Where else can you find a backcountry mountain wilderness of legend, mystery and exquisite natural beauty, which is simply unsurpassed? Only in the amazing state of Arizona! Located just outside the Phoenix metro area, the Superstition Wilderness, consisting of approximately 160,000 acres, is home to some of the most stunning scenery and infamous landmarks found in the entire state of Arizona. And after a long, hot summer season with its extreme temperatures, the fall months are an excellent time to get out and explore the exquisitely beautiful and breathtaking scenery found only in the “Supes”, and through its multiple main trailheads you’ll discover a vast network of the some of the state’s best hiking trails, including the legendary Superstition Ridgeline.
Described as Phoenix’s most challenging and toughest hike, suitable only for the most physically fit and advanced hikers, the Superstition Ridgeline affords some of the most incredible and magnificent scenery with expansive views of the entire Phoenix valley on one side and the stunningly beautiful and pristine Superstition Wilderness on the other. A truly incredible mountain top journey of epic proportions, the Superstition Ridgeline Hike, will without a doubt test your strength, stamina, endurance and courage, but in the end provide you the rewards and satisfaction of being among the few esteemed and elite who have faced their fears and pushed themselves beyond their limits in order to conquer this most incredible and perilous adventure!
So if you’re an experienced, physically fit and advanced hiker and you’re up for a highly challenging, perilous, extreme hike and extraordinary mountaintop adventure of legendary and epic accomplishment, then I encourage you to check out the Superstition Ridgeline Hike, in the Superstition Wilderness, Arizona.
On a clear, early November morning at about 5am, I met with the hikers and friends from my hiking club at a meet up location off US 60 in Gold Canyon, on Phoenix’s far east side, and by 5:30am – after collecting all of our group members – due to the fact that the Superstition Ridgeline Hike is a “one-way” hiking journey, we quickly set out with arranging the required logistics for this adventure by dropping off shuttle vehicles at the Lost Goldmine Trailhead, where our day’s hike would be finishing out in order to have transportation available and waiting for us upon our afternoon’s return. Once dropping off several vehicles, we then quickly proceeded to drive over to the Mining Camp Restaurant, located just off the Lost Dutchman State Park and where at the Siphon Draw trailhead, our day’s Superstition Ridgeline Hike and extreme adventure would finally begin!
It was by 7 am, with the sun beginning to rise and the massively rugged looking Superstition Mountains now in view, the first leg of our day’s journey began as we started out on the Siphon Draw Trail and began the steep and rigorous ascent up to Flat Iron, climbing, scrambling, straight up in elevation, gaining roughly +2000 feet in just 3 miles until finally topping out onto the ridgeline, and an estimated elevation 4600 feet, by 8:45 am. Although the Superstition Ridgeline can be hiked in either direction, west to east, east to west, our plan and strategy was to start up Flat Iron in order to get the most elevation gain finished first when our energy was at its highest and also have the sun setting in the west and to our backs in the afternoon when we made the steep and strenuous descent back down to Carney Springs trailhead.
After a short break for rest, photos and to regroup our members at the top, and with the wide open, absolutely breathtaking scenery of the Superstition Wilderness now in front of us, by 9:15 am, we veered off to the left to pick up the trail and from there began the long, strenuous and treacherous journey across the Superstition Ridgeline, also commonly referred to as the “Superstition Death March”, and we’d soon discover why.
From Siphon Draw saddle and now on the ridgeline, the real adventure began as we started out on the small ridgeline trail which begins relatively level and easy but not so for long. With gorgeous and expansive views of both the Superstition Wilderness to one side and the Phoenix valley on the other, we soon passed by Monument Canyon off to our right and from there the difficulty of the journey began to suddenly increase immensely as we now found ourselves ascending and descending, up and down again, combined with some climbing, scrambling, all the while with beautiful and incredible scenery from one side to the other that was absolutely amazing!
Now reaching about mid-morning and still making good time, the incredible adventure continued as we followed the narrow but well cairned ridgeline trail, and after venturing across the less intense “classic ridge walk”, still enjoying the stunning views of Weaver’s Needle and the Superstition Wilderness off to our left, we quickly passed by Hog Canyon, followed by the beautiful Hieroglyphic Canyon off to our right then immediately began to encounter some very steep and very perilous climbing and scrambling continuing straight on up through a perilous rock chute, and with knees scraped, legs worn and completely out of breath after having experienced some of the most intense, difficult and strenuous class 3-4 climbing we had ever done before, by noon we finally made it to Superstition Peak, at elevation 5057 feet and the highest point in all of the Superstitions Mountains. Wow, what an incredible journey it had been so far!
Once arriving at the saddle located at the base of the peak, we enjoyed a rest stop for snacks and lunch and catching our breath again. However, remaining cognizant of our time, we kept our break short and brief and while other members ventured to the top of the summit, we decided to press on and now with most of the intense climbing behind us, we made our way around the base of the peak and started to head steeply back downhill.
Now with absolutely breathtaking views of both Weaver’s Needle and Four Peaks off to the far distance, the afternoon was well upon us as the long and rigorous journey stretched on as we continued to route find and locate the small rock cairns to guide and lead us along the way until roughly by about 2:15pm, and just over 7 hours of extremely intense and continuous hiking, we finally reached West Boulder Saddle and the sign for our critical turn off for Carney Springs.
Once having arrived at West Boulder Saddle, we felt our body’s fatigue really start to set in by this time. However, after taking one last rest break, we drew in a deep sigh, popped a few more pain killers and with all of our legs feeling like noodles, we posed for one last group shot then made the turn off for Carney. Thankfully now on the last portion of our day’s adventure, and on all loose rocks and terrain, we slowly and carefully followed the small rock cairns and made our way down the extremely steep and dangerous but absolutely gorgeous Carney Springs Trail until finally, and with our water levels now starting to run out, and feeling completely exhausted and fatigued, we had finally arrived back down at the canyon’s bottom again and finished out this incredible day and unbelievably extreme adventure at the Carney Springs trailhead where our vehicles had been parked by between 3-4 pm.
In all, what an amazing and incredible adventure! With a total hiking distance of approximately 11.7 miles, an accumulated elevation gain of roughly 5000 feet, and some extremely difficult, highly strenuous and perilous class 3-4 climbing and scrambling, together we all agreed that the Superstition Ridgeline Hike was THE toughest, most intense hike we had ever done before as a club and for the most of the members of our group this day, we successfully completed this legendary and epic adventure within 7-8 hours total hiking time.
Without question, the Superstition Ridgeline Hike is an absolutely unforgettable and an epic adventure that lives up to its name and reputation and will long be remembered. And for the wonderful group of hikers and friends who came out on this day and toughed out this extreme adventure and challenge, what an esteemed accomplishment which will live on for years to come!