In January this year, my wife and I visited the area to decide if we wanted to relocate to the Copper Corridor to take the job as editor of the Arizona Silver Belt.
Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was to check out the desert trails in the Superstition Mountains, one of my favorite places on earth. Although I was fine with scrambling over rocks on barely marked trails to high elevations, I thought it would be a good idea to find something a little less daunting so as not to put my wife off to the outdoor Arizona experience.
My search finally led me to the Hieroglyphic Trail in Gold Canyon, a 1.5-mile trail that winds gently through a classic Sonoran Desert canyon to a place with seasonal pools and carvings on the rocks that go back to a civilization that existed as much as 1,500 years ago.
This was a special place to the ancient Hohokam and it remains a special place to this day for modern-day desert explorers.
The Hieroglyphic Trail is one of the shortest and most popular hikes in the area around the Superstition Mountains. The trailhead is at the southern end of the range, beginning at the large parking lot at the east end of Cloudview Avenue in Gold Canyon.
The drive from the Superstition Freeway is tricky, with about a half dozen turns, but there are signs posted along the way to guide the vigilant hiker to the northwestern corner of the remote, suburban residential neighborhood.
Although there is ample parking, the lot fills up fast on the weekends, so an early start can make it
The Hieroglyphic Trail is one of the shortest and most popular hikes in the area around the Superstition Mountains.
easier to find parking and the trail will not be as crowded. The entry has a series of gates and a short way in, there is a junction with the Lost Goldmine Trail, a 9-mile, multi-use path that heads east to Peralta Road.
Unlike many trails in the Superstitions, this short trail has a modest elevation gain of 650 feet, up a gentle slope winding through a cactus filled canyon that becomes more rugged as it makes its way north to a rocky landscape and the petroglyphs themselves.
Along the way, desert lovers will be treated to forests of saguaros and other Sonoran Desert natives, such as teddy bear cholla, prickly pear, barrel cactus and non-native flora as well.
The basalt cliffs above the pools offer a beautiful panoramic view of Gold Canyon and the Gila River plain to the southwest, as well as the majestic outcroppings and jagged slopes of the Superstition Mountains, rising up 2,000 feet above to the northeast.
The trail ends beneath a small cliff overlooking smooth volcanic rocks around the streambed, which holds water well into summer, although they can be murky and filled with algae during the summer.
The steep slopes above are dotted with barrel cactus and saguaro and the petroglyphs are found mostly on the far side of the stream.
The rock carvings are somewhat faded after being exposed to centuries of harsh desert weather but are still quite impressive considering when they were created.
Beyond the official trail, the canyon gains height more sharply and becomes overgrown, though the canyon can be followed all the way to the Superstition Mountain ridgeline at about 4,600 feet.