SUPERSTITION WILDERNESS IN GILA COUNTY, ARIZONA

This Superstition Wilderness was designated in 1939, and was expanded to its present size in 1984. It now contains approximately 160,200 acres. There is a well-developed trail system, and the western end of the wilderness receives heavy use during the cooler times of the year. Trail conditions vary from fair to very poor. Several trails are unsuitable for horses.

The area is starkly beautiful and often rugged, but can be inhospitable to those not equipped to meet nature on her own terms. Searing heat and a shortage of water are typical conditions in the summer. Bitter cold, rains (and even snowstorms) may occur in the winter.

Rumors still abound concerning lost gold mines, "secret maps," visits from extra terrestrials and other stories that make this part of Arizona a mystical almost magical place. But even though it is beautiful and rugged to not forget this is one of the most unforgiving and WILD places in Arizona.

Photo Credit:  Cameron Davis

Access Points

The Superstition Wilderness is  bounded by US-60 on the south,  AZ State 88 on the northwest, and Arizona State Route 188 on the northeast.  We recommend you call the Forest Service District that administers this wilderness to make sure you have everything you need before you set out on your adventure.

Mesa Ranger District
Address: 5140 E. Ingram St., Mesa, Arizona 85205
Phone: (480) 610-3300
Fax: (480) 610-3346
Hours: Mon.-Fri. (8:00-4:30) closed 12-12:30 p.m. daily

Photo Credit:  Cameron Davis

History of the Superstition Wilderness 

Although there is no guarantee that you'll find buried treasure, you are sure to discover miles and miles of desolate and barren mountains, seemingly endless and haunting canyons, raging summer temperatures that can surpass 115 degrees Fahrenheit, and a general dearth of water.

 

Even the area's earliest known inhabitants, the hardy Hohokam and Salados peoples, established only very small villages and cliff dwellings in this harsh and fabulous country between 800 and 1400 a.d. The Wilderness value of the Superstitions has long been recognized.

 

Established as a Primitive Area in 1939, it was named a pre-Wilderness Act "wilderness" in 1940, and became an official Wilderness in 1964. Elevations range from approximately 2,000 feet on the western boundary to 6,265 feet on Mound Mountain. In the western portion rolling land is surrounded by steep, even vertical terrain. Weaver's Needle, a dramatic volcanic plug, rises to 4,553 feet.

 

The central and eastern portions are less topographically severe. Vegetation is primarily that of the Sonoran Desert, with semidesert grassland and chaparral higher up. Dense brushland covers hundreds of acres. A few isolated pockets of ponderosa pine may be found at the highest elevations.

Description by:  Wilderness.net

Photo Credit:  Cameron Davis

Superstition Wilderness Trails

Despite the harsh setting, much of Superstition Wilderness, especially the Peralta and First Water Trails, are enjoyed by many people. These two trailheads receive about 80 percent of the annual human traffic, and the U.S. Forest Service calls the 6.3-mile Peralta one of the most heavily used trails in Arizona. Other trails within the Wilderness are virtually untrodden. There are about 180 miles of trails, ranging from excellent to poor, as well as other unmaintained tracks.

Group size is limited to 15 people and 15 head of livestock. Length of stay is limited to 14 days.

 

Visit the forest service on-line MAP to get an overview of the Superstition Wilderness and its trails.

Find Hiking Trails in the Superstition Wilderness

  • Treasure Loop Trail #56

  • Prospectors View Trail#57

  • Jacobs Trail #58

  • Hieroglyphic Trail #101

  • Peralta Trail #102

  • Boulder Trail #103

  • Dutchman's Trail #104

  • Peter's Trail #105

  • JF Trail #106

  • Red Tanks Trail #107

  • Coffee Flat Trail #108

  • Reavis Valley Trail #109

  • Rogers Canyon Trail #110

  • Bacon Trail #111

  • Frog Trail #112

  • Woodbury Trail #114

  • Reavis Gap Trail #117

  • Fireline Trail #118

  • Two Bar Trail #119

  • Tule Trail #122

  • Bull Pass Trail #129

  • Siphon Draw Trail #153

  • Haunted Trail #203

  • West Pinto Trail #212

  • Terrapin Trail #234

  • Bluff Spring Trail #235

  • Second Water Trail #236

  • Whiskey Trail #238

  • Cavalry Trail #239

  • Black Mesa Trail #241

  • Campaign Trail #256

  • Bull Basin Trail #270

  • Paradise Trail #271

  • Spencer Trail #275

  • Cuff Bottom Trail #276

  • Plow Saddle Trail #287

  • Canyon Lake TH

  • First Water TH

  • Tortilla TH

  • Reavis TH

  • Tule TH

  • Campaign TH

  • Miles TH

  • Roger Trough TH

  • Woodbury TH

  • Peralta TH

Photo Credit:  Cameron Davis

Superstition Wilderness Fishing Opportunities

If you are looking for a pure population of Apache Trout then you have come to the right place.  One particularly fine canyon is formed by Fish Creek, a lengthy drainage that flows from the center of the mountains in a north-westerly direction towards the Salt River, joining it just below Apache Lake.
 

Downstream

Fish Creek crosses AZ 88, the Apache Trail, 2 miles east of the point where the surface becomes unpaved, and about 25 miles from Apache Junction; there is no signpost but it is easily recognized as the road descends steeply along the edge of a deep ravine, and crosses the stream on quite a high bridge. From this point, about one third of the creek is downstream (north) and can be explored by scrambling down and walking along the canyon floor, which has flowing water at certain times each year, usually during spring and after the flash floods of late summer. Pools, boulders and dense vegetation provide regular obstacles and this hike is somewhat strenuous. The lower section may also be reached by FR 80, a side road that links the Apache Trail with Horse Mesa Dam at the head of Apache Lake.
 

Upstream

A hike upstream along Fish Creek encounters similar rock and cactus scenery but the surroundings are just a little more rugged and remote. The canyon extends a lot further - for nearly 10 miles, splits several times and meets a few back country trails including TR 110 and TR 112, so rather more time could be spent exploring. From the Apache Trail road bridge, a faint path runs along the south side of the gorge and drops down to water level; the hike ahead then involves walking on pebbles by the stream, around boulders and sometimes passing above sheer cliffs to avoid deep water channels. The rate of progress is slower then might be expected as the rocks are large and quite numerous, and there are some places when a little rock climbing is needed. The undergrowth is thick - a mixture of trees, bushes, reeds and cacti, and wading may be needed at some times of year.

Photo Credit:  Cameron Davis

Superstition Wilderness Boating Options

Canyon Lake is located in a National Recreation Area. It was created by the damming of the Salt River, in Arizona, specifically by the Morman Flat Dam. The lake sits at an elevation of 1,660' and has a mean depth of 130', and an area of 1.484 mi².

 

Launch your kayaks from the boat launch area at the far east end of the lake.  From the boat launch, head directly across the main body of water. Once on the other side, you'll find a narrow finger waterway to paddle up.

The canyon walls surround you on either side, filled with Saguaros, Cholla, Beehive, and more cactus plants. We went in February and the hills were lush with greens.

The water is cold, with beautiful reflections of the surrounding ridgelines. There are also some rock outcroppings along the way. Not really any place to dock and go ashore, though.

 

Getting there: Go south from the greater Phoenix area toward the famous Superstition Mountain and the Lost Dutchman Mine, to State Road 88. Here you will find a narrow and winding paved road that takes you through some incredible scenery. Unfortunately there are power lines that mar the pristine desert landscape.  It is a fairly heavily traveled road - take your time and don't even think about stopping unless there's a turnout! Go to the Canyon Lake Marina and Campground, to pay and park.

Photo Credit:  Cameron Davis

Superstition Wilderness Camping Options

There are many dispersed camp grounds in this wilderness if you like roughing it.  If you want to stay at an upgraded camp spot we might suggest you check out Canyon Lake Marina and Campground - click here.