Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Petroglyphs seldom seen
Hog Canyon is one of the central drainages on the south side of Superstition Mountain. Just a "stones throw" north of Gold Canyon and its golf courses, it is situated between Monument Canyon on the left and the ever/over popular Hieroglyphic Canyon on the right. Interestingly, despite its proximity to the populated areas of the valley, hardly anything has ever been mentioned about this large and easily viewed canyon. What really piqued my curiosity was when a lifelong resident of Gold Canyon informed me that he heard that like Hieroglyphic Canyon, there were also Indian petroglyphs in Hog Canyon. Thus my search to locate some relatively unadulterated native American petroglyphs was underway.
After some consideration, the decision to publish this description was based on the assumption that due to the relative inaccessibility of these glyphs, anyone willing to undertake the fairly strenuous hike would have the ethical sense to leave the area in its near pristine condition.
Sticking to the anonymous nature of this canyon, the origin of its name is a mystery. The only written reference to the canyon I could find is in T.E. Glover's book "The Lost Dutchman Mine of Jacob Waltz, Part I: The Golden Dream". On pages 300-304 he mentions signs of a now non-existent trail up the canyon to the top of the mountain discovered by Jim Bark around the turn of the century and assumed it to be an old Spanish miner's trail. He goes on to surmise that it may have connected with other trails found in the Marsh Valley area via West Boulder Canyon. I'm a bit dubious about that assumption & talk about selecting the "path of most resistance"!
My friend and esteemed "Dutchman" guru Steve Creager sent me several paragraphs of facts regarding Hog Canyon & likely the most ever written on the subject. Most of it has to do with the "monumented" trail Bark discovered and its connection to several Lost Dutchman clues. As one might guess, these clues are rather vague and Hog Canyon seemed to fit the puzzle as well as others.
For those interested, it's logged on site!.
There are two good ways to access the Hog Canyon drainage. The shortest is from the parking area at the west end of Cloudview Rd where you take the Lost Goldmine Tr north for just under 1.5mi to the first main drainage shortly after the trail turns westbound. You should see a gate in the WA fence at the end of a jeep road. The other way is take the Jacob's Crosscut Tr. to the Lost Goldmine Tr. eastbound from the Broadway trailhead. Although the hiking distance is a little longer, the driving distance is less. Here, make sure you cross the first big drainage and then also cross over to the east side of the second to the gate. Check the HAZ database for more info on the Lost Goldmine Tr.
From here simply enter the drainage and follow it north to the mouth of the canyon looming in the distance. Hint: There are many small drainages that seem to split and merge along the way. Take the effort to try and always bear right whenever possible. If you manage to stay in the easternmost drainages you will be rewarded with a "bush-free" experience all the way! I considered this nothing short of minor miracle compared to what I had come to expect for any off-trail canyon excursion in the Supes.
Although not particularly interesting, the going is casual and peaceful as you easily rock hop along. The terrain will soon begin to rise in front of you and the first small wall will come up on your right. At just over 2mi or about .75mi from the gate, the canyon begins a bend to the right at its mouth. High walls begin to envelope you on both sides and views ahead of its entire length to the top begin to unfold.
At just over 2.5 miles in, you will come to a distinct narrow slot in the canyon where the sheer rock rises almost vertically on both sides. It was here that I was convinced if I was an ancient rock artist, this would be the ideal location to showcase my work. After carefully scouring the area, I was able to find only two faded and rather suspect looking petroglyphs. Add to that some graffiti and a bit of broken glass and needless to say I was a bit disappointed.
Continuing ahead only added to this sense of disappointment. The canyon opens back up again with no signs of any promising rock art venues in the distance. The only reason I kept going is the fact that the unusually bush-free hiking was so pleasant, I really had nothing better to do, and the nagging feeling that I would just kick myself if later to find out it was "just around the next bend" which it indeed was!
Although there aren't any real bends to speak, this small side canyon happens to remain hidden until you are almost abeam it. At about 3.25mi or maybe a half mile up from the slot begin looking for a vertical wall coming out from your left that becomes more visible as you approach it. This is the east or right wall of a small side canyon climbing steeply up to the left. At its entrance, follow the left side up to the base of a dry(at the time) 30ft waterfall with a large pool at its base. Here you will be treated to some nice rock art on both sides of the scenic little grotto.
Looking up, you get a sense that this is only the bottom of a series of cascades, so my curiosity got the best of me. Once again stay to the far left wall and scramble up some 3rd class terrain to a point overlooking the next level. Scramble back down to another pool and some more nice glyphs. Not getting enough yet, it's on up to the next level. Cross to the right side now and again scramble up through a rocky area. Here were some of the best glyphs I found overlooking the pool below. From there it is a short hike up to the top of a small saddle with some spectacular views in several directions and the remains of a fire pit and tin cans that looked circa 1960s. Seeing another smooth rock cascade canyon just to the north, I proceeded to bushwhack over to it and followed it to its top, but no signs of any rock art were to be found. (BTW Rusty did this climb without any help from me & the little mutt never ceases to amaze!)
From here I returned the way I came, but one could easily continue up canyon and maybe even discover an ancient Spanish cairn or some other relic along the way.
I really enjoyed this hike and the solitude gives one time to think. I wonder if it should really be thought of as rock art. Why are so many of the same characters and symbols repeated wherever you look? Wouldn't true art express more creativity? I tend to think these symbols may have been more communal and spiritual in nature. Maybe they were put on the rock to help lure prey for a hunt or even to thank the spirits and celebrate the spoils. Maybe they represented guardian spirits watching over their favorite gathering places or even an expression of thankfulness for the sheer beauty in which they lived.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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