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Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Superstition Wilderness Area
View of Weaver's Needle from Black Mesa Trail
It may be just a stone’s throw from town, but hiking out from the First Water Trailhead at the western edge of the Superstition Wilderness is a surprisingly alien experience. Because the first mile or so of hiking in this area is considered to be easy, the site is a big draw for parents herding a mixed lot of dogs and kids outfitted with Sponge Bob backpacks and spiffy shoes that light up in sync with their stride. A very popular circuit here is the Black Mesa Loop that uses the Dutchmans, Black Mesa and Second Water trails for a continually-changing tour of  this wild pocket in Tonto National Forest.
Easy at first, the route transitions into a twisted collection of dips, climbs and tricky crossings of boulder-clogged washes and creeks. After the first 2 miles, the crowds become noticeably thinner. A sturdy pair of boots and hiking poles for balance will help get you through the rough parts to reap the rewarding views of a volcanic landscape scoured by millions of years of exposure to the earth’s turbulent elements. You'll be swallowed up in a wonderland of oddly-shaped pinnacles, gaping canyons and rugged arroyos. Add to that, the effects of changing light over the course of an afternoon, and it’s easy to feel as if you have been transported to another planet. For an extra treat, hang around until dusk and watch the stars come out for a show that's more brilliant than light-up shoes.
From the trailhead, follow the access path 0.3 mile to the Dutchman's Trail #104 junction. Veer right (south) and follow #104 3.9 miles to the Black Mesa Trail #241 junction. Turn left (northwest) here and continue 3.0 miles on #241 to the Second Water Trail #236 junction, turn left (south) and follow #236 1.5 miles back to the Dutchman's junction, turn right and hike 0.3 mike back to the trailhead.
LENGTH: 9-mile loop
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION: 2,200' - 2,750'
From Phoenix, go east on US 60 to the Idaho Road (State Route 88) exit. Turn left and follow Idaho to SR88, turn right and continue to First Water Road (Forest Road 78), which is located about a half mile past the entrance to Lost Dutchman State Park (between mileposts 201 and 202) and is signed for First Water Trailhead. Turn right and go 2.6 miles to the trailhead. Forest Road 78 is on maintained dirt with some potholes and washboard sections passable by carefully-driven sedan.
INFO: Mesa Ranger District, Tonto National Forest

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