). Past the point where we parked, I would call it 4 x 4 only based on the sharp, steep, loose switchbacks.

Load the GPS track for this loop hike.

Up FR650 for 3 miles to the decommissioned Rock Creek #195 TH (ie no sign). We were able to get in an extra .5 miles of hiking after passing it up. The beginning is hard to see, but after 100 yards or so down, you can see the tread and it's pretty easy to follow. Rock Creek #195 is cairned pretty well. If you have not seen a Cairn for awhile, you are probably off trail. Now I don't want to mislead you, it is not a Supes Corridor type trail, and takes some trail finding, but is is not the overgrown mess that it's been made out to be. This is actually one of the prettier areas in the Superstitions.... assuming you like trees, water, and total solitude. I clocked 4.3 miles on this trail.

Rock Creek Trail

Next up, we made the turn onto the Bull Basin #270 trail.
I enjoyed the climb on the first mile of this trail. The views were top notch, but the views gave way to brush. You hit the highpoint of the loop at 5090' and start steeply downhill. This was my least favorite section of the hike. This Trail was in worse shape than the non-trail we just got off of. It stayed like this until we joined the Haunted Canyon trail at Mile 12.5

Bull Basin #270 Trail

The Haunted Canyon #203 trail is a super highway. Flat, picturesque, mountains, trees, running water, nice camping areas... still not a single person seen though. Tony's cabin is interesting. I did not go inside to see that 12 Boy Scouts had signed in earlier in the day. Would like to have spent more time exploring (ie. some rumored cave in the area), but we were burning daylight with more things to see before running out of light.

Haunted Canyon

Tony's Backyard was a surprise winner., not quite as nice as Rock Creek, but close. I filtered some water and Joe showed me Beaker Falls (I see it now). Joe tells me this is an old Horse trail. It's thin in spots, but has been flagged within the last 2 years.

Tony's Backyard

A stop at Wood Camp Cabin, in the almost total darkness and we were ready for the trek back out on FR650.

We were both surprised and blown away by the Rock Creek Trail... A must do out there

Lots of sign of Bear, Lion, Deer, Racoon, Coti, and even Honey Bunny tracks were seen.
Rock Creek Trail #195 - Superstitions
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Wanted to check out the area around Miles trailhead so we hiked to Oak Flat to check out the Pole Corral and then headed down Spencer Spring Trail to Cement Spring. From there we headed back to the Bull Basin trail to find the Unknown Cowboy Grave and then continued up the abandoned Rock Creek Trail for about a mile or so. The highlight of the day was spotting a Coatimundi scrambling on the side of the canyon wall between the trailhead and Oak Flat.
Rock Creek Trail #195 - Superstitions
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Hiked up Rock Creek to the falls. The first two miles were pleasant and the trail was well defined. (Someone has built cairns since my last trip.) Then I ran into the catclaw. The last 0.7 miles to the falls took their toll in blood--dripping from both ears and my nose. The deepest creek crossings were knee deep.

BTW: The Forest Service has plowed up the old Miles trailhead and moved the signs slightly north to Kennedy Ranch. The new trailhead is just west of the corral. However, they didn't fill in the mud hole at the corral so low clearance vehicles may have to park at the corral.
Rock Creek Trail #195 - Superstitions
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The third attempt was a charm at hiking the Rock Creek trail as shown on the Beartooth "plastic" map of the Superstitions.

- One trip from Miles TH--near the end we couldn't find the turn south up to FR 650 as shown on the map so we continued west to Swede Camp Spring.
- One trip from FR 650 bushwhacking without a trail down to Swede Camp Spring and then west in the creek bed to where the Rock Creek trail should be. We couldn't find any sign of the turn south to FR 650 even after spending more than half an hour searching near the "last" cairn and making several attempts up the hill.
- One trip from FR 650 starting at a point on the road due south and uphill of the "last" cairn in the creeekbed. At first there was no sign of a trail, but we finally found a good trail after bushwacking through heavy brush down toward the creek bed. We were able to stay on the trail the whole way back uphill. Most of this trail was wide and obvious with little brush. The upper end turned out to be at the east end of a grove of large trees. The trail stays pretty close to the highline of this knoll as you work your way down.

I uploaded a GPS track for Rock Creek with the correct route stitched together from the three attempts. We spent close to two hours building cairns so you should have better luck than we did. However, many of these cairns are small and are likely to get knocked over. I also uploaded a separate GPS track for the section to Swede Camp Spring.

There are sections of this hike that are brutal. Not just because of the catclaw, canyon live oak, and manzanita; although there's a lot of them. Not just because half the trip is in the creek bed (small and medium rocks no bouldering required). The worst part was all the fallen trees and branches. They were blocking both the bench trail portions and the creek bed portions. There's also a lot of low hanging branches to dodge on standing trees.

The scenic value of this hike isn't worth the effort. The only reason I see for doing it is in attempting to complete all the trails shown on the Beartooth map of the Superstitions.

This would make a good key-exchange hike with one group starting on FR 650 and one starting at Miles TH. If you're doing an up and down hike from Miles TH, consider going to Swede Camp Spring instead of the map route up to FR 650--especially if there's a little water in the creek. That section of the creek is pleasant and it's easy creekbed hiking.

If you park on FR 650 above Swede Camp spring, the descent starts out easy and then becomes a steep bushwhack to the creekbed. We didn't see any sign of a path--but there are a lot of game trails down to the stock tank.

- This hike requires long sleeves and long pants. I wore hiking pants the first attempt and they didn't offer sufficient protection to the catclaw, Heavy jeans are best unless there's a threat of rain.
- Only a few people a year (or less) travel this trail. Find another glutton for punishment to go with you. It had been abandoned by the Forrest Service by the time Fritzski wrote up his trip in 2002
- There isn't parking at the upper Rock Creek trailhead. (See photo of how I got my Jeep off the road a hundred feet or so from the start of the trail.) - The middle part of this trail is more of a route than a trail. Even when you find a trail, it may not be worth taking due to the brush. (Such as the section immediately south of the waterfall.)
- Take rose-bush trimmers and a small saw. Several times we got stuck part way through a thicket and had to cut our way out.
- It can get cold at night out here. At 7 am it was in the low 50's on a day with a Phoenix high of 85.

Permit $$

Map Drive
FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

To hike
Directions to trail: From Superior head out east on US 60. Pass through the Queen Creek Tunnel and continue 10 miles to mile marker 239.4 Turn left onto this paved road that enters the Pinto Mine. Follow the paved road 2.8 miles and turn left onto FS 287. Go slow at the numerous intersections. Your goal is to figure out which are mine roads and which are public access. Public access signs are posted on most of the intersections. Some aren't exactly clear which way they are pointing. You will leave the private land of the Pinto Mine and crossover onto forest land. At about seven miles you turn left onto 287A. Follow FS 287A to the top where Haunted #203comes out then down into the valley to Miles (not a well defined trailhead since its a big area with lots of places to park).

As of May 2002, Road conditions are great - medium clearance. Its easier than last year to get through the mining area. There is now a 'private' or 'Public Access' sign marking which way to choose at every intersection you come to, so just follow.
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