Peralta Canyon Loop (Superstition Wilderness) 23-Jan-2023

My first visit to the Superstition Wilderness east of Phoenix, in 1987, involved a successful climb of Weavers Needle. The LovedOne and I returned in 1993 to do a long hike around the Needle on established trails. So, continuing with the faint whiff of nostalgia pervading this year’s visit to Arizona, we decided to revisit the Superstitions.

There is an established trail from the Perlta Trailhead to Fremont Saddle. From there we could have reprised our 1993 loop hike by continuing on to the Dutchman Trail (as in Lost Dutchman Mine) and returning on the Terrapin and Bluff Spring Trails. But that would have been a longer hike than we wanted. So I looked around for a shorter loop.

Which is where Alltrails came into the picture. This site is loved by many and hated by others. I view it with suspicion as one source of information among many – at least I should have. πŸ˜’ This time, I took the “trail” it showed from Fremont Saddle along the ridge between Peralta and Barks Canyons at face value and plotted a roughly 6 mile (9.6 km) loop using it. Much fun ensued…

A front passed through Arizona today, bringing with it cloudy skies and cooler temperatures (as if 45℉/7.2℃ is all that cool). Good weather for hiking, not so good for photos. But you hike what you’re given.

Checking in at the trailhead
Ready with the brave hiker smile (note unscratched legs)
Crossing Peralta Creek – running thanks to the recent rains
Up the rocky, but obvious, Peralta Trail
Concentric circles
A truly big boulder that rolled into the canyon in ages past
On the Peralta Trail (our return route was along the yellow band of rock above)
A small keyhole
Almost to Fremont Saddle
Weavers Needle

Weavers Needle (4,553 feet / 1,388 m) is on the Desert Peak Section’s list, which is what brought me out here in 1987. Back then, that list rated the entire climb as Class 4; today it’s rated mostly class 4, with 3 pitches of about 5.5. As I recall, the first pitch was the most exposed – loose rock and poor protection. After that it was just a wildly exposed in places scramble. Today we just gazed at it from afar.

At the bottom of the first pitch in 1987
View from the summit (1987)
Rappelling down the first pitch (1987)
Good-bye to Weavers Needle

From Fremont Saddle, we found – as Alltrails promised – a well worn use trail that took us east to the ridge and then turned southeast down along the ridge. It many places this trail was obvious and occasionally marked with cairns. There were a few confusing places where it got crossed with other use trails. A GPS track was helpful and careful route finding was essential.

The use trail (arrow) led us down across rocky slopes
Torn vegetation was often a clue to where the use trail went
When not crossing rock, the use trail (arrow) was often just a narrow path in the veg
Looking down on the Peralta Trail (arrow)
The use trail crosses a rocky slope
Water trickles from the recent storm (note icicles at the lip)
Looking southwest from under an overhang

We passed a large cave – where other hikers were having lunch – and followed the use trail to the edge of a steep, rocky slope. These abrupt halts at steep slopes is where Alltrails could get some hikers in trouble. Pick the wrong spot to descend and you could take a really nasty tumble. Even if you got down safely after picking the wrong spot, you might not be able to reconnect with the use trail. We found a gully that allowed us to avoid the open slopes, grab some veg belays, and find the use trail at the bottom.

Our descent route (arrows) after passing the large cave (C)
On the rocks
There are a surprising number of sharp things in the desert

About half way down the ridge, I had to stop taking photos so we could focus on staying on the use trail as it crossed open rock, got mixed with other use trails (going who knows where), and dodged uphill. During our scrambles, The LovedOne came face to face with a Bark Scorpion (“…the most venomous scorpion in North America…”) but dodged being stung. πŸ¦‚ As I said earlier, much fun….

The end in neigh…

We eventually came to where the use trail again became obvious and allowed us an easy descent to an unsigned junction with the Bluff Spring Trail. We then took this established – but enormously rocky trail – back to the trailhead.

Descending the Bluff Spring Trail
An Ocotillo takes advantage of the recent rains
Almost back to the trailhead

We got back to the trailhead after 4.9 miles (7.8 km) and 1,400 feet (427 m) of gain. Lots of scratches but no real damage. And yes, we could have worn long pants, but this was likely our only chance to wear shorts for months and months. πŸ™„

Alltrails was right in that there is an obviously well used social trail along the ridge. It just underplayed the need for careful route finding and the possibility of a serious fall. 😲

All that said, this proved to be a truly fun hike, with a classic view of Weavers Needle, some high Class 2 scrambling, and enough route finding to help maintain our navigation skills. And that scorpion was venomously neat too! πŸ¦‚πŸ˜

Our loop from and to the Peralta Trailhead

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