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Sunday, December 25, 2016


Tonto National Forest/Superstition Wilderness
Hackberry Spring Dec. 25, 2016
Intrepid hikers with a good pair of boots and reasonable balance will have no trouble navigating the maze of horse trails that lead to Hackberry Spring in the Superstition Wilderness Area. The hike begins on an old dirt road that leads to a collection of decaying corrals and dilapidated buildings that surround the spidery legs of a windmill. Over the years, the windmill’s blades gradually rusted, fell to the ground and eventually disappeared. Please take only pictures and leave only footprints. From this abandoned ranch site, look for a slim dirt path to the left of the windmill and follow it to the slickrock corridor of First Water Creek.
Slickrock section through First Water Creek
Veer left and enter a stony corridor that flanks the wilderness boundary. Although the route is heavily travelled, directional fortitude and minor scrambling is necessary. Depending on rainfall, the creek can be churning, trickling or reduced to residual pothole pools. Regardless of its condition, expect to hop the creek about a dozen times and wet feet are a real possibility. It’s advisable to avoid the area during and immediately following heavy storms for safety and to avoid eroding the trails.

The route soon enters a water-scoured gorge weaving among boulders, tiny stands of trees, and reeds full of vociferous, cardinals and canyon wrens. Evidence of the area’s volcanic origins as well as the landscape-shaping effects of running water is showcased in soaring canyon walls, shallow caves chiseled out of lava rock and hundreds of mini pools scoured from solid rock. The spring itself features a rusty pipe poking out of a cliff face that funnels water into a quiet pool surrounded by Fremont cottonwoods, Goodding willows and, of course, hackberry shrubs. Return the way you came or consult forest service maps for alternate routes.

LENGTH: 3 miles round-trip
RATING: moderate, some route-finding skills are required.
ELEVATION: 1,900 – 2,450 feet
GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take US 60 east to the Idaho Road/State Route 88 exit 196. At the bottom of the off ramp, go left, follow Idaho Road to SR 88, turn right and continue to just past the Lost Dutchman State Park entrance (between mileposts 201 and 202) and turn right onto First Water Road (Forest Road 78). Follow FR78 for just over 2 miles to the horse parking lot (NOT the First Water trailhead) on the left and park there.

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