I only see parts of this hike in the index. It really involves 3 different trails and I want to put them together here as a great shuttle hike. It starts at First Water Trailhead going SE on the Dutchman's trail (104). After almost 0.3 mile there is a junction with Second Water Trail(236). In another mile and a half there is a junction with Black Mesa trail (also a great loop). Stay on Second Water trail as it crosses Garden Valley which, for a while as Joe B. puts it, is an "easy stroll". However, do not get too carried away with the calm, flat, wide trail. As you proceed East the trail begins to drop down into Second Water Spring. The trail gets somewhat steep here but still fairly easy. In my March hike there was lots of water and one could actually hear the water flowing.
I owe great thanks to Trish (Trishness) who, I found out during the hike, is famous as hikers passing us in the opposite direction said they knew of her photos and writings! Trish is a perfect hiking partner. However, she does move right along at a lively pace (for me anyway). Fortunately she loves the area flowers and stops to take many close-up photos. I hope she will share some of them. These stops gave me many moments of much needed rest. We had both conquered the Flatiron in the previous two weeks so anything ahead would be duck soup! Oh really? At the bottom of the Second Water Spring area (Boulder Canyon) the Second Water trail ends and one can go North or South on the Boulder Canyon Trail (103).
Of course we selected the North direction to take us to Canyon Lake. After wandering through the crossings of Boulder Creek and La Barge creek the trail begins to climb out of the canyon and the views are spectacular. This is why I say this hike is very diverse. From the Garden Valley easy slopes over the top north on Boulder Canyon trail is like night and day in the same hike. It seemed like we really climbed for 2 miles and maybe we did! This part of the hike is not "moderate" to me but with many periodic rests I was able to stay within view of Trish (Ok, she waited several times). The trail is very clear and quite easy to follow. Once we reached a top I could see Canyon Lake and thought we would simply drop down to the valley to the lake. An oncoming hiker with his dog even told me that it was "downhill all the way". His definition is different than mine. Much is down hill and along a side hill and then a final climb to the final top before the descent to the marina. The descent is a bit tricky with lots of loose rock but taking it slowly makes it comfortable. There are a few switchbacks and finally we come out on the Highway 88.
The distance is listed as 7.6 miles but I calculate it from the First Water Parking lot to a table with cold water in the Lakeside restaurant as 8 miles although we did take a few side jaunts on the way to see Indian ruins and the Indian Paint mine. The shuttle distance from First water to Canyon Lake is about 12 miles. I congratulated myself, as this was the first Superstition hike I have done in the time they say it can be done. This hike shows the rugged grandeur of the Superstitions. Battleship Mountain is enormous. There are many "Weaver's Needle" views and other imposing rock walls and towers. Midway through the hike everything around you is red (at the paint mine) and then you see black lava and grey stone. I am sharing my photos of this hike as the recent rains have made the entire area a carpet of green and flowers. My friends in other states are amazed that they think I live in a desert and cannot believe the growth.
Thank you Trish for your guidance and patience. One of the most enjoyable hikes I have been on. I highly recommend this one to even a casual hiker. The big climb is challenging but take it slowly and look behind you many times! The views are hard to believe! By the way, I think the direction we went is the best. I know one can start at Canyon Lake but that climb right at the start is tough. Also the views of Canyon Lake are welcome anticipating the ice water waiting for you and you save a few bucks parking fee!
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.