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Goldfield Top Hat and Arches Loop, AZ
mini location map2021-03-14
32 by photographer avatarJohn10s
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Goldfield Top Hat and Arches Loop, AZ 
Goldfield Top Hat and Arches Loop, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Mar 14 2021
John10s
Hiking14.66 Miles 1,985 AEG
Hiking14.66 Miles   8 Hrs   24 Mns   2.28 mph
1,985 ft AEG   1 Hour   58 Mns Break
1st trip
Partners partners
TboneKathy
I hadn't spent much time hiking in the Goldfields before today, but I knew there was a lot of beautiful scenery out there, so I was excited for a longer hike. It's tough to quickly put together a route without knowing the area very well since there are a maze of trails, roads, washes, and multiple trailheads, but I ended up mapping out a loop of ~13 miles, then tacked on some spurs to a few of the arches near the route.

We parked at Bulldog Canyon Gate at the end of Cactus Road and started the loop clockwise along FR 10. Our first destination was a quick spur up to Mask Arch, a nice, easily accessible natural window along the northern ridgeline overlooking Dome Mountain. We followed some of the washes and jeep roads through Bulldog Canyon, and when we crested a small ridge, the views of Four Peaks were stunning. I hadn't realized that it had snowed much up there, but the peaks were covered in white, with the snow extending quite a way down the mountains. The peaks were shrouded in wisps of clouds, and it was a beautiful contrast with the saguaros and desert landscape in the foreground--it looked like an entirely different world on the horizon.

We took another detour over to Twin Arches, and along the way we saw at least 15-20 javelina running in small groups on the hillsides nearby--I'd never seen so many at one time. The arches were another nice feature, and the views to the southeast toward the Superstitions and Weaver's Needle were fantastic.

Our next destination was Top Hat, and we got some pictures at Palo Verde Arch on the way up. The arch was actually a double, with a small window in the rock just below the larger opening. We enjoyed more great views of Four Peaks and the shifting clouds over the Mazatzals on way to the summit. I signed the register at the top and recognized some familiar HAZ names. The benchmark at the top says "Weeks" on it, and the topo map says the same thing--if anyone knows the history behind that, feel free to comment :). The 360° views from the top were tough to beat. [ youtube video ]

We made our way down a drainage to the east and hiked over to Cottonwood Spring, which had a trickle of water spilling over a full collection tank. From there, we headed toward Keyhole Arch, with more views of the Superstitions along the way. There was a lot of trash out in the desert along that stretch, including an old mattress, multiple large white bags full of something, and even some roofing materials...why anyone would go to the trouble to haul trash all the way out there is a mystery. The large rock outcropping near Keyhole Arch was covered in graffiti, which was disappointing to see, but Keyhole was a nice spot, with a natural window in the cave and a rock arch overhead.

A lot of the snow had melted off of Four Peaks by afternoon, and the clouds had mostly cleared around the peaks, so we had a different view as we finished off the loop, passing near Blue Ridge and Saddle Rock before returning to Bulldog Canyon Gate. The hike exceeded my expectations--we saw five arches (Mask, Twin Arches, Palo Verde, Keyhole), visited the Top Hat summit and Cottonwood Spring, and had fantastic views of Four Peaks and the Superstitions all day, not to mention the wildlife. The Goldfields are definitely an underrated area, a short drive from Phoenix and nowhere near the crowds of the Superstitions. There was a fair amount of ATV traffic, but we didn't see any other hikers all day in almost 15 miles of hiking.
Fauna
Fauna
Javelina
Culture
Culture
Benchmark


water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Cottonwood Spring Dripping Dripping
Collection basin in the rocks was full and trickling over the edge; lots of mud and puddles nearby
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