Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hike #23: Massacre Grounds Trail, Superstition Wilderness, Tonto National Forest

Length: 4 miles

Located immediately east of the Phoenix Metro Area and just miles from the Black Mesa Loop Trail, the Massacre Grounds Trail provides a short, moderately-challenging hike through the Superstition Wilderness. Unfortunately, this trail is not the easiest to access; the rough road leading to the trailhead is extremely primitive and requires either a high-clearance vehicle or some slow, careful driving. However, upon reaching the trailhead, it quickly becomes evident by the breath-taking view that the drive was well worth it!

The Massacre Grounds Trail begins along a relatively flat plain with the Superstition Mountains rising in the foreground and the massive Four Peaks Mountain towering in the distance. The trail soon works its way away from this plain and enters a series of valleys with dramatic peaks on each side. Although the peaks are each impressive, it is a solitary needle formation that commands the scene. After about a half mile, the trail passes the side of this needle and continues deeper and steeper into the Superstitions.

After passing the striking needle formation, the trail quickly begins following a boulder-filled wash, which if there's been a recent rain will be filled with water. After skipping among the shallow pools for another half-mile, the trail approaches a small waterfall (again, provided that there's has been significant rain.) Up until this point, the trail has been really well-defined; however, after the waterfall the trail makes a sharp turn left and all but disappears.

Carefully following the rock cairns through shrub-covered desert, the trail climbs for the next mile until it reaches a large rocky cliff. From here, there is yet another panoramic view of the surrounding desert. After a brief break at the top, it's time to turn around and retrace your steps back to the parking lot. Sounds easy, right? Guess again! I somehow lost the trail on the way down. I worked my way across open desert - through several washes - until the original needle came into view again. (Too bad I was way too far to the west!) Fortunately, once I could see the needle again, I had a point of reference and merely had to work my way towards its base.

To view more pictures of the Massacre Grounds Trail, click here.


  1. Cody, very nice photos!! Looks like you do a lot of hiking. Any suggestions for great AZ hikes???

  2. Very detailed description of the track. Some of the beauty of these tracks is that they are not easy to reach. you have to come with a suitable vehicles, because a flat tire or a more serious failure can ruin your day...

  3. I dont actually see any information about how to get to the trail head. Anyone have GPS coordinates?