Hiking the Superstition Mountains – Desert Backpacking in Arizona

Join Sara & I for 3 days of desert hiking, backpacking & camping in the Superstition Mountains. And who knows – maybe Sara will find the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine…

For this desert backpacking trip, we’ll be hiking a loop in the Superstition Wilderness, within the greater Tonto National Forest – about 60 miles east of Phoenix, Arizona.  Not only was this a beautiful and scenic hike due to the stark desert surroundings and sharp, rugged peaks, but this particular region has added bonus – a rich history full of intrigue and lore right at home in your favorite spaghetti western flick.  Some of these tales are indisputable facts.  Others, are more debatable – the stuff of legends and mystery.  The most notable and famous of those stories being that of Jacob Waltz, or as it’s commonly referred to, the mystery of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold.

As touched on in the video, the story of the Dutchman and the lost gold mine is much to deep to give justice to in the passing of a hiking video, so for those interested, I highly recommend taking the time to check out the various iterations of the story, theories, etc.  For the sake of this post though, the basic idea goes like this – Jacob Waltz stumbled upon some gold in the Superstition Mountains.  Whether it was an actual mine, or a hidden cache that was originally mined elsewhere, depends on which version of several accounts you choose to believe.  In fact, even the fact that he came upon it accidentally is up for debate as well.  Some iterations of the tale suggest that he was given the details of the hidden mine after saving the life of a man who belonged to a wealthy Mexican mining family.  The name of that family, by the way, was Peralta – you know, like the trailhead we parked at.  But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself and going down the rabbit hole.  Hmm, maybe the gold was hidden in a burrow of sorts, and not an actual gold mine.  No wait, I’ve got to stop this.

Okay, let me try this again.  Somehow, Jacob knew where a bunch of gold was in these mountains, and he kept it a complete secret, despite rumors throughout the years that he knew about it’s location.  People would try to follow him when he went into the mountains, but he always lost them, or at the least, waved a gun at them until they left.  Finally, on his death bed in 1891, he confirmed the gold mine and gave some info on it’s whereabouts to two individuals.  Apparently, it wasn’t quite enough info, because they never found it after years of searching.  Word spread, many more people started searching, and they continue to search until this day.  People have gone missing while searching, some have even had their skull found right on one of the trails we hiked on our loop, complete with two bullet holes and their body found separately 3/4 of a mile away (his name was Adolf Ruth, and he went into the Superstitions in search of the gold back in 1931) .

So what does all this have to do with our backpacking trip?  Did we find some gold or something?  Am I devoting my life to finding the Lost Dutchman’s Mine?  Well no, but it makes hiking around out there pretty cool and Old Westy, if you ask me.  At the very least, it gives you something to ponder as you hike along the cactus covered traverses, baked incessantly by a sun they just may have glinted off of Jacob Waltz’s prize back in the 1800’s.

But anyway, back to the hike we did.  Here’s the details…

Route Overview - Superstition Mountains - Sintax77

Route Overview – Hiking the Superstition Mountains – Sintax77

Season / Time of Year
Winter – January 20th to January 23, 2016.

Elevation Range
Minimum – 2,283′
Maximum – 3,550′

Full GPS track data and waypoints are available on the Trip Data page.

Trailhead Used
Peralta Trailhead – GPS Coordinates N33° 23.858′ W111° 20.873′

Trails Used Day 1 (in order of use)
Peralta Trailhead Parking Lot,
Dutchman Trail
Set up camp in a relatively flat area along the trail, about .75 miles after crossing an intermittent stream.  This particular stream actually had a decent flow at the time, but depending on recent conditions and time of year, it may not always be that way.

Day 1 Total Mileage: 2 miles
Day 1 Total Elevation Gain: 344′

Day 1 Elevation Profile - Superstition Mountains - Sintax77

Day 1 Elevation Profile – Superstition Mountains Hike

Trails Used Day 2 (in order of use)
Continue on Dutchman Trail
Pass the intersection with Coffee Flat Trail to stay on Dutchman Trail, after which you’ll begin to rack up the bulk of your elevation gain for the day.
Leave the Dutchman Trail and head east on the Whiskey Springs Trail.
Just before the upcoming trail intersection, the trail crosses LeBarge Creek (where we stocked up on water for the rest of the day)
At the intersection, turn left to head west on the Red Tanks Trail.
Red Tanks Trail ends at the intersection with Dutchman Trail.
Turn right to head north on Dutchman Trail.
Set up camp along Dutchman Trail.

Day 2 Total Mileage: 10 miles
Day 2 Total Elevation Gain: 1,325′

Day 2 Elevation Profile - Superstition Mountains - Sintax77

Day 2 Elevation Profile – Superstition Mountains – Sintax77

Trails Used Day 3 (in order of use)
Continue on Dutchman Trail
At the intersection, continue straight (west) on Bull Pass Trail
Turn left to head south on Black Top Mesa Trail, towards the top of Black Top Mesa
Explore the mesa and hunt for the Spanish Hieroglyphs or maybe some of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold, etc.
Retrace your steps back down Black Top Mesa Trail.
At the bottom, turn right to head east on the unofficial Bull Pass Alternate Trail (not the same as the previous Bull Pass Trail).
At the intersection, turn right to head south on our recurring friend, Dutchman Trail.
At the intersection, depart the Dutchman Trail and take Terrapin Trail.
At the intersection, turn right to head south on Bluff Springs Trail.
Return to the Peralta Trailhead parking lot.

Day 3 Total Mileage: 15 miles (plus a couple miles of meandering about on Blacktop Mesa)
Day 3 Total Elevation Gain: 2,933 feet

Day 1 Elevation Profile - Superstition Mountains - Sintax77

Day 1 Elevation Profile – Superstition Mountains – Sintax77

Trip Grand Total Mileage: 27 Miles
Trip Grand Total Elevation Gain: 4,662′

Notable Gear Used on this Trip
Nemo Losi 3p Tent
Sara’s backack – ULA Ohm 2.0
Sintax77’s backpack – EMS Longtrail 70 and a Ribz Front Pack
Generic canister stove
Vargo 450ml titanium cups
Toaks 750ml titanium cook pot
Sea to Summit Alpha Light spoons (long version)
Plenty of various sized Platypus Bags for water storage.
Fozzils Bowlz for eating our chili and queso appetizer
Packit Gourmet dehydrated meals
Sara’s sleeping pad – Big Agnes Q-Core SL
Sintax77’s sleeping pads – Thermarest Z-Lite on top of a Klymit Inertia X-Frame
Hammock Gear Burrow top quilts
Montbell UL Down Parkas
Superstition Wilderness Topo Trail Map
USB battery charger / lantern
Sawyer Squeeze water filter configured in a gravity setup

Highly recommended book for hikes in this area:
Hiker’s Guide to the Superstition Wilderness‘ by Jack Carlson and Elizabeth Stewart
This book appears to be out of print, but I managed to get a used copy and love it.  It has detailed descriptions of all the trails, with some cool related history mixed in.  It also contains plenty of solid maps and a bunch of suggested hikes.

Camping the Dolly Sods Wilderness – Fall Backpacking in West Virginia

3 Days of Fall Camping, Hiking and Backpacking in Dolly Sods, West Virginia. 

For this adventure, we’ll be exploring a very unique area of West Virginia – the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.  Being a high altitude plateau sitting at around 4,000 feet (the highest plateau east of the Mississippi river), the Sods offer a stark contrast to the surrounding West Virginian ecosystem. In fact, you may feel more like you’re in Canada than West Virginia.

For an overview and listing of my gear check out my previous Gear List Video, or visit my Gear List Page.

Accompanied by my wife and our two close friends, this was a 3 day, 2 night backpacking adventure. Each day’s track data was recorded to individual GPX data files, available for download on the Trip Data Page for those interested.

Parking: Bear Rocks Trailhead at 39.06352, -79.30326

Trails Used in Order:

Day One (11.5 Miles):

Bear Rocks Trail 522
Raven Ridge Trail 521
Rocky Ridge Trail 524
Blackbird Knob Trail 553 (only for a very short segment)
Big Stone Coal Trail 513
Setup Camp a bit before Little Stone Coal Trail

Day 2 (9.5 Miles):

Dunkenbarger Trail 558
Little Stone Coal Trail 552
Red Creek Trail 514
(Out-n-back excursion on Breathed Mountain Trail 553)
Setup camp along Red Creek Trail between Breathed Mt and Blackbird Knob

Day 3 (6 Miles):

Red Creek Trail 514
Blackbird Knob Trail 511
Upper Red Creek Trail 509
Dobbin Grade Trail 526 – Prepare for mud and thigh-deep sinkholes!
Return to car via Bear Rocks Trail 522

Feedback! White Mountains Backpacking Trip Ideas – 2 Nights & 3 Days of Hiking

Planning for a hiking & backpacking trip to the White Mountains National Forest, in New Hampshire.

My plan is to do a 3 day, 2 night Summer loop hike somewhere in the White Mountain National Forest, hiking around 10 – 15 miles per day, depending on trail conditions and possible camping spots.

I’m looking for feedback and ideas if you’ve got ’em!

Hiking the Great Smoky Mountains – Backpacking Trip – 3 Days

Join me for a 3 day, 57 mile backpacking loop through the Smokies.

Trailhead: Lakeview Drive,  +35° 27′ 26.32″, -83° 31′ 35.75″

Trails Used, in order:

Day 1  (20.5 miles)
Begin at Lakeview Tunnel at the end of the “Road to Nowhere”
Benton MacKaye Trail / Lakeshore Trail
Bear Creek Trail
Welch Ridge Trail
High Rocks Vista – Great views of Fontana Lake!
Cold Spring Gap Trail
Hazel Creek Trail
End at Backcountry Campsite 82

Day 2  (24.5 Miles)
Hazel Creek Trail
Lakeshore Trail / Benton MacKaye Trail
End at Backcountry Campsite 76

Day 3  (12 Miles)
Lake Shore Trail / Benton MacKaye Trail
End at Lakeview Drive (Road to Nowhere) Trailhead and the Car!

Downloadable GPS Data

Season: Early Summer (First week of June)

Detailed Gear List to follow in separate video,
but here’s the major items:

Osprey Hornet 46 Backpack
Hennessey Hammock – Expedition A-Sym
Sea to Summit Toaster – Fleece Sleeping Bag Liner (used as primary bag)
Klymit Inertia X-Frame Sleeping Pad

11 pounds Base Weight + extra filming gear and electronics that the average person probably won’t need.  I was actually carrying closer to 13 lbs while filming.  See the full Ultralight Gear List Video for a detailed look at the 11 pound system, plus tips for going sub-10-pounds if desired.

Link to official trail map from National Parks Service, as seen in video: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/upload/GSMNP-Map_JUNE14-complete4-2.pdf

All content, including video, music and sound effects, are original works created by myself, Sintax77.