October 9-12, 2013
Shut out of the national parks due to the federal government shut down* in early October we scrambled to find a suitable alternative. But really, can anything replace the Grand Canyon?
After consulting various maps and hiking guides we settled on the Superstition Wilderness just east of the Phoenix metropolitan area. A cold front passing through the state plunged temperatures 20 degrees below normal. While it was snowing in Flagstaff, highs in the Sonoran desert were in the low 70s, ideal for hiking.
The Superstition Mountains are part of Tonto National Forest. All services for the wilderness area, therefore, were shut down, including the area’s recreational lakes, but not the hiking trails. The Lost Dutchman State Park bordering the wilderness area was also running smoothly with available camping, a helpful ranger and great views of the iconic formations.
We arrived at the campground late in the afternoon during a dust storm that turned into a night of perpetual showers. By morning everything was drenched. It continued to drizzle as we packed up our gear for two days in the back country.
Ranger Georgie at the campground office helped us map out a 3 day/2 night loop hike along some of the wilderness’s most scenic trails. Most importantly, telling us where we would have the greatest possibility of finding water.
Her suggested route:
Day 2 – ~7 miles – Dutchman’s trail to the Peralta trail via the shorter route over Upper Black Top Mesa Pass. Camp near the base of Weavers Needle, below Fremont Saddle.
Day 3 – ~2.5 miles – A short hike over the Fremont Saddle and through the popular Peralta Canyon.
We found all the suggested trails to be well blazed and only moderately difficult, i.e. no scrambling over rocks or long steep climbs.
*Due to political dysfunction and the nature of our governmental system the federal government “shut down” non-essential operations, including the national parks, as of October 1st, 2013. The shutdown ended on October 17th.