Distance 11.5 miles Gain 4,480 feet Difficulty 7
Why it’s grand Sweet: the journey up and over the volcanic Superstition Mountains (which rise almost 3,000 feet above the Sonoran Desert). Sweeter: This urban wilderness is just 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix. The sunsets and sunrises are a treat; bring water to camp on top.
Do it Start at the Siphon Draw trailhead at Lost Dutchman State Park. Hike up Siphon Draw, through a broad rock bowl that forms a dry waterfall, onto the 4,700-foot spine of the volcanic mountain chain. Follow the cairns across the yucca- and prickly pear-strewn ridge to the summit of 5,057-foot Superstition Mountain. Descend to the saddle at the head of West Boulder Canyon, then trek cross-country northeast to Fremont Saddle (mile 9) to a view of the tooth-shaped Weaver’s Needle butte (according to local legend, a rich gold vein lies somewhere in its shadow). From Fremont Saddle, pick up the Peralta Trail downhill back to your shuttle car at the Peralta trailhead. Avoid this route in summer; it’s sweltering.
The Pima Indians believed these peaks were guarded by an evil spirit. Their misgivings gave the range its name. painted desert: yellow brittlebrush blooms in early spring below the superstitions.
Contact (480) 610-3300; fs.usda.gov/tonto
Guidebook Hiking Arizona’s Superstition and Mazatzal Country by Bruce Grubbs ($15; falcon.com)
Season October to April