logo Arizona Trailblazers
Outdoor Links
Hike Arizona
Trip Planning Guide
Trip Report Index
Calendar of Events
Hieroglyphic/Lost Goldmine
Superstition Mountains
January 16, 2020
by Chuck Parsons
Dave’s    GPS Map 
Dave’s Elevation
Tom’s GPS Map
15 Arizona Trailblazers with boots on the ground. [photo by Quy]
front:  Quy, Randall, Lin, Cindy, Li, Ted, Tom
back: Lance, Kim, Kelley, Dave, Michael, Chuck, Tish, John

On arriving at the Cloudview Trailhead’s expanded parking lot at 8:00 AM, we’re surprised to find almost every one of the 50+ parking spaces already occupied. Dave and I pull into one of the last spaces on the far end. Several Trailblazers arriving a little after 8:00 can’t even find a single space available, so we’re forced to park two vehicles in several parking spaces to accommodate all 15 of our hikers.

The lesson learned here is to either plan on doing this hike on a less-crowded weekday or plan on arriving no later than 7:00 AM on the weekend.

Sunrise from the Cloudview parking lot. [photo by Ted]
The soft glow of early morning light paints the Superstitions. [photo by Ted]
Kim is thinking “Let’s get this show on the road!” [photo by Lin]
Getting into position for the group picture. [photo by Lin]

It’s 8:30 AM under partly cloudy skies and 58 degrees on a cool morning in mid-January, as 15 Arizona Trailblazers set out from the Cloudview Trailhead on the south side of the Superstition Mountains, bound for Hieroglyphic Springs 1.5 miles up the trail.

Trailblazers strike out on the Hieroglyphic Trail. [photo by Ted]
Who is this spooky character? [photo by Quy]
Tish makes her way up the trail. [photo by Quy]
Trailblazers gather at the Hieroglyphic/Lost Goldmine trail junction. [photo by Lin]
Making our way up the Hieroglyphic Trail. [photo by Quy]

Up is the definitive word for today, since the rough and rocky Hieroglyphic Trail involves a lot more up than down. Located on the far southwest corner of the Superstitions Wilderness, east of the Gold Canyon area, this is one busy trail today that will get even busier as the day wears on.

The morning sky dominates this scene over the Superstitions. [photo by Lin]
Another dramatic sky over the Sonoran Desert. [photo by Lin]
Ted is on the move this morning, bound for the springs. [photo by Quy]
Trailblazers continue making progress on the Hieroglyphic Trail. [photo by John]
Discussing the next move on the trail. [photo by Lin]
We carefully pick our way thru this stretch of trail.
[photo by Lin]
Kim and Dave reach a high point on the trail
[photo by Lin]
The going gets a bit rougher now. [photo by Lin]

After nearly 1.5 miles of rough trail and about 600 feet of elevation gain, we finally reach a series of large boulders that we carefully navigate up, over, or around to reach the springs. Unfortunately though, due to Arizona’s prolonged drought and very little rainfall last year, about the only water we see today is a small pool of fetid and algae-choked green water. If one was desperate enough to pump this water through a filter for safe drinking, the filter element would likely clog up completely in a matter of seconds.

In wetter years we’ve seen waterfalls and numerous pools of crystal clear water throughout the springs area. But not today.

Hieroglyphs or petroglyphs? Hieroglyphs are normally associated with the more complex drawings found in the tombs of ancient Egypt, while the term petroglyphs is commonly used to describe the rock art drawings left behind by native Americans of the Southwest, such as those found in this area. Even today there seems to be a certain amount of disagreement among experts, regarding the drawings in the Hieroglyphic Springs area. Some regard these drawings left behind by the Hohokam, who resided in the Sonoran Desert from about 300 BC to 1450 AD before mysteriously vanishing, as hieroglyphs, while others define them as petroglyphs. I guess we can just decide for ourselves. You say “tomato” and I say “tamato.”

One small pool of water where dozens are normally found. [photo by Li]
Anyone care for a drink of slimy green water? [photo by Lance]
What are you doing way over there, Lance?
[photo by Quy]
Petroglyph #1.
[photo by Lance]
Petroglyph #2. [photo by Lance]
Petroglyph #3. [photo by Lance]
Petroglyph #4. [photo by Lance]
Petroglyph #5. [photo by Lance]
Scout’s Honor, guys! [photo by Li]
14 Trailblazers at Hieroglyphic Springs (Ted is on his way). [photo by Quy]
Dave, Kim, Lance, Cindy, Tish, Kelley, Tom, John, Quy, Lin, Li, Randall, Michael, Chuck
Last look at Hieroglyphic Canyon & Springs. [photo by John]

After about a 30 minute break exploring Hieroglyphic Canyon, taking numerous pictures, and searching in vain for springs and pools of fresh water, we decide to head back down the trail toward the junction with the Lost Goldmine Trail.

Li and Kelley. [photo by Li]
Kim [photo by Li]
John [photo by Li]
Michael [photo by Li]
Kelley [photo by Li]
Cindy [photo by Li]
Tom [photo by Li]
Randall [photo by Li]
Dave [photo by Quy]
Li [photo by Li]
Lin [photo by Li]
Tom [photo by Li]

The long haul group of super hikers, led by Michael, poses for one last picture before heading out first on what would be a grueling 15.8 mile hike. They will be doing a full round-trip trek on the Lost Goldmine Trail, while the rest of us will only be going out to the Turks Cap area, for a total of 8+ miles for the day.

Long haul super hikers. [photo by Lin]
Michael, Randall, Kelley, Cindy, Tom, Li

So we all head back down the Hieroglyphic Trail in two separate waves of hikers. The Super Hikers Six get a ten minute head start, and we won’t see them for the rest of the day. With seasoned hike leader Michael in charge of the group, though, I know he’ll get them all safely back to the trailhead. Later in the day I get a text message from him confirming that.

The Super Hikers Six starts back down the Hieroglyphic Trail. [photo by Quy]
While the rest of us do the same. [photo by Quy]

We all make good time reaching the Lost Goldmine Trail junction and take a short rest break there before heading east on the Lost Goldmine Trail. Our goal today is Turk’s Head, aka Turk’s Cap, a prominent landmark on the south side of the Superstition Range.

Early morning colors still highlight the Superstitions. [photo by John]
Teddy bear chollas dominate the foreground in this picture. [photo by Chuck]
While chain fruit chollas accent the foreground in this shot. [photo by Lance]
Trailblazers hiking the Lost Goldmine Trail. [photo by John]
What do you suppose this is, Dave? [photo by John]
A tree growing right out of a saguaro?  No, it’s a branch right next to a saguaro.  [photo by Lin]
This saguaro arm perfectly frames another saguaro. [photo by Quy]
Fred Fungus met Alice Algae, and they took an immediate likin’ to one another. [photo by Ted]

With the cloud cover breaking up, it begins to warm up as everyone gets down to a single layer.

One of many great views along the Lost Goldmine Trail. [photo by Chuck]
Trailblazers continue making their way along the Lost Goldmine. [photo by Quy]
Gathering for a rest break and discussion. [photo by Quy]
Meanwhile, the long haulers are doing the same farther up the trail. [photo by Li]
Hear the words of the prophet, cast in stone.
[photo by Li]
Still standing tall, this giant saguaro is in
its final death throes [photo by Lin]

The six-mile stretch of the Lost Goldmine Trail between the Cloudview Trailhead and the Lost Goldmine Trailhead, just to the west of Peralta Road, is a great introduction to the Superstition Mountains for new hikers to the area, as well as a terrific all-around hike for all hikers, showcasing some of the most pristine desert and spectacular scenery in the Superstition Mountains, as it meanders along the base and southern face of the Superstitions and the Superstition Wilderness.

The Lost Goldmine Trail was completed in January, 2002, both to ensure continued public access to the area and to preserve and honor the legend and lore of Jacob Waltz and the Lost Dutchman Goldmine.

We’re slowly closing in on the Wedding Cake. [photo by Quy]
Four eyes are better than one. [photo by Chuck]
The Nose. [photo by John]
Turk’s Cap Hill. [photo by Lance]
Teddy Bear cholla.  It may look cute and cuddly, but this bad boy packs a sting!  [photo by Chuck]

It’s almost noon by the time we finally stop for a lunch break in the shade of a few paloverde trees along the trail. Under full sun now, it’s definitely starting to feel warmer. We still haven’t found the Turk’s Cap formation, but I think we’re getting close by now.

After lunch, I suggest that we go at least another quarter-mile. After we go the extra distance, Lance pulls out his GPS and determines that we’re standing just below the formation. It’s not exactly what I remember from previous hikes, but apparently this is it. The real Turk’s Cap, aka Turk’s Head.

So we take a few more pictures, then turn around and start hiking back to the Lost Goldmine junction and Cloudview Trailhead. Thankfully, a cooling breeze begins to kick in and stays with us for most of the return hike. But before the hike is over, John describes the experience as “a three pickle juice shot hike.” I would describe it as maybe a one pickle juice shot hike, but then John is more sensitive to the heat than I am.

The Super Hikers Six at the Lost Goldmine Trailhead. [photo by Li]
Michael, Tom, Li, Randall, Kelley, Cindy

While still on the trail, I receive a call from Ted, informing me that he has just arrived back at the trailhead and will be heading back home. The time is 1:30 by the time we short haul hikers arrive back at the still almost-full trailhead parking lot.

Later in the day I receive a brief text message from Michael telling me that his group arrived at the trailhead at 4:50. Thus ends another perfect day hiking the trails of Arizona.

From Dave French: Stats are 8.2 miles, +-1240' elevation gain, 5:03 hours, 2080'-2677' elevation range.

→   More pictures, by Lin
→   More pictures, by Quy
→   More pictures, by John
→   More pictures, by Lance
→   More pictures, by Li

Supplemental Report
by Ted Tenny
  GPS Map 

I first hiked to Hieroglyphic Canyon with my wife Jacque on January 11, 1995, sponsored by Mesa Parks and Recreation. At the time I noticed the trail was rocky in its upper reaches. But I’d forgotten that detail.

Today I made it to the boulders overlooking the petroglyphs. I was so slow that I hiked by myself most of the time. I met the other Trailblazers on their way down. “Don’t wait for me,” I admonished.

But you’re never alone when you hike on popular trails. Almost at the end I met an older lady. “Having made it to 75, I’ve officially outlived both of my parents,” I told her. “My mother lived to be 70 and my father lived to be 65.”

“I’m 78,” she said, “and my husband is 80. I don’t think we’re going all the way to the top.” Sure enough they didn’t, and passed me again on their way down.

Got to Cloudview Trailhead in time to see and photograph a colorful sunrise. I was carrying my Canon G15 camera, just in case.

Hieroglyphic Canyon is one of four canyons on the west side of the Superstition Mountains. The others are Hog Canyon, Monument Canyon, and Siphon Draw. “Hieroglyphic Canyon” is a misnomer. Hieroglyphics was a written language of ancient Egypt. The designs on the canyon walls are petroglyphs.

“Now let me tell you:” [photo by Ted]
Flatiron, Castle, and Peak 5024. [photo by Ted]
The artist was talented. [photo by Ted]
Silly Mountain.  Trix are for kids.  [photo by Ted]
Wedding Cake and Turk’s Cap Hill, from the Hieroglyphic Trail. [photo by Ted]

Supplemental Report
by Tom Simonick

Having completed the Hieroglyphics Canyon hike, six of us turned east on the Lost Goldmine Trail. It is about 6.5 miles from the Hieroglyphic-Goldmine junction to the Lost Goldmine Trailhead on Peralta Road. The trail is relatively flat except for crossing washes, but is nice open desert hiking.

We passed the Turk’s Head, a rocky outcropping, and through a nice cholla forest east of Turk’s Head. Unlike the busy Hieroglyphic Trail, the Lost Goldmine Trail had fewer hikers until we reached the junction with the Wave Cave Trail.

We reached the trailhead after about three hours of hiking. After a rest, we turned around and headed west back to Cloudview Trailhead, reaching it after another three hours of hiking.

Total mileage 15.8 miles, or 12.8 miles for just the Lost Goldmine Trail. Total hiking time 7.5 hours, or about 6 hours for the Goldmine hike. Elevation change 600 feet for the entire hike, or 300 feet on the Lost Goldmine Trail. Accumulated elevation change for the entire hike 2100 feet, or Goldmine hike 1500 feet. It was a fun day of hiking and the weather was perfect.

      top Top of Page
Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
Comments? Send them to the AZHC .

updated January 22, 2020