|Hiking||22.00 Miles|| 9 Hrs 40 Mns ||2.87 mph|
|5,500 ft AEG|| 2 Hrs Break|
|This write-up is from my hiking site: https://www.facebook.com/ArizonaHiking1
Has anyone else been to the high point of the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix? Many will say, yes I've been to Peak 5057 along the Superstition Ridgeline. Up until 3 months ago I too thought that was the high point. However, the Superstitions extend east beyond Superior, AZ. The actual high point is Mound Mountain, a very remote, tucked away peak that sits at 6266 feet. With the Superstition Mountains being my favorite mountain range, it was a top priority to bag this peak and check another high point off the list.
Nothing about this hike turned out to be easy, and that included the planning. There are several trailheads that can be used to access Mound Mountain. The most common seems to be from the Campaign Trailhead, which sits to the north. Also, the Rogers Trough trailhead is a popular option as that provides about nice loop opportunity to also visit Reavis Ranch. We ended up using the Miles Trailhead, as based on research the road to get there didn't require a 4WD vehicle, only a high clearance vehicle. My buddy Brett had actually scouted this trailhead a month ago, making sure it was accessible and also checking out the first 4 miles of the hike.
With it being winter, we wanted to be hiking before first light. Even with the scouting trip, the ~14 miles of off road travel to get to the trailhead proved difficult to navigate. With several mines in the area we ran into a mine foreman who helped us with navigation. We ended up reaching the Miles TH about 30 minutes later than planned, but still started the hiked at 7am using headlamps. The Miles TH has an abandoned ranch next to it that would be cool to check out if we had time.
The first ~3 miles used the West Pinto Trail, which follows Pinto creek, had a decent amount of water in it from recent rains/snow. This section of trail had been maintained within the last few years, and was easy to follow. When the sun rose, I was struck by how different this section of the superstitions is. It isn't as rugged, with all of the jagged formations and yellow/green rocks. This area had a lot of different mountains, but being higher the mountains were forested, and many had distinctive peaks. Very beautiful, but don't come to this area expecting more of the same!
Within an hour, we reached the junction with the Campaign Trail. This is where the climbing began. For the next ~2 miles, we followed the Campaign trail north along the ridges of various hills. The first few miles were easy to follow. After passing through a gate, we descended down into a small canyon, then climbed back out of it. This section became less of an open trail and more of a trail that required some bush-whacking through thick manzanita. There are a few sections that are hard to follow, and on the way back we got lost for 40 minutes (more details later in the write-up). After reaching a saddle, we descended steeply down to campaign creek, which we followed for a few miles. This section as well wasn't easy to follow and required a lot of bush-whacking. Brett & I discussed how due to the frequent bush-whacking this hike is a lot harder, as in several sections you can't really maintain a consistent pace.
This was also the section where we started encountering patches of snow, with a lot of animal footprints in them, some of them very large. Check out a few of the pictures on this post. I think that one print was that of a bear, and the other a mountain lion. What was disconcerting is the bear prints followed the same path we were taking for a number of miles, with fresh scat along the trail. I may have to consider carrying bear spray in such remote areas that don't see people frequently!
Finally, we reached a junction with the Fireline trail, which heads sharply west, and climbing steeply while doing so. After ~2 miles there is a large cairn that marks the unofficial trail to Circlestone Ruins and finally Mound Mountain. The use trail climbs south for about .5 miles to reach a large, circular pile of rocks, Circlestone Ruins. These are Native American ruins that could be as old as 100 B.C. For more info on CircleStone check out this site: https://sites.google.com/site/boglekevi ... onmountain. From Circlestone, you now get a view of Mound Mountain, which is only another ~.5 miles to reach the summit. Navigation for this last .5 miles was difficult. The trail didn't seem to be well defined, but we knew where the summit was as Brett had created an accurate GPS track to follow. After some more bushwhacking along the western side of the peak the snow became thick for the last 100 feet of climbing. On the ascent we chose a dicey route that involved a steep climb through brush. After finally reaching the ridge, we hiked the last 1,000 feet on the eastern side of the mountain to reach the peak. From the peak the 360 degree views are amazing. Four Peaks, the Superstition Ridgeline and several other prominent peaks are in view. It took us 4 hours and 45 minutes to reach the peak with minimal breaks. An hour was easily lost due to route-finding difficulties and bushwhacking.
Unfortunately, the descent took us just as long due to getting lost on the Campaign Trail. If you look at my GPS track is is very tempting to descend straight down Mound to connect to Campaign, shaving 3 miles of the trek. However this route looked very sketchy and we smartly decided to stay on maintained trails as much as possible. Around 2:30pm, while descending manzanita maze portion of the Campaign trail, the clouds became thicker, and a light rain developed. The views to the west looked ominous, and heavy rain appeared likely. We were concerned mainly due to the fact that the road to the trailhead was steep with several washes, and in heavy rain we could be stuck. While descending through the thick manzanita section, the trail seemed to vanish suddenly, and my GPS stopped working due to the heavy cloud cover. We were left in a manzanita maze where there appeared to be use trails everywhere. After some of the worst bush-whacking I've ever done in a few directions, we could see the trail in the distance about a quarter miles away, and were able to discern the direction to head. From here the challenge was to regain the trail, as we did not want to attempt any more bush-whacking. Luckily my GPS recovered and we re-connected with the trail. There seemed to be 3 or 4 other spots on the return trip where we had minor route-finding difficulties. Also, the rain never fell beyond a sprinkle and wasn't a problem.
9 hours and 40 minutes after starting, we finished the 22 mile, 5500 ft accumulated gain hike. We were battered and bruised, but were happy to have knocked Mound Mountain off the list. I don't think I will do this same track again for awhile, but definitely will be back to check our Reavis Ranch and Reavis Falls, using trails to the west.
-We saw 0 people the entire day. That should underscore how remote and little used sections of this area are.
-Getting to the trailhead alone is difficult -- come prepared!
-If possible, bring a machete (seriously). The bushwhacking was unbelievable in many areas.
-Don't go alone. Even being experienced, I would never do this hike without at least one other experienced hiker.
-Bring a concise GPS track. Without it, we would have never found our way.
-It is ambitious to attempt this hike in the winter with the short amount of daylight. We maintain a very fast pace when we hike. From what I've seen, most require 12 hours to complete this or do this as an overnight trip. If we wouldn't have had route-finding difficult & gotten lost, we would have completed this trek in under 8 hours.
-I didn't take many pictures throughout the day as we hardly stopped unless necessary, to ensure we reached the peak! This would be an amazing area
to take your time and enjoy the beauty.
-No matter what approach you take, you will be looking at a minimum 18 mile roundtrip hike to reach Mound Mountain.