Superstition Mountains Traverse Backpack

Float to the Superstitions

Brothers packraft Arizona's Salt River and backpack the Superstition Mountains.

MARCH 30, 2018 —In 2014, my brother, Brian, and I packrafted Arizona’s Salt River and backpacked the Superstition Mountains. This was our first packrafting trip. We drowned an SLR camera, lens, iPhone, and audio recorder due to a bad dry bag during this trip, so this entire video was shot on a small snapshot camera and an GoPro. We tried.

How to Backpack the Superstition Wilderness

Backpack: Desert, Lake, River
Superstition Wilderness, Arizona
3 days
29.8 miles
4,863 ft gain — 4,188 ft loss
1,672 ft min — 3,528 ft max
Physical Challenge 6 of 10
Psychological Challenge 4 of 10
Beauty 10 of 10
Uniqueness 10 of 10

OVERVIEW: The one-way backpacking trip starting at the Boulder Canyon Trailhead at Canyon Lake, to Box Canyon and Dutchman’s Trail, to Weavers Needle and the Peralta Trailhead is a three-day, 30-mile wilderness hiking trip. The route takes hikers through the beautiful Superstition Mountains, filled with fantastic scenery, desert wildlife, and tons of mesmerizing saguaro cacti. (Yes, we also attempted to packraft from the Upper Salt River to Canyon Lake on our trip, but we didn’t make it due to weather conditions and lack of gear. I leave that part of the trip as an exercise to the reader.)

LOGISTICS: Fly to Phoenix, Arizona. Rent two cars and drive them to the Peralta Trailhead. Drop one there, and then drive to the Canyon Lake Marina and Campground parking lot. Park in the designated, free parking, and walk across the street to the Boulder Canyon Trailhead.

SAFETY: Water availability is the biggest issue for this trip. The National Forest Service provides a good trail map that indicates where springs can be found, but water availability is variable, especially in the summer. Confirm the availability of water sources with the ranger station before heading out. And, of course, stay away from cactus spines. Do not get cactused.

ROUTE: We completed this trip in three days:

  • DAY 1: Hike from Boulder Canyon Trailhead to Box Canyon (optional side trip) and then toward Second Spring. (10.5 mi, 1,885 ft gain, 10 hours)
  • DAY 2: Hike from Second Spring to Charlebois Spring (7.7 mi, 1,110 ft gain, 7 hours)
  • DAY 3: Hike from Charlebois Spring, on Dutchman’s Trail, past Weaver’s Needle, to the Peralta Trailhead (11.6 mi, 1,900-ft gain and loss, 11 hours)
    View the route below or download the Without Baggage Superstition Wilderness GPS track in GPX or KML format.

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