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Superstitions Trip Report – 3 days/2 nights

By Chef Corso

Dutchman Trail – Canyon Lake Marina – Through hike – 21 miles total 

I’m from the Pacific Northwest.  Like many of you folks out there living in the north, hikes with camping usually stop altogether sometime in November.  We patiently wait for the snow to start to fall so we can get back outside on the slopes. So this trip was a treat.  

Camping outside in early December in 65-70 degree sunny days with limited chance of rain.  Can’t wait!

For this trip, I was lucky enough to get a spot with REI Adventures.  There is a time and a place for every style of outdoor trip. There’s a time to bush wack your own trail solo, have a family trip to a National Park,  and there is a time to trust a group of experienced guides in an area you aren’t too familiar. I have been working so much on other projects I wanted to just get outside and not have to worry about much.  Just my pack and my clothes and get out there.

The Superstition Wilderness was extremely new to me.  Honestly, I didn’t even know this pocket NE of Phoenix/Scottsdale existed until a few weeks prior to booking.  I thought, “what the heck…let’s go have an adventure in a new part of the world”.

The Superstitions are a group of mid-level peaks, (ranging from 1,000 ft to 4,000 ft) spires, buttes, canyons and valleys, and are named as such because of the rich history of potential gold by multiple generations and native Americans view of the area as a special sacred place. The hiking can be moderately strenuous to easy breezy depending on your route. This area can be absolutely brutal in the hotter months and many people have gotten lost even with defined trails as rainy washes make the route a little sketchy.  It’s also a popular day hiker area with multiple easy access points.

Find out more history of the area here

Two main things to remember about this area are WATER and SAFETY.

It is a dessert after all.  Where is our water and do we need to pack it in?

In the weeks prior to my trip, the Phoenix area had a few storms roll through which swelled the rivers on our route to a fantastic level.  Plenty of clean water to filter. In lower water seasons, there are springs available along this route, but sometimes have to be pre-filtered to remove sand and particulate prior to final filtering.

Safety-  again this is the dessert and there are things that want to hurt you.  Main animals to worry about are snakes and tarantulas. For snakes, with the overall cool temperature we weren’t running too much risk of encountering them.  Tarantulas are still active this time of year and we encountered a few, but gave them their space and we were just fine. Check your boots before putting them on! 

Cacti-  The cacti were old and beautiful on the trek but man, they really want to mess you up.  Saguaros, Barrel, Choyas, other thorned bushes. These all are no joke and need to be respected.  Hike in thick pants and be mindful of any off trail hiking as they are bound to get you in some fashion.  Remember to pack a pair of fine tip tweezers or it could make for an uncomfortable couple of days.

DAY 1 – Dutchman Trailhead – Charlebois Canyon – 7 miles /  Elevation gain: 600 ft

Water Situation: Packed in 3 Liters.  Was plenty to get through the day until filtering at our campsite.  Check before you go.

Started at the Dutchman trail head.  Elevation gain of 500 feet then a nice rolling day through some valleys surrounded by delightful buttes and ridges. 

Camped at Charlebois Canyon. This campsite has multiple little pockets of flat ground sand, fire pit and access to the river close by.

Dinner was a Quinoa Chicken curry pot that was solid after a long day.  Really nice first day in the desert and great to get the legs movin.

DAY 2 – Charlebois Canyon – Second Water Trail Campsite

6 miles / Elevation: couple hundred feet.  Mostly slow down

Water Situation:  Pumped and packed 2 Liters in AM.  Filtered at lunch at a river along the way.  Plenty of water to pump at our campsite. Check before you go.

We rose to some clear skies, sun waking up the valley floor and skirting down the ridgeline.

Breakfast: pancakes and sausage.  

With a group, you can’t be in a hurry.  And you need to be patient if you are one to rush around and crush miles.  We had a leisurely morning of eating and packing up and we were on our way.  

We hugged a river with multiple shallow river crossings.  Good practice of route finding and balance through slick rock crossings.  But the amazing surprise was a few pockets of deciduous trees hugging the fresh water and providing a late fall splash of yellow against the greens of the cacti and lichen and the red tint of the rock.  There was even an 1/8 of a mile pocket that was completely in trees which was like a warp to hiking in the Adirondacks or Up State NY.

We stopped for lunch in this area with the sun shining and the river rushing.  Delightful break.

Lunch: Plowman’s lunch: meat, cheese, bread.  Veggies and instant hummus

The end of the day provided a little up climb up 250 feet or so then opening to a new Canyon: Boulder Canyon.  We descended quickly then hugged the river for about 1/2 mile to our campsite.  

Dinner: Pasta primavera, garlic bread around a fire

DAY 3– Second water campsite- Canyon Lake Marina

4 miles / Elevation 500 ft up then 750 feet down to the marina.

Water Situation: Pumped and packed 2 Liters in the AM.  Short day ahead with back to civilization.  

Just as we all crashed for the night, it began to rain.  And it rained steadily for multiple chunks throughout the night.  Always good to have a reliable tent, rain fly, and waterproof rain jacket.  These helped greatly for us and items didn’t get drenched. It broke long enough in the morning for a dry pack up and breakfast.

Breakfast: Steel cut oats, dried fruit.  Bacon

Then, it dumped pouring rain.  This was our last day so we all just accepted that we would be wet but I know all of us deep down were hoping that it wouldn’t rain all day.  Lucky for us, it was just about 30 min of rain, and dry the rest of the day.  

This day of hiking was breezy.  We did have to hike out of Boulder Canyon, but for any experienced hiker, this part was relatively quick and quite lush as you look back at the canyon.  We topped out with a view of our final destination Canyon Lake Marina and began our easy decent to the parking lot. 

We finished right around lunch time and the guides whipped up a nice trailgate spread of Mexican Chicken Salad Wraps from the van/rig that was transported from our starting location by the staff to our ending point.

We were really lucky to have such a lush, alive dessert and back drop for this trip.  It is pretty any time of year but we were able to have more green in our view. This was a fantastic trip and just what I needed to get back outside, get moving and see a new pocket which a great group of folks.  Highly recommend it if you head down to this area as it’s really approachable and has multiple easy access points for day hiking and multiple day trips.

Cheers to REI Adventures and their professional, knowledgeable and friendly guides.  Highly recommend them for trips if you are looking for a guided group experience.  


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Categorized in: Journal, Trip Reports