Although the Ballantine Trail is located less than 40 miles from the Phoenix area, this trail seems to be one of Arizona's best kept secrets. A relatively easy climb, the Ballantine Trail passes through the rocky transition region between the Superstition Mountains in central Arizona and the Mongollon Rim in the north. While the boulders and mountains are beautiful in and of themselves, it is a heavy winter rain that brings the true beauty of this trail into bloom! With three creeks surrounding the trail (Pine Creek, Camp Creek, and Rock Creek), a heavy rain will fill the normally dry valleys and provide a welcome soundtrack of rushing water!
The trail begins with the short Pine Creek Loop, which loops 1.5 miles either way to intersect with the start of the Ballantine Trail. My guidebook recommended starting with the southern segment of the loop; however, this segment was quite a steep climb and probably would be better saved for a downhill finish!
Whichever route you've chosen, the clearly-marked intersection for the Ballantine Trail is soon approached and the trail leaves the original loop - curving east with the Camp Creek sparkling far below. The Ballantine trail continues along the creek's path, slowly working it's way down toward the valley floor. Almost immediately after meeting the Ballantine Trail, the path becomes surrounded by large formations of boulders - some in quite interesting shapes (perhaps a woman playing hide-n-seek, as my friend pointed out.)
After a couple miles, a large mountain of crumbling rocks, known as "The Boulders", looms to the right. Near the eastern base of The Boulders is a fork in the trail, with a faint, but well-marked trail heading toward to the right. Following the numerous rock cairns, the trail soon crosses the creek, and continues around The Boulders. With breathtaking views of the Superstitions in the distance, the trail soon turns and the third and final creek comes into view. The end of this trail is a small waterfall that tumbles over a series of boulders, making the perfect location for a well-deserved break. From this point, it's merely a matter of turning and retracing your way back to the Pine Creek Loop and the original trailhead.
To view more photos of the Pine Creek Loop and Ballantine Trail, click here.