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Peralta/East Boulder Canyon Day Hike
Superstition Wilderness
March 26, 2005
by Chuck Parsons
On a cool spring morning in late March, the hiking trio of (L to R) Brian Cross, Joe Michalides, and Chuck Parsons poses for a very small group photo in front of the Peralta Trailhead sign, with a few mysterious hoodoos of the Superstition Mountains rising sharply in the background. Veterans of the rain-soaked Wasson Peak hike on March 5th and the somewhat damp and misty Black Mesa hike two weeks later on March 19th, we are really looking forward to drier and clearer conditions on this so-far promising morning in the Superstitions. Would we be so lucky? Stay tuned for further details.

Springtime in the Superstitions! Bright yellow brittlebush, blue lupine, and scattered gold poppies line the Peralta Trail to Fremont Saddle, as weather-worn hoodoos and spires reach high into the brilliantly blue Arizona skies over the Superstition Range. Our concerns with the weather turn out to be totally unfounded on this absolutely perfect day for hiking – with the temperature holding in the mid to upper 60s and a cool, refreshing breeze blowing gently out of the west throughout the day.

Brian, Joe, Chuck at Peralta Trailhead.
Hoodoos stretching for the Arizona sky.
Weaver’s Needle from Fremont Saddle

The juxtaposition of warm sunshine and cool breezes compliment each other to perfection on this delightful March day, causing us to wonder why more hikers did not turn out to join us on such a beautiful day. What better place to be on such a day as this?

As the trail steadily gains elevation on the trek to Fremont Saddle, the views become ever more spectacular as we look back into the vast expanses of Peralta Canyon. We will climb almost 1400 feet in elevation from the trailhead, before topping out on the saddle.

The Sonoran Desert encompasses many hundreds of square miles of southern Arizona, but few places within this vast desert come close to matching the rugged beauty of the Superstition Mountains or contain the diversity of flora and fauna found within this range. With the abundant rainfall of this past winter and early spring, the desert canyons of the Superstitions are even more breathtaking than usual – with flowing streams and washes, lush green growth everywhere, saguaros swollen and fat with rainwater, and a mosaic of desert wildflowers painting the landscape in a riot of spring colors.

Brian, Joe, and Chuck stand on Fremont Saddle – at 3,766 feet, the highest point reached by trail in the western Superstitions. Weaver’s Needle, easily the most recognized landmark in the Superstition Range, looms in the background, with a peak elevation of 4,553 feet. Named after legendary mountain man, trapper, and miner, Pauline Weaver, the needle is more accurately a volcanic plug in geological terms – the hardened neck of an ancient volcano long since eroded away.

The Superstitions were literally born out of fire and brimstone, the end result of millions of years of some of the most active and violent volcanic activity seen in North America, with five massive volcanoes spewing billions of tons of hot ash and lava high into the stratosphere and then pouring it back down onto this tortured and twisted land in a hellish rain straight out of Dante’s Inferno.

Weaver’s Needle from East Boulder Canyon
The western exposure of Weaver’s Needle, as seen from Peralta Trail in East Boulder Canyon, provides a far different prospective than the one typically seen from Fremont Saddle.

The Peralta Trail to Fremont Saddle is unquestionably the most heavily used trail in the Superstition Wilderness.

On most weekends, particularly during the busy spring months, there is a steady stream of hikers trekking to the saddle and back, often to the extent of ruining the wilderness experience and reminding one more of the busy trails to the top of Piestewa Peak or Camelback Mountain.

View of Peralta Canyon from the upper trail.
Surprisingly, very few people venture beyond Fremont Saddle, using it instead as a rest stop and turn-around point, and much of the trail to the base of the needle and beyond is wide open and virtually devoid of human traffic. Here, in the quiet solitude of East Boulder Canyon and far from the maddening crowds, the hiker can get a real taste of the Superstition Wilderness, as a true wilderness experience is meant to be.
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated October 22, 2017