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Marsh Valley Loop, AZ

no permit
1.5k 131 5
Guide 131 Triplogs  5 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Superstitions NW
4 of 5 by 30
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 16.25 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,300 feet
Elevation Gain 856 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,330 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 27.9
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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25  2019-03-03 rayhuston
10  2019-03-02 ALMAL
5  2019-01-12 ALMAL
11  2018-10-21 wallyfrack
4  2018-10-04 survivordude
2  2018-02-03 ALMAL
14  2018-01-15 Daytripper
19  2018-01-12
Marsh Valley Loop
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Author AZOutdoorsman
author avatar Guides 3
Routes 0
Photos 2,110
Trips 113 map ( 1,051 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Chandler, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → Early
Seasons   Late Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:13am - 6:24pm
Official Route
9 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Fabulous Superstition Loop
by AZOutdoorsman

I pre-hiked the Marsh Valley Loop for a future trip I will lead for the Sierra Club in April. This large loop is comprised of the combination of four trails (Second Water, Boulder Canyon, Cavalry, and Dutchman's) over 15.5 miles. The trail is relatively flat for its length, with an elevation gain of just over 1500'. The connections are easily identifiable; with most having trail signs at their intersections. The Superstition Wilderness map produced by Beartooth Maps is an excellent resource for anyone spending some time in this magnificent area. All mileage listed is from trail intersection to intersection as stated in the aforementioned map.

There are still a few sprinkles as I drive toward the First Water trailhead, but it looked like it would clear up and the forecast is promising. I pay my $4.00, park at the TH, and hit the trail to complete the loop in a clockwise manner. There is only one trail from the parking lot, but at .3 miles it forks with Second Water on my left and Dutchman's on my right. As I am doing the hike clockwise today, I take Second Water (236) to the left.

After 1.5 miles the Black Mesa trail comes in on my right, but I continue on Second Water through Garden Valley. At 1.7 miles after Black Mesa trail I turn right on to Boulder Canyon (103). The trail starts on the opposite side of the creek and winds up the canyon crossing the creek many times. The creek is flowing, but the crossings all have large rocks so I don't get wet crossing... I am sure that after a heavy rain this is not the case.

Now I am heading up Boulder Canyon with its massive walls on my left. A short way up the trail on the left side of the creek and just off the left side of the trail is an enormous Saguaro with possibly 20+ arms! It's very impressive and definitely worth a photo. After 1.4 miles on Boulder Canyon I leave the canyon and take Cavalry (239) that comes in on my left. After a slight climb, I drop down into LaBarge Canyon, which may be even more impressive than Boulder Canyon. After 3.1 miles on Cavalry, the trail Ts at Dutchman's (104) and I take it to the right and will continue on it for the remainder of the hike. As I come up over a small saddle I get my first close-up view of Weaver's Needle!

At .4 miles from the previous T there is a fork, with Bull Pass to the right and Dutchman's to the left. I take the left heading up Dutchman's, skirting to the south of Black Top Mesa. The next few miles have many fabulous views of the Needle. After .8 miles from the fork the Terrapin trail comes in on the left, I stay to the right on Dutchman's climbing up over a pass. After 1-mile Peralta trail is on the left, I proceed on Dutchman's toward Palomino Mountain.

As I come up parallel to Palomino Mountain, I see Aylor's Arch up on its ridgeline on the left side of the trail. There is also a crested saguaro in this same area on the opposite side of the trail! I get this saguaro in the skyline with the Needle in the center background and Palomino framing the right side... great photo (sorry no digital yet). After .8 miles Bull Pass trail is on the right, another .2 and Boulder Canyon is on the right, and another .1 and Black Mesa is on the right. I don't take any of these... staying to my left on Dutchman's. I head down the home stretch for another 3.9 mile back to the first fork, which completes the loop. At this point the Second Water trail that I took this morning is on the right, I stay to the left, completing the last .3 miles back to the trailhead.

WOW! What an awesome hike! The trail was great - well marked, the weather was perfect and what beautiful scenery. Everything was green, but little to no bloom yet. This time of the year there is water in most of the creeks if you bring your filter. Carlson's, Hiker's Guide To The Superstition Wilderness and the map previously mentioned are recommended resources. I went at a fairly fast pace with few stops and a short lunch break. I completed the loop in 5 hours 27 minutes. We will take it a little slower on the group outing and really take in this glorious country! Enjoy!

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2004-03-17 AZOutdoorsman
    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 of 44 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Marsh Valley Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Just me and the dog today. We started at about 7:30am and didn't see too many people on the trail until the afternoon. I wasn't expecting to see anyone on the Cavalry so of course this one was also talking to himself. Temps were a little warm in the sun and cool in the shade. We took the shortcut over Bull Pass which I think is my preferred route. I don't mind missing that section of the Dutchman. We were back at the TH at 1:30.
    Marsh Valley Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Headed back into the western Supes for an enjoyable hike to Charlebois. Started from First Water TH around 8:20am and took the Second Water Trail to Boulder Canyon. Headed south from there and connected onto the Cavalry Trail. Saw a pair of Coati in Marsh Valley and then connected onto the Dutchman Trail. Took a quick detour over to Charlbois and then started my return. I took a lunch break near Bull Pass and completed the loop finishing around 3pm. Was a nice day on the trails!
    Marsh Valley Loop
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Backpacked the Marsh Valley loop. Camped near Charlebois Spring. Perfect weather. Excellent trip.

    We were warned by rangers of rabid foxes and coyotes. There was a big pool of water at Second Water and several large flowing pools at Charlebois Spring. Use caution at Charlebois; there was a dead fox floating in the lowest pool. There were several large campsites in the immediate vicinity of Charlebois and along Dutchman where it diverges from the Marsh Valley Loop and occasional campsites elsewhere along the loop.
    Marsh Valley Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I was very close to going into the eastern Supes to look for the FOTG/9L campsite on Pine Creek, and spend a few days in that area. Colder forecasts and potential muddy trails kept me from pulling the trigger...
    This was more than the standard Marsh Valley Loop, to include some new trails for me. I got a later start Friday than expected and the First Water parking lot was almost full at 9AM. I headed out on Dutchman's to the Terrapin turnoff and did not pass anyone. I enjoyed the first half of the Terrapin :sweat:, and made a left on Bluff Springs. Both were new trails for me. Once I hit the Dutchman / Red Tanks intersection, I hung a right on Red Tanks and went maybe 100 yards to find a nice campsite on the left. After a quick setup, I went a bit further up creek on Red Tanks and found several more campsites close by. It was very cold Friday night. Saturday I took my time since I had a short hike to Marsh Valley for night 2. I passed more new territory for me along the Dutchman's before reaching Cavalry turnoff. Many potential campsites exist in this stretch. I reached Marsh Valley by lunch and setup in the usual spot, looking untouched since my last visit. Nice not having to gather firewood...Not nearly as cold Saturday night, but awoke to clouds and a sprinkle. Not many people out on these trails, but passed a bunch when I got to Garden Valley. I was asked at least 5 times "how far to the creek"?
    Maybe March for the eastern Supes...
    Marsh Valley Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Started at 7:30 on Saturday to a quickly filling parking lot at First Water. Boy scouts camped at Black Mesa junction. Lots of water in Boulder creek. Easy cruise into Marsh Valley, La Barge creek flowing all the way. Selected my favorite campsite again, unchanged since my last visit, firewood too... Hiked upstream later, about half mile upstream encountered a large group, 8-10 tents, maybe 20-30 people. They were about to embark on some sort of day hike I guess, they had several large video cameras, microphones, and other equipment most of them were carrying. There was this other guy with a British accent, maybe Aussie, sort of dressed like he was ready for some sort of survival outing, except it looked like he was wearing a golf glove on his right hand. Couldn't figure that one out... They headed downstream and returned about 4 hours later.
    About an hour before sundown, I saw what looked like a helicopter in the distance coming across the mountains next to camp. As it got closer it was a drone. It swooped over my campsite then headed upstream and out of sight. It was so quiet, if I hadn't seen it first, I don't know if I would have heard it. And yes, it was out of rock throwing range... It got pretty cold Sunday morning. When I removed my tent fly the condensation on the under side immediately froze. Only a fair amount of folks on the trail for the hike back on the Dutchman.
    Marsh Valley Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Just me and Lily today. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do this morning and I wasn't feeling great. I gave myself multiple options but we just kept truckin' past them and went for the longest. Beautiful day and didn't really see that many people out. LaBarge had multiple crossings that I couldn't do dry. Since my feet were already wet, I didn't try so hard in Boulder Canyon. Ran in to Wally in the lot.
    Marsh Valley Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Started to mostly clear skies Saturday morning. Not surprisingly the parking lot at FW was almost at capacity at 8AM. Everybody wants to get out and see the water. Headed out for a clockwise loop this time, usually go CCW. Passed a couple of guys before Garden Valley who were on their way to check the flow at Boulder Creek, told them it was flowing well on Monday.
    Saw no one else until I heard voices as I ascended up the Cavalry trail, small group was heading down Boulder Canyon. On into Marsh Valley the trail is in great shape. Setup in one of my favorite campsites. A few folks passed through during the afternoon. At 1:30PM I would swear I heard thunder, then about 17 raindrops fell. I made a side trip up towards the Dutchman's trail and ran into a couple of guys looking for a campsite by the creek there. Back at camp, chilly night, tons of firewood around, and much condensation... Sunday, skipped Bull Pass and kept on the longer way around Black Top Mesa, first time actually through that section. Very nice, lots of water, waterfalls, little cave, some nice potential campsites... Also, more and more people. A short break back at Boulder creek, then a crowded finish. Did I mention everybody is out to see the water?
    Marsh Valley Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    All I wanted for Christmas was a wet hike and I got it :y: Didn't really have a solid plan since plan A was put on hold so just decided we would head out to 1st Water and decide as we hiked. I proposed an extended Black Mesa Loop, doing a little exploring around Little Boulder Canyon, Ryan suggested the Marsh Valley Loop since it had been a while since we had been out that way and with the recent rain we could check out the water flow. Let's go!

    Best water flow was at the Needle Canyon crossing off Bull Pass Trail. Marsh Valley was pretty dry. Boulder Canyon had some nice pools forming.

    And the rain :D, it started as we dropped down from Bull Pass and pretty much continued at varied rates through to Garden Valley.

    Passed a group of 4 hikers sitting in Barkley Basin who warned us about the rock hopping we would run into on Boulder Canyon Trail :-k like that would deter us, and a lone packer in Marsh Valley who had lost his rain cover caught on brush which I had found and freed and delivered it to him as he was backtracking to find it. Once we hit Second Water the trail got a little busy but not too bad.

    Great hike.

    Merry Christmas to all the fellow HAZ'ers out there :D
    Marsh Valley Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    The objective was a hike with some exploring to the northeast of Bluff Spring Mountain. I hiked a wide loop around the big rock mushroom across from Charlebois but didn't find anything special. The trails were mostly empty except for a large group of backpackers resting near the Cavalry Dutchman intersection and a few others on Second Water trail. A nice day out in the Supes.
    Marsh Valley Loop
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Last day off during the week for a while so wanted to make a good hike of it and explore some areas I have not been to yet. Wanted to go to Charlebois but didnt have enough time, so opted for Marsh Valley. Started at 6:30AM. I love staring hikes right at sunrise. There is something about watching and feeling the desert come alive as the sun peeks through and reflects over the mountains and valleys that makes me profoundly grateful. The hike on the Dutchman to Bull Pass was nice and quiet. There was a lot of water in West Boulder. Its easy for me because everytime there is a water pool, Gabby finds it! The hike up Bull Pass was a good little workout with some real nice rock outcroppings and sheer cliff side views. As soon as you start coming down the hill on the north side, another valley opens up and I could see the water at the bottom down there. Marsh Valley was not spectacular. Sat by the flowing creek and ate some lunch while Gabby played in the water. Chilled for about 35 minutes and then headed back. Chose to loop around Black Top Mesa on the way back. 2 cars and a (Boy scout) van in the parking lot at the start.. completely packed on the way out. Got a little sunburnt on the way out, not much longer before a hike like this is death defying.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To First Water Trailhead
    From Mesa follow Highway 60 East to Idaho Road. Turn North onto Idaho Road which is SR88 and follow North 2.2 miles. SR88 bends right just past Scenic St. and Idaho continues North. Be sure to go right and stay on SR88. Follow SR88 5.2 miles to the signed turnoff for First Water Trailhead, this is FR-78. Turn right on to FR-78 and follow 2.6 miles to the end.

    This trailhead feature restrooms without running water. The large parking area fills up in season. When full utilize the Horse Lot 0.5 miles back.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 43.1 mi - about 59 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 136 mi - about 2 hours 16 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 187 mi - about 3 hours 3 mins
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