Hike up a rugged desert canyon to a stunning viewpoint of the Superstition Wilderness’s most legendary location
Distance: 4.5 miles round trip to Freemont Saddle; 5.75 miles round trip to Weaver’s Needle Overlook
Type: out and back
Difficulty: moderately difficult with 1,400′ elevation gain
Best season: fall, winter, and spring
Prior to starting Evans Outdoor Adventures in 2015, we visited some incredible sites across the American West. As time permits, I’m going back into our photo vault to share some of those memorable adventures with you. For today’s flashback, I’ll be sharing our March 2012 hike along the Peralta Trail in the Superstition Wilderness east of Phoenix Arizona.
The United States Congress designated the Superstition Wilderness in 1964 and it now has a total of 160,236 acres. The wilderness is located in central Arizona and is managed by the Tonto National Forest. Many trails traverse the Superstitions and terrain is primarily Sonoran Desert. The Peralta Trail to Weaver’s Needle, a dramatic volcanic plug, is by far the most popular. If you are looking for stunning desert terrain, Peralta is for you. If you are looking for a true wilderness experience with solitude, I’d recommend finding another trail.
The Superstitions are known for the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Mine. According to the legend, a German immigrant named Jacob Waltz discovered gold in the Superstition Wilderness and revealed its location on his deathbed in Phoenix in 1891 to Julia Thomas, a boarding-house owner who had taken care of him for many years. Several mines have been claimed to be the actual mine that Waltz discovered, but none of those claims have been verified.
The Peralta Trail is the most popular hike in the Superstition Wilderness due to its spectacular scenery and close proximity to Phoenix. A 2.25 gradual ascent takes you up the canyon to Freemont Saddle with a panoramic view of 1,000 foot tall Weaver’s Needle formation and the Superstition Wilderness beyond. For those willing to add a little distance to the hike, I highly recommend adding the side trail out to Weaver’s Needle Overlook. Along the way, hikers enjoy spectacular rock formations and towering saguaro cacti. Weaver’s Needle is rumored to contain rich deposits of gold and is possibly the hiding place for gold artifacts from the Spanish occupation of the area in the 1700s.
We hiked Peralta Canyon in 2012 on our 20th wedding anniversary. It was a beautiful late March day with gorgeous blue skies and temperatures in the upper 60s. We hiked up to Freemont Saddle and then continued on to Weaver’s Needle Overlook which offers the most spectacular view of the massive volcanic plug. Our hike covered 5.75 miles round trip with 1,400′ elevation gain. We encountered many hikers between the trailhead and saddle, but none on the side trail to the overlook. It seems most people are satisfied with the view from the saddle. If you want a little alone time, I highly recommend the short trip out to the overlook.
Directions to trailhead: from Mesa, Arizona, take US-60 southeast to Gold Canyon. Just south of town, turn left onto E Peralta Rd and continue 7.6 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road.