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Day Hiking in the Superstition Mountains (Phoenix Area)

Easy Scenic Hike Along the Hieroglyphic Canyon Trail

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Hieroglyphic Trail - Superstition Mountains

Hohokam Grinding Mortars with a View - Hieroglyphic Trail

Copyright: Elizabeth R. Mitchell
Updated May 16, 2014
Hieroglyphic Canyon Trail

One crisp winter day we headed east from Phoenix to the beautiful Superstition Mountains. Leaving the freeway we wound our way through beautiful home sites to the Lost Gold Mine Trail trailhead. While the kids in our group hoped to find a real lost gold stash, we were a bit more realistic and looked forward to the views and the sight of springs where ancient Hohokam Indians left evidence of their lives many years ago.

The Hieroglyphic Trail is located on the southwest corner of the Superstition Wilderness Area. You will begin the hike at the Lost Gold Mine Trail sign and head straight up (but not too difficult a climb – maybe 500-600 feet) into a canyon. A couple hundred feet up the trail you will see a well-marked intersection with the Hieroglyphic Trail clearly marked. As you hike up this trail, take a moment to enjoy the mountains, the stately Saguaro cacti and look back down into the valley. As you near Hieroglyphic Spring, the trail will begin to look like a dry creek bed with larger rocks.

Your destination is the spring and the clear water pools in the rocks. In winter there is usually water. Look across the pools toward the rock walls and you will see some fantastic petroglyphs. The ancient Hohokam carved images of men, antelope and snakes into the wall. You can hike around the spring to the petroglyphs but please don’t touch them.

Also in the area is a rock shelter used by the Hohokam and a fantastic large rock where mortar holes tell the story of years of grinding grain. We took a moment and could imagine the women grinding grain, sharing stories and looking out over the vastness of the valley.

Caution

Don’t go hiking in the Superstitions when it’s threatening to rain. This trail can turn into a torrent of water. Storms can bring deadly lightning.

Directions

From Phoenix: To reach the Hieroglyphic Canyon Trailhead, take U.S. 60 to Kings Ranch Road, between mile markers 202 and 203, and turn north. Proceed 2.8 miles, then turn east on Baseline Road. Go 0.2 mile and turn north on Mohican Road. Follow signs to “Parks.” As you reach a T in the road, turn right to the Lost Gold Mine Trail Parking Lot.

Recommendations

  • Take a lunch in your backpack. There are rocks at Hieroglyphic Springs where you can sit and bask in the sun on a winter day while enjoying the view.
  • Wear light hiking boots, a hat, carry water and a hiking stick.
  • It’s an easy 2 mile out and back trail but you will want to take time to explore the remnants of Hohokam culture and marvel at the views. I’d allow an hour or more to enjoy this hike.
  • Need a Port-a-potty? There was one at the trailhead when we went there.
  • This is a good trail to show your visitors, especially if you are coming from the east side of the Phoenix area. They will get marvelous views, see cacti and enjoy evidence of ancient desert cultures. While there is a bit of a climb, your flatlander friends and relatives will be able to handle it.
  • Best seasons: Spring, Fall and Winter. I’d love to return and see the wildflowers in this area.

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