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Canyon Lake TH to Peralta Trailhead, AZ

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Guide 22 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Superstitions NW
4.3 of 5 by 13
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Shuttle 16.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,680 feet
Elevation Gain 920 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,500 feet
Avg Time Hiking 11 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 21.1
Interest Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
15  2011-12-11 johnlp
6  2011-09-03 friendofThunderg
20  2011-02-26 Sarae
10  2011-01-22 benwalkin
14  2010-11-26 Tortoise_Hiker
3  2010-04-03 friendofThunderg
5  2010-03-13 robxxx
12  2009-04-06 Kevinthepoolman
Page 1,  2
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Feb, Mar → Early
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:14am - 6:23pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Heart of the Superstitions
by PrestonSands

This is a through hike from the north side to the south side of the Superstition Mountains. The hike begins at the Canyon Lake Trailhead, and follows the Boulder Canyon Trail south. It then travels over the Cavalry Trail through Marsh Valley, where it meets with the Dutchman's Trail. It then follows the Dutchman's Trail to Bluff Spring Trail, and terminates at Peralta Trailhead. You will see a lot of country in this beautiful and historic area. Don't plan on there being water. Always check with the Forest Service for water conditions before you go!

We began our three day backpacking trip at the Canyon Lake Trailhead. The Boulder Canyon Trail immediately began a 600 foot climb up a ridge overlooking La Barge Creek. Along the ridge there are some nice views of Battleship Mountain, with Weaver's Needle in the distance. The trail then gradually descends to La Barge Creek. Geronimo Head looms high above you to the east as you cross over to the west bank of La Barge Creek. Years ago, I had seen an old, rusty metal wheel barrow, probably from the Indian Paint Mine, along the creek. The trail then turns southwest, and makes a short climb up to Paint Mine Saddle. Just beyond the saddle, you will come to the Indian Paint Mine. There are some concrete foundations around the 15 foot deep mine pit.

Now the trail drops into Boulder Creek. Follow the trail south along Boulder Creek as it makes endless creek crossings (look for cairns on the other side of the creek). We saw water all along Boulder Creek, as the recent snow on top of Superstition Mountain was melting. The two mile long hike through Boulder Canyon was quite easy and beautiful.

At 5.2 miles we turned onto the Cavalry Trail. In Lost Dutchman Mine lore, there is talk of "the old military trail" or "cavalry trail" which passed through the Superstition Mountains. It was said to connect Fort McDowell to the northwest with Camp Picketpost near Superior to the southeast. Exactly where the route of this trail was may never be known. The Cavalry Trail made a short, steep climb up from Boulder Canyon to a pass on the ridge. It then made a slow descent down to the floor of La Barge Canyon, at the base of Malapais Mountain. The yellow, lichen covered cliffs of Peter's Mesa and Black Mountain tower above the trail as it winds it's way up the sandy floor of La Barge Creek. At this point, we hadn't seen any other hikers since leaving the Boulder Canyon Trail. Now began the hunt for water and a good camp spot. We intended to camp somewhere in Marsh Valley, once we found water.

I have read that Marsh Valley had been named for the numerous springs in the area, but that many of these springs had dried up after the 1887 earthquake which shook the Superstition Mountains. Marsh Valley is also thought to have been the location of the main camp of the Peralta miners. In the Hiker's Guide To The Superstition Wilderness book, it mentions that there is evidence of Salado Indian inhabitation in the Marsh Valley area. While taking a break, I saw a cutting tool and a couple small pottery shards on the ground. Cool! We soon came to the end of the Cavalry Trail, then turned east onto the Dutchman's Trail. A short ways up La Barge Canyon from here, John found a great camp spot near some giant cottonwood trees, with water nearby. We camped here for two nights.

That first evening in Marsh Valley, after setting up camp, we saw a guy who looked a lot like Elisha Reavis, beard and all, with a rifle in his pack, hike past us twice.

Day two consisted of relaxation and cold rain. I had planned to hike up canyon to see the Peralta Master Map (a rock covered in petroglyphs that some say is an ancient Spanish map to hidden gold mines in these mountains). However, the rain and upper 40's temperatures drove us into our tents. That night, the rain stopped and the disgusting orange "Phoenix Glow" (light pollution) settled over the canyon. I fell asleep listening to an owl hooting from a nearby tree.

Day three began with clearing clouds and warm sunshine. We packed up and began hiking east up the Dutchman's Trail towards Charlebois Spring. There are some other nice camp spots along the trail between Marsh Valley and the junction with Peter's Trail. I had always thought that the Peralta Master Map was on a south facing rock along La Barge Creek, near the junction with Peter's Trail. After dropping my pack and scouring the creek in this area though, I couldn't find it. The next mile up to the junction with the Red Tanks Trail was quite beautiful. There was a lot of water in the creek, and the trail passed by many large cottonwood, sycamore, and sugar sumac trees. At one point, we walked through a thicket of sugar sumac, it's overhanging branches forming a sort of tunnel. We saw many broken branches from the heavy snowstorm of a week earlier.

From the junction with the Red Tanks Trail, the Dutchman's Trail leaves the bed of La Barge Creek and begins climbing the eastern slopes of Bluff Spring Mountain. There is no shade between La Barge Creek and Bluff Spring! Upon reaching the southeast corner of Bluff Spring Mountain, the Dutchman's Trail meets up with the Bluff Spring Trail. Here you will find trees, shade, and possibly water. Follow the Bluff Spring Trail west up Bluff Spring Canyon. As you climb higher in the canyon, Weaver's Needle begins to pop up in the distance.

As we approached the saddle, Jason, who was hiking behind me, attempted to launch a jumping cholla segment over my head with his hiking pole. The trajectory was off, and the cholla segment bounced off my side. I'm amazed it didn't stick to me! (No Superstition hike is complete without a tale of jumping cholla.) Just beyond the saddle, the trail turns south, passes the Terrapin Trail, and enters Barks Canyon (named for early rancher and Lost Dutchman Mine hunter Jim Bark). This is a very scenic area covered in saguaros, with many rock towers on the canyon walls. After a mile or so the Bluff Spring Trail begins climbing out of Barks Canyon. Once you are out of the canyon, you will be able to see the flat desert country on the south side of the Superstition Mountains. I thought I saw Mt. Lemmon, near Tucson, on the horizon. The trail now begins it's final descent to the Peralta Trailhead. Upon arriving at Peralta Trailhead, our hike was complete. I had such a great time, I wanted to turn around and head back into the mountains again.

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2006-03-26 PrestonSands
    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
    Canyon Lake TH to Peralta Trailhead
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Key exchange led with Fred. Perfect weekend for backpacking in the Supes. There was water everywhere. Night-time temps were perfect. Had a few newbies to the club and they were great. Camped at Charlebois. Water level was much lower than i expected with all of the winter rains and the water everywhere else. Still plenty there tho. The old stump that we usually hang from has finally given up it's hold in the earth and will dump an unsuspecting hammocker on their butt. :(
    Canyon Lake TH to Peralta Trailhead
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Wonderful long hike with great Supes scenery. Started at the Peralta trailhead at o'dark thirty and finished the hike just as dark was setting in. The route began by taking the Peralta trail up and over Fremont saddle to its end at the Dutchman trail intersection. Proceeded on the Dutchman a ways then took the Boulder Canyon trail all the way to Canyon Lake where I refilled my water at the marina. Temps were below freezing most of the way to Canyon Lake. Very windy on the approach to the lake. On the return trip I took Preston's route on the Boulder Canyon trail to the Calvary trail to the Dutchman to Bluff Springs trail and back to the Peralta trailhead. Stopped at few attractions along the way and took lots of pics. Refilled my water at LaBarge spring. Lots of fall colors still along LaBarge creek. The willows and cottonwoods were brightly colored, accented by the red/brown dying leaves of the sycamores. Beautiful day for a hike.
    Canyon Lake TH to Peralta Trailhead
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    We Started the day by droping off my girlfriend's car off at the Canyon Lake marina on Thursday March 17, 2011 around 0745. We drove around and started our hike from Peralta Trailhead atound 0915. The description posted on this site describes the hike from north to south but I thought it would be easier south to north.

    From Peralta trailhead we took Bluff Springs trail to Terrapin trail. Terrapin trail took us to Dutchman's trail. From Dutchman's trail we hiked through Marsh valley to Calvalry trail. Calvalry trail took us to Boulder canyon trail which lead us back to the car at Canyon lake. All in all it was 16 miles hiked over 2 days.

    We camped just east of where Terrapin and Dutchman's trail meet. It was quiet, green, and secluded; a perfect spot to spend the night. This was about 5 to 5 1/4 miles from the trail head.

    The second day we woke up and felt pretty good after having breakfast. We packed up our camp and set out to camp a second night in the area where Calvalry trail and Boulder Canyon trail meet; leaving us about 5 miles to hike out on the 3rd day.

    We made pretty good time to Boulder canyon trail so we decided to hike the last portion that second day. It was a tough climb up that last hill but we were able to do it.

    Overall it was a great experience and my girlfriend is willing to try another backpacking trip. On a side note. Water was limited but we were able to refill our bottles at a few locations. The best location to fill up was definately Marsh Valley.

    Pictures to come soon and GPS log to be posted soon.
    Canyon Lake TH to Peralta Trailhead
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Fantastic weekend to be out in the Supes!! We got to experience everything but the hot, hot, heat of summer. The snow was WONDERFUL!

    Did this trip as a key exchange with ABC. One group left from Canyon Lake TH, and the other from Peralta. We camped at Charlebois. Saturday hiking was perfect weather. Overcast, but super comfortable with great views of Weaver's Needle and plenty of time to take in the sights. We got to camp around 2:00 and set up our shelters thinking that we had limited time before the storms rolled in. We shouldn't have felt so rushed. There was plenty of time to set up, wander around a bit, relax in the hammock, filter water, cook dinner, and hang out around the fire. It didn't start raining 'til around 10:30 and by then we were all snuggled up in our hammocks and tents. I woke up around 12:00 feeling like my tarp was trying to suffocate me. It was just the 2 inches of snow accumulated on top of it, so a quick shake and all was well again. After that, I woke up a couple more times to get rid of the snow on the tarp. I turned the headlamp on to check out the total accumulation at around 3am... looked pretty close to 4 inches to me. Then it started to rain again and it all melted down to what we had left in the morning, which was still quite lovely. My camera battery died just as we left camp :( So I didn't get to take any pics on the way out. The hike out was pretty fun. The trail was still easy to follow, though a bit soggy. We got sleeted/hailed on a couple of times and then had about 30 minutes of snow on the Bluff Springs Trail. Only took us about 3 hours to go from Charlebois to Peralta. I guess we didn't want to stop and smell the non-existent roses ;)

    Such a fun trip! I'm so glad we didn't cancel it :y: But I am still experiencing pain due to no-functioning-camera-during-rare-snow-event-itis. Sigh. Guess I will just have to look at everyone else's pics :D
    Canyon Lake TH to Peralta Trailhead
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    We dropped our car off at Canyon Lake on New Year's Eve and did the hike (on 3 hours of sleep :o ) on New Year's morning. Great day to hike in the Superstitions; we mostly enjoyed the trails to ourselves for 16 miles. The trails were, for the most part, very well marked but there were a few places on the Boulder Canyon trail in which we pretty much relied solely on the cairns to get us through river beds.

    The highlights of this hike include great views of Weaver's Needle from many angles, amazing views of steep canyons, a few views from the east of Flatiron (if you're looking for it), remains of an old mine site (completely closed and safe), and a great view of Canyon Lake as you descend to the parking lot on your last leg (assuming that you start from Peralta. Starting at Peralta would definitely be our recommendation, because you get most of the elevation out of the way and enjoy a gradual drop for much of the hike until nearing Canyon Lake when there is a bit more elevation change.

    Great shuttle hike.
    Canyon Lake TH to Peralta Trailhead
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I have done this hike now 4 times and have always started out at the Peralta TH. I like to finish at the Canyon Lake TH because after a long hike there is nothing like a cold beer waiting for you at the marina.

    Avoid doing this hike in summer since the canyon gets very hot and there is no shade along the way. You will also encounter about 25 creek crossings which gets a little tiresome after awhile, but the creek is normally dry. However, I have found that the best time to do this hike is in the spring when there is often water running in the creek.
    Canyon Lake TH to Peralta Trailhead
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    We were going to do Reavis Gap Trail on this weekend, but there was talk of snow at 3500 feet, so plans changed. The cold rain storm that settled in on day 2 confined us to our tents for most of the day. I nearly went mad from cabin fever (tent fever?) :twisted:
    We sat around outside that night, and I told creepy Superstition stories: Adolph Ruth, Walter Gassler's death site stalker, Ed Piper's encounter with the supernatural, etc. I scared myself, too.
    Canyon Lake TH to Peralta Trailhead
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    We have been doing this hike for a few years now, only in the opposite direction.
    The last time through we went down into La Barge Creek just off of the lake. We made a wrong turn and ended up west of the Indian Paint Mine, we were already over in Boulder Canyon which worked out fine. I'd recommend a beverage of choice waiting in the car and a trip to Elvira's in Apache Junction to finish the day.


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    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To Canyon Lake Trailhead
    From the junction of Idaho Road & SR-88 follow SR-88 14.4 miles east to just after mile marker 210. Turn left into the Canyon Lake Marina parking lot. The area closest to the SR-88 (furthest away from the Marina) is the actual trailhead parking. The area allowed is marked in front of each space.

    There's restrooms outside the restaurant. The restaurant is better than you might think for being out in the middle of nowhere. Try the stuffed Jalapeños, the berry sauce is awesome. Sit on the patio and watch the HUGE fish swim below. The 'Dolly' Steamboat (a tourist attraction) is way out of character for the area, but the snowbirds eat it up.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 49.7 mi - about 1 hour 6 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 143 mi - about 2 hours 23 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 194 mi - about 3 hours 10 mins
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