Length: 8 or 9 miles (depending on the source you read....I would believe it closer to 9)
The Black Mesa Loop Trail is actually three trails, the Lost Dutchman Trail, the Black Mesa Trail, and the First Water Trail, which when combined make for challenging 9-mile hike.
The loop begins by following the Lost Dutchman Trail for about 4.5 miles. With a variety of desert vegetation and breath-taking views, this is by far the best portion of the loop. The cliffs overlooking the trail provide welcome shade along the first segment of the hike; however, after a couple miles of gradual incline, the trail leaves the cliffs and opens for a wide panoramic mountain view. After another couple miles, the trail approaches a large flat wash, where it intersects with the Black Mesa Trail. (Note: This can be really difficult to find since the trail all but disappears in the wash. Know that if you come upon the sign for Boulder Canyon Trail, you have gone too far and need to retrace the trail back about 500 yards until you see the wooden marker for the Black Mesa Trail.)
The Black Mesa Trail is the middle 3-miles of this loop. Although this segment of the loop does provide a good variety of vegetation, the views are nothing when compared to those of the first portion. I will advise to watch out for the forests of Jumping Cholla Cactus, which have VERY prickly barbs.
Eventually, the vegetation grows more sparse, and the loop connects with the final 1.5-miles of the First Water Trail. Although this portion passes through a couple minor washes, it is otherwise unremarkable.
To see more pictures of the Black Mesa Loop Trail, click here.