My first hike of 2012, yesterday (Jan 6) we did the Black Mesa Loop route, a distance of just over 9 miles.
This isn’t what you’d term an easy hike (because of the length) but there are no serious physical challenges, and the trail is easy to follow. Total ascent is around 1,100 feet, well spaced over the length of the trail, and no particularly steep upgrades. (A shorter “in and out” route is also possible — see below.)
I like this hike because it quickly takes you into the rugged interior of the Superstitions with views of a wide variety of features and landmarks.
The loop consists of a combination of stretches of 3 different trails. Leave First Water trailhead on the Dutchman trail (104) for a few hundred yards to the junction of Secondwater trail (236). From there take Secondwater up into Garden Valley to the Indian ruins. There you’ll head south on Black Mesa trail (241) over the top of Black Mesa, eventually descending into Boulder Basin. (The accepted turn-around point for the shorter “in and out” route is the cholla forest at the top of Black Mesa. The large circle of rocks arranged astride the trail is a good reference point for the turn-around.)
The descent into Boulder Basin is moderately steep, so most will like to have a hiking staff for the extra assurance of footing. At the bottom of this slope is a nice shady creek bed for your lunch stop, and coincidentally the approximate half-way point in the hike.
Just beyond the creek on the floor of Boulder Basin you again intersect with Dutchman Trail. Take a right and follow it over Parker Pass back to First Water trailhead.
The most compelling feature of this hike are the numerous different viewing angles you get of Weavers Needle. A few are shown below.
You cactus watchers know that not all saguaros are pretty, but they certainly are all photogenic. Below are a few which seem to reflect the harsh character of these storied mountains and the difficulty of survival. Enjoy!