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Three Sisters, AZ

Guide 40 Triplogs  1 Topic
  3.7 of 5 
522 40 1
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 7.7 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,200 feet
Elevation Gain 2,400 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,700 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 21.2
 Backpack Yes & Connecting
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7  2023-03-12 JustinDaMtns
20  2023-01-27
Hiero-Ridgeline-Sisters Loop
17  2023-01-27
Hiero Sisters Shaka Loop
5  2022-12-13
Snowy Supes Slip Slide
15  2022-11-22
Wave Cave &amp3 Sisters
42  2021-12-26 adilling
19  2021-02-03
Superstition Ridgeline
18  2020-03-21 azlaurie
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
author avatar Guides 43
Routes 0
Photos 597
Trips 59 map ( 132 miles )
Age 69 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Associated Areas
list map done
Phoenix Region
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Radar Map
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Preferred Nov, Mar, Feb, Jan → 7 AM
Seasons   Early Winter to Early Spring
Sun  5:17am - 7:30pm
Official Route
7 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimetersacres
🔥 2020 Superstition Fire9.6k
🔥 2020 Sawtooth Fire24.7k
🔥 2019 Woodbury Fire123.8k
🔥 View (All) - over Official Route 🔥

A great Carney alternative
by Fritzski

Want to avoid the crowds at Peralta? The Carney Springs trailhead lies just around the corner and sees but a fraction of the traffic, but what are your options? The Dacite Loop puts you right back on Peralta and may require a shuttle, the trail through W. Boulder Canyon has all but disappeared over the years, and you don't have a whole day required for the entire Ridgeline. The Three Sisters makes for another nice option out of Carney. It offers a nice compact package of over 2400' vertical feet gained in about 3.1 miles and spectacular views from a very rarely visited perch.

The Three Sisters is the massive rock formation looming high above to your left as you approach the Carney trailhead. I was initially tempted to name it "Carney Butte" until I was informed by Jack Carlson, author of the excellent book "Hiker's Guide to the Superstition Wilderness", that it has been called the "Three Sisters" according to the now out of print rock climbing guide "Phoenix Rock"(Ver. I). The three prominent buttresses that form its namesake are not readily apparent from some angles but are indeed there.

For the steep, but well-traveled first 1.85mi from the trailhead into a land of enchanting hoodoos and on to the top of West Boulder Saddle, refer to the HAZ database for Dacite Super Loop, West Boulder Canyon, or the Superstition Ridgeline.

From the W. Boulder Saddle, continue west on the Ridgeline trail that has become ever more well worn as its popularity has boomed over recent years. There are also abundant cairns and old white paint marks on some rocks to help in route finding. As you reach about the 1.5-mile point, you will see the slopes rising to the obscured peak ahead just slightly left of your line of travel. As tempting as it looks to just pick any given ridge for a direct assault unless you're some kind of sadomasochistic freak, this would be a major mistake. Unfortunately, I'll get back to that later.

In any event, remain on the Ridgeline trail that generally follows a path of least resistance to the 2mi point which basically takes you past your target on the north side. This allows for an approach from the northwest which takes the fullest advantage of the Ridgeline trail for gaining as much elevation before departing off-trail. As the Ridgeline trail approaches the top of the ridge at about the 2.25mi point, look for a nice open area in the rapidly thinning vegetation to start making your way back southeast along the highest terrain. The summit area should be become apparent ahead. The grade is moderate, the terrain is relatively smooth, and the vegetation is sparse. As you approach the summit (2.75mi) you will be rewarded with sudden breathtaking views amongst striking rock formations, sheer cliffs, and total solitude. Take plenty of time to explore the bizarre area comprising the three distinct fingers of rock that jut out into space to form the massive formation.

Contemplating your return, from this vantage point it is plain to see the Ridgeline trail as it heads back east directly below you. Now I have preached to others about the pitfalls awaiting any poor soul who chooses a "shortcut" when there is a trail available no matter how tempting it may look. If only I were smart enough to heed my advice I would have avoided one of the nastiest short bushwhacks I have ever endured, let alone the fact that I was wearing shorts to make things worse. I had never until this point encountered a bush and boulder choked ravine so thick my little Jack Russell terrier Rusty could not even get through. Anyhow, although I once again needlessly turned a potentially pleasant hike into a meat grinder, it is a very cool hike if you stick to the trail.

(Just a quick note here, Carlson's topo route depiction for the Ridgeline Trail happens to be this very same shortcut - heading directly up from the head of the major ravine separating Carney from the Sisters. The actual trail departs his depiction at about the 1.5mi point and stays north basically following the contour lines until at about 2 miles where it begins a steep southwest climb up the slope to the top of the ridge about 1/2 mile to the west of the Sisters.)

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.

2002-11-12 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 $$
    AZ State Recreational Land Permits
    For hiking, driving & sightseeing purposes, you seek a recreational permit.
    Under "Recreational Land Use" in the link above.
    2022 - $15.00 individual
    2022 - $20.00 family limited to two adults and children under the age of 18
    Plus $1 processing fee
    The permitting process is quick, you will be emailed your permit instantly.

    Land Parcel Map

    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To Carney Spring 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 0.6 miles to Carney Spring Trailhead.

    This trailhead and the first 0.5 miles is periodically enforced as being on State Land, see permit for info.
    2 easy ways to avoid the small lot and fee.
    - Lost Goldmine TH / +0.9 miles GPS Route
    - Peralta TH w/restrooms / +1.3 miles GPS Route

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 46.3 mi - about 1 hour 6 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 95.8 mi - about 2 hours 12 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 191 mi - about 3 hours 10 mins
     90+° 8am - 6pm kills

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