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Warning Wildfires have damaged large portions of the Superstition Wilderness.
Do it to say you did it
This is a moderate off-trail loop hike originating at the Canyon Lake trailhead in the northwestern section of the Superstition Wilderness. It is a variation of the Lower LaBarge Creek Loop hike described in The Hiker's Guide to the Superstition Wilderness by Carlson & Stewart.
From Canyon Lake Trailhead set out south on the Boulder Canyon Trail #103. At about the 0.7 mi point, look for a fairly well-defined spur trail heading straight toward the canyon, while trail #103 hooks back to the left. A large cairn may mark it. Follow this short trail down to the La Barge Creek bed. Take careful note of the landmarks here so you'll recognize your exit point on the way back out. There were several pools of stagnant water here, but the area can be easily underwater during non-drought years.
Continue south, following the rocky creek bed through the occasional area's trees, brush, and smooth rock. Route finding is relatively straight forward with basic map reading skills allowing you to anticipate key landmarks.
The first key landmark is the intersection of La Barge Creek and Boulder Canyon at about the 1.75 mi mark. Look for a prominent narrow canyon heading left that is somewhat obscured by heavy brush and trees. Although this is the continuation of La Barge creek upstream, Boulder Canyon continues straight ahead and seems more like the main channel. Continue straight south into Boulder Canyon.
The next landmark will be an abrupt turn to the right, then quickly back around the left at about the 2.2mi point, as shown prominently on the topo map. You will now begin to see Battleship Mountain and Geronimo Head looming in the near distance. Continue southeast in the creek bed toward the intersection where Boulder Canyon rejoins La Barge Creek. Just before this intersection, you will encounter a section of the Boulder Canyon Trail, but not before having to thrash through the thickest section of bush on this hike just about 500 yards before the intersection. Watch carefully here for the unsigned trail as it crosses the creek bed.
Continue east on the trail up and out of the creek bed as it climbs over the short saddle past the Indian Paint mine ruins (@3mi) and back down into La Barge Creek. Cross the creek, and to minimize the rock-hopping, stay on the Boulder Canyon trail as it heads back north, paralleling the creek bed to your left. When the trail begins to head uphill away from the creek, pick a clear route back down into the creek. At roughly the 4mi point, the creek bed abruptly narrows for about the next 0.3mi, where it once again merges with Boulder Canyon and where we recall passing the "narrow, obscured canyon".
This section is relatively thick in spots but fairly short-lived. Once past the intersection, it is just a matter of retracing your steps northward back to the exit point and up and out of the canyon.
Judging by the number of footprints and trail wear, I would say this is a fairly popular area. I'd say it was okay, but I didn't think it was all that great compared to other offerings in the same area. It was somewhat of a hurdle for me as I did this with a new second total hip replacement and a broken wrist still in a cast from a recent fall. It was probably a reasonably good choice for my first off-trail foray in quite a while and left me looking forward to more fun adventures in the beautiful Superstitions.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.