Backpack the Superstition Wilderness to White Rock Springs Camp

First Water Trailhead , Apache Junction, Arizona, United States

  • Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Spring, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    23 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    3000 Feet

Easy Parking

Experience a variety of the incredible environments in the Superstition Wilderness while enjoying a backcountry base camp near White Rock Springs. Stargaze at night and walk among the beautiful saguaro giants during the day. If you're lucky, a gila monster may even cross your path!

The Superstition Wilderness is a stunning 160,200 acre area outside Apache Junction, AZ, with over 170 miles of (variously maintained) trail networks. There are any number of trips you can design to fit your time and skill level. This adventure offers a three day/ two night backpacking trip covering 23 miles with a base camp near White Rock Springs. Before you go in make sure you've called the Tonto National Forest Mesa Ranger District to request an up-to-date backcountry water report (and read up about what to do if you have a nasty teddy bear or jumping cholla encounter!).

Day 1 (6.9 miles):
Head out from the First Water TH and be sure to register on your way in. After a quick 0.3 miles you'll reach your first junction - keep to the left to follow the Second Water trail #236. The trail will climb gradually and give you great views of the area. Just over a mile on, the trail will flatten out and widen considerably. At 1.5 miles you'll reach your second junction with the Black Mesa Trail #241. Take a right here and hike through an awesome saguaro-packed area that cuts across the side of Black Mesa. This 3 mile section heads southwest in its entirety, opening up to views of Weaver's Needle as you go along. The trail will descend its last mile before meeting your next junction at Dutchman's Trail #104. Take a left here and enjoy this brief section of flat and rock-free trail before quickly meeting up with the Bull Pass trail #129 0.2 miles ahead on your left. This pass links Boulder Basin with LaBarge Canyon and cuts due west as a shortcut to the down-and-around route that the Dutchman's Trail offers around Black Top Mesa. Your climb starts quickly here, bringing you ever closer to the mesa and ever-expanding your views of the surrounding area. This section is steep, loose, and rocky in many places, so good footwear and poles are essential. Take a breather from the top of the pass before descending on the other side - depending on the time of year, you may cross several streams throughout this section. This is also an area thick with teddy bear cholla and jumping cholla, so be extra vigilant about where you're stepping. You'll meet up with the Dutchman's Trail again after 1.5 miles in a place where you can either take it to the right or straight ahead - stay straight! The trail will go through another descent before meeting up with the Calvary Trail 0.4 miles on. Follow the Calvary Trail up to the left to reach White Rock Springs itself or continue to the right on the Dutchman's Trail to find a number of excellent backcountry sites just past the junction. Set up camp here and find your closest water source. Most backcountry sites have established fire rings although campfires are discouraged. If you must have one, be sure that there are no campfire bans in effect and only utilize the existing fire rings.

Day 2 (10 miles):
Leave your camp behind and enjoy a day of exploring without the weight. This loop can be done in a counterclockwise or clockwise fashion, though keep in mind that counterclockwise will be helpful if you need to utilize the reliable water source at Charlebois Springs, as that will only have you carrying extra water during the last mile of your trip rather than all day (there are no comparable water sources nearby going the other direction). From camp, head back the way you came on Dutchman's Trail, past the Calvary Trail and Bull Pass junctions, staying on Dutchman's at each. The trail will cut through several areas thick with shrubs and acacias, so expect some scratches by the time you're out. After 1.2 miles (or perhaps a little more, depending on where you set up camp) you'll reach the Terrapin Trail junction on your left - take this and begin to quickly climb higher and higher with ever more remarkable views. From here the trail descends slowly on the other side, following the eastern flank of Weaver's Needle before opening up into an incredible rocky area at Bluff Saddle. This is a great spot to stop for lunch! Continuing on, the trail will descend a bit more before reaching a junction with the Bluff Springs Trail #235. Take a left here and follow this flat trail for 1 mile before joining back up with the Dutchman's Trail, which you'll follow past the Red Tank and Peters Trail junctions (2.3 and 3.3 miles in) before reaching Charlebois Springs, where you can filter and fuel up on water before continuing the last mile+ back to camp.

Day 3 (6.3 miles):
Pack up camp and head back out the way you came in, taking the Dutchman's Trail back to Bull Pass (note: descending Bull Pass this direction is trickier than the way you came initially due to the loose/rocky nature of the trail). Reunite with Dutchman's on the other side of the pass and continue on it when you reach the junction with the Black Mesa Trail - this time you'll take Dutchman's all the way out back to the First Water TH to make a big figure eight of the whole trip. It's 4.2 miles from the Black Mesa/Dutchman's junction, most of which is relatively flat except for a gradual climb through Parker Pass, which is where you'll get your last view of Weaver's Needle for the trip. Keep your eyes and ears out for rattlesnakes along this section. Make sure you've left some beers in a cooler for when you reach your car again and have a campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park booked ahead of time so you can easily go set up for the night.

If you're ready to re-enter civilization check out The Handlebar Pub and Grill in Apache Junction, otherwise just enjoy another night out among the beautiful saguaros!

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Layers (nights get cold in the desert!)
  • Hiking poles
  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Camera, tripod, remote shutter release
  • Sunscreen and hat
  • Water purification device and extra bottles
  • Food/snacks
  • Stove/fuel
  • 10 essentials
  • Topo map
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Overall rating: 

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I didn't do this exact loop but covered a lot of the same trails last month in January. It was amazing! You can read all about my trip details here:

8 days ago
8 days ago

This was a spectacular trip. We just got back from a 3 day/2 night trek in the superstitions. Be sure to bring plenty of water with you as the afternoons are quite warm and water is often sparse. Some of the trails were a bit overgrown so make sure to wear lightweight long sleeve shirts and pants to protect your limbs! Excellent views and definitely a trip I would do again!!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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