Horse Mesa Dam – Grand Canyon of the Superstitions

Today 4 of us hiked down to the Horse Mesa dam area, through Fish Creek Canyon which is also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Superstitions”.  The route runs on Forest Road 80, about 2.5 miles each way (in and out).  Elevation loss is about 900 feet which you need to regain on the hike out.

To reach the “trailhead” take AZ88 (Apache Trail) out from Apache Junction.  About 4 miles after you cross the “ford” at Tortilla Flats you’ll find FR80 on your left.  Follow FR80 2 or 3 miles until you reach a gate. (This is a good road, easily negotiable in your uncles Buick sedan.) Here’s where you leave your vehicle.  There’s parking for 6 or 8 vehicles.  You’re now at the “top” of the trail.

Continue afoot down FR80.

The hike is on a well maintained road which services the Horse Mesa dam on the Salt River.  The dam serves two purposes.  It forms the reservoir called Apache Lake, and is also a hydroelectric dam providing power to Phoenix about 60 miles away.  For security reasons, hikers are not allowed to approach the dam, but the hike does take you down to the river level.

First you’ll find yourself in a steep series of switchbacks stretching about 3/4-mile.

You’re immediately immersed in an awesome deep canyon environment, about 1,500 feet deep from the cliffs above you to the bed of Fish Creek hidden far below you at this point.

I’ll shut up for a while, and just show you some of the views on the way down.

The “turn around and go home” point of this hike is the bottom of the canyon where Fish Creek joins the Salt River in Canyon Lake.

Hope you enjoyed the walk.


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13 Responses to Horse Mesa Dam – Grand Canyon of the Superstitions

  1. Carolyn says:

    The cave, did you look inside?? I hope you are making a book of all these walks, because it would make a fantastic book for the coffee table. Yes most definite, I enjoyed the walk. Oh any info on how the cross was placed there??
    Lil Sis Carolyn


  2. oldslowhans says:

    We didn’t climb up into the cave. Actually it is more of an alcove than a cave. I have no info on the cross, although they commonly are placed where someone went over the edge.


    • Randy binting says:

      The is or was a sign at the gate on FR 80 that says “Go no further” and it mentions the FBI and State Police. Was the sign there when you went? I’m guessing they’re paranoid of terrorists attacking the dam.


      • oldslowhans says:

        That’s the place, but they seem to tolerate hikers (up to a more threatening sign down near the water).


      • Randy binting says:

        Went last Friday and the sign at the first gate had been upgraded to a more threatening one – us government, no trespassing. It was a long way to turn back so on we went with no issues. The sign was a copy of the second sign posted after the bridge.


  3. Norm Ryder says:

    Wow. Any fish down there? I am looking for a fly fishing experience. Norm


  4. Doug H says:

    Iam trying again to comment about your slide show, with Help from Hal who is visiting us. Here goes.


  5. Rachel La Exploradora says:

    Love thIs post! Gonna go check it out tomorrow. 🙂 Where abouts was the alcove located?


  6. Sativa Barrington says:

    Your pictures are awesome! Myself and some friends have ATVs and would like to ride that road…is the top of the switchbacks as far as one can go on any vehicle? thanks!


  7. Anita Dolliver says:

    I lived in the community at Horse Mesa Dam as a kid. I climbed all over those mountains. Best childhood ever! Loved your pics.


    • Anita Dolliver says:

      Regarding the cross, there used to be one in the late 70s when I lived there, said to be for a school teacher that went over the cliff.


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