Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Hike #21: Hieroglyphic Trail, Superstition Wilderness, Tonto National Forest

Length: 6 miles (3 miles if you turn around at the petroglyphs)

Named for a series of Hohokam Indian petroglyphs - which early settlers mistook for Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Hieroglyphic Trail provides exciting hiking options for both the beginner and seasoned hikers. The first part of the trail is well-established and relatively flat, making it ideal for first-time hiker; the second, more challenging, half of the "trail" follows no set path, but instead provides a steep climb through unmarked terrain to the Superstition Ridgeline.

From the parking lot, follow the Lost Dutchman Trail for a couple hundred feet to a well-marked intersection with the Hieroglyphic Trail. Continue along the new trail through a beautiful desert landscape with the towering Superstitions in the background. The trail continues for about a mile and a half to a large series of pools, which are typically full during the winter and early spring. Carved into the stone cliffs next to these pools are the mysterious petroglyphs.

For those that desire an easy hike, now is the time to turn around; for the more adventurous, this is where the fun begins! From the petroglyphs, continue north following the boulder-filled wash. Although the trail has been easy-going so far, this segment will definitely take some time - many of the boulders are quite large and extremely difficult to pass. Following this path, you will soon pass an abandoned mine shaft before coming upon a fork in the wash. Unfortunately, finding the correct fork is apparently quite difficult...with so many drainage routes in the canyon, it's difficult to select the correct fork. I apparently did not do so well.

Leaving the main wash at the canyon's bottom, I began following a minor wash towards the ridgeline. Unfortunately, the path I was following soon became little more than a steep overgrown cliff. After working my way straight up (through some pretty scary spots) for a couple hours, I eventually had to give up and admit defeat. Sadly, getting down was even more difficult than the ascent; I was seriously beginning to wonder if I was going to make it back to the canyon's bottom in one piece! Thankfully, upon reaching the canyon's bottom, it's merely a matter of retracing your way through the boulders back to the established trail.

To view more pictures of the Hieroglyphic Trail, click here.


  1. This trail is not "easy for a first time hiker". I found it to be a steep "up" with loose scree. I have trekked in the Nepal Himalayas twice, and many other places over the world. This should be classified as a moderate hike, as it is deceptive to older people who think the route will be "easy."

  2. no this is for sure an easy hike