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Monday, January 21, 2019

Massacre Grounds Trail

Massacre Grounds Trail
Weaver's Needle on the horizon seen from Massacre Grds.
It’s curious that even though geologists say that the Superstition Mountains are an unlikely source for rich deposits of gold, myths and legends of finding, loosing and raiding the precious mineral in the unforgiving back country persist. 
Hill 2636 is a distinctive feature along the trail.
From territorial times to the present day, people have been fascinated by the strike-it-rich rumors and tales of ill-gotten gains that ring as loudly and off-key as cymbals in the hands of a restless kid.
Rock pinnacles (L) above Lost Dutchman SP.
Exposure, accidents and violence have claimed the lives of many who followed the lure of greed toward the proverbial mother lode.  For those who believe in ghosts, Massacre Grounds is a good place to find them. 
This rough chute is the most difficult part of the hike.
If you could pick a place to meet your maker, the yucca-studded volcanic mesa surrounded by rolling grasslands, abrupt canyons and sheer cliffs would make for a glorious sendoff.  
The hauntingly beautiful spot at the far northwestern edge of the Superstition Wilderness near Apache Junction is the site of a legendary 1848 ambush where a group of Spanish miners met their demise at the hands of a band of irate Apaches.  Hazy historical accounts suggest that the Apaches took the miner’s pack animals but left the gold—further stoking the quest for hidden treasure.  A good place to tease out the vague, conflicting but always intriguing history of the area’s rough-and tumble past is the Superstition Mountain Museum. The small, but packed space located along State Route 88 not far from major trailheads has regular educational events and exhibits. 
Hikers on the saddle. (R) beneath Hill 2636.
The museum’s new exhibit “The Gold Seekers” uses photos and artifacts to give an overview of the area’s infamous fortune hunters while adding incentive to take a hike into them thar hills.
Gory history notwithstanding, Massacre Ground Trail is a real treat to explore.
Yucca and agaves at the massacre grounds.
View from Massacre Falls
Volcanic structure of the Massacre Grounds site.
Climbing gently along a well-defined path, the route cuts through the remnants of 35-million-year-old volcanic activity. Contorted lava flows, volcanic necks and rugged washes shaded by desert trees and shrubs complement wide-open views of the surrounding wilderness. 
Desert holly grows in  moist drainages on the trail.
The first mile makes a mild ascent of the foothills at the base of craggy mountains. Acres of chain fruit cholla cover the flats that provide a platform for viewing the Four Peaks on the northern horizon and the colorfully layered mounds of the Goldfield Mountains to the west. 
Chain fruit cholla frame views of Four Peaks.
Once past the wilderness boundary fence, the climbing intensifies as the route swings over the saddle of Hill 2636—a dominant conical butte. 

From this point, the distant urban profile of Downtown Phoenix is barely visible to the southwest. 
Four Peaks are visible throughout most of the hike.
Goldfield Mountains on the western horizon.
After a dip into a damp, shady corridor, the trail meets its most difficult challenge—a 0.1-mile slick rock chute. The loose rock and high-steps of this short section look intimidating but getting through isn’t too tough for anybody with nubby footwear and the smarts to take it slow.  
A primitive trail leads to the base of Massacre Falls.
With the climbing mostly in the rear view, the final trudge to the massacre site is a breathtaking journey up a sloping mesa to a junction above a precipice that meets a hoodoo-topped wall of stone. To the south, the signature stone pinnacles of Lost Dutchman State Park appear as giant slabs falling away from the massive cliffs that encompass the Massacre Falls. Dark stains on the rock veneer show where waterfalls cascade over the cliffs after heavy rains. A well-worn path to the right heads down the escarpment to the base of the falls. To the left, a slender footpath traces the edge of the mesa’s broken brim, culminating at the purported location of the miners’ bloody last stand.  Trail’s end is a desolate platform at the cusp of sky and stone with no signs of conflict and no pot of gold.  But the site’s aura resonates in eerie canyon echoes and the calls of ravens passing overhead.
View from Massacre Grounds.
The trail to the massacre site.
LENGTH: 6 miles round trip (including side trip to the falls)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2116 – 3185 feet
From U.S. 60 in Apache Junction, take the State Route 88 (Idaho Road) exit 196 and continue 7.5 miles on SR 88 to First Water Road (Forest Road 78) located just past Lost Dutchman State Park on the right.  Go 0.5 mile on FR78 to the signed Crosscut-Massacre Ground Trailhead on the right.  FR 78 is rough dirt passable by carefully-driven sedans.
Tonto National Forest

1 comment:

alfonzo said...

Anybody know who is in the very large Rock covered grave near the old massacre trail parking area?
It is next to a small wash, has a large rock for a headstone.

My email: