9.5 Miles Total – 3600 ft gain – Out-and-Back Trail
If you’re the type:
- that feels an adventure didn’t happen unless there’s blood drawn
- likes feeling beaten and abused with accomplishment after a brutal hike
- enjoys route-finding and false summits
- wants to experience the true nature, vastness, dangers and beauty that the Supersitions have to offer
…..then this is the hike for you!
This is the true beast hike of the Superstitions. If you think Flatiron is a toughy, give this a whirl! You will be poked, prodded, slapped, smacked, jolted, tripped and stabbed the entire way, but rewarded with arguably the finest sights the valley of the sun has to offer: the entire Superstition Ridgeline, Flatiron and the sprawling city to your west, Gold Canyon and Hieroglyphics to the South, the rugged landscape of the Supes to the East, and both Weavers Needle and Four Peaks to the North among many, many other features.
Getting to the trailhead
It is pretty simple: take the Peralta Rd turnoff from Rte 60. Once it turns into a dirt road, drive 6.3 miles to an unmarked, and hard to miss, parking lot on your left. It’s riddled with red reflectors and wooden posts. This is the Carney Springs Trailhead and your last moment of peace before you embark on this adventure!
From the parking lot, head out west down the wide flat pathway that leads right to the base of the mountains. Here’s a good way to think about the Carney Springs hike: look ahead of you and try to pick the hardest, nastiest, straight-up looking route up the mountain – most likely you’re looking right at the trail!
Pass through the wilderness boundary (.6 miles) and stick to the right at any questionable junctions. The trail will try to pull you to the left in which you will end up at the Wave Cave – great short trip for another day. Many people look for a boulder that seems to sit in the middle of the trail to guide them. If you find yourself feeling as though you are going too far left (south), try backtracking to check your route. It’s very easy to get off-trail here. You will want to be headed as though you are bee lining for the wash to the right. The trail loosely follows parallel to the wash as it climbs.
Another thing to know about Carney is that once you start climbing, you don’t stop! In fact, it gets steeper as you go! Around 1.5 miles you will reach a false summit, but don’t be disheartened as it offers a welcome breaking point and majestic views of what you just climbed. Form here you can see the trail ahead – almost a white line that looks like you will need a ladder to scale it! Go get it! It’s only about .3 miles to the next saddle, but you will be working for it. Snap a photo with the famous “Carney TH 1.8 mi” sign and take a moment to plan the next stage of your adventure.
From this saddle, you can follow some cairns down and to the right into the wash to search for Robbers Roost. If you then continue on in that same direction, you can eventually tie together a loop coming back down the Peralta Trail.
For this adventure though, turn your gaze south and skyward. Those tall spires clumped together jutting out of the ridgeline amongst the highest peak you can see – that’s Superstition Peak 5057 and your destination! (The highest peak in the Superstition Mountains!)
This is the part of the journey where you will have to start paying special attention to the cairns as the trail winds, drops, turns, climbs and crosses a wash (2.5 miles). You will be humping up and over a couple hills until you reach a junction with the 3 Sisters Trail at 3.5 miles (this will add 1 mile to your trip if you go).
From here, it’s up and over a final hill, then a climb up the ridgeline – Hello Views! The floor drops out around you and you get a 360-degree view of jaw dropping desert mountain beauty. At around 4 miles, you will come across a boulder with some cairns stacked on top and a fork in the trail. Head to the left and straight towards the peak. The trail is tough to follow and mostly consists of scrambling up slick rock sections and around small boulder piles. There are cairns all the way to the summit. Just below the actual summit, there are 2 sections that will most likely require all four limbs to get up and over.
There are 3 survey disks embedded into the rocks on the summit, dating back to 1910 – see if you can find all of them. The view from the top of Superstition Peak 5057 is just downright awesome. The entire ridgeline is stretched out before you leading your eye all the way to the tip of Flatiron. You get a very interesting side view of Weavers Needle, where you can see that it is actually 2 peaks and not 1.
Hopefully you have some cold refreshments waiting back at the car – you will have earned it!
There are a couple of spots along the trail that will make for a killer campsite – and others have definitely used them for that purpose. Breaking this hike up and maybe adding one of the side trails in would make for a great weekend getaway.
See this adventure on The Outbound Collective