Boulder Canyon Trail


“Why am I doing this hike again?”

That’s the question which crosses my mind every time as I start the drudge of climbing out of the Salt River basin at Canyon Lake trailhead on the Boulder Canyon Trail.  This isn’t an easy hike, especially at the start.  The first mile is a relentless climb on crappy footing with seemingly endless “false summits”.  It’s easy to misplace your focus on the task of “putting one foot in front of the other”.

The trick to enjoy this hike is to “stop and look back” on this ascent.  This furry fellow, in fact, seemed to be doing just that.  Even with the advantage of 8 legs to my 2, he was taking a break to enjoy the view.

Tarantula on the trail

Tarantula on the trail

Taking a pause at this point to look back, you see the man-made Canyon Lake behind you.  The dam which forms the lake is near top center in the photo below.

Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake

To the north and east are wide panoramas of the Goldfield and Four Peaks area.

Four Peaks in the distance

Four Peaks in the distance

Cliffs in the Goldfileds

Cliffs in the Goldfields

This scene on the ascent looks southwest.  Flatiron is in the top-left of the scene.

Looking SW towards Flatiron

Looking SW towards Flatiron

Here is a view looking down into Boulder Canyon (which brings up the question “Why do they call the trail “Boulder Canyon Trail”, since we never hike in Boulder Canyon?”).

Boulder Canyon

Boulder Canyon

Thankfully, the trail finally crests, and there is an easy gradual descent around a minor peak.  This descent passes through a saddle (if you’ve been there, you know the spot) and suddenly the angular and harshly beautiful interior of the Superstitions opens to view.

At left-center of this scene is Battleship Mountain, with the iconic Weavers Needle in the distance at right-center.

Battleship Mountain

Battleship Mountain

A grove of autumn-yellow cottonwood trees deep in Boulder Canyon is a visual exclamation point in the scene below.

Boulder Canyon

Boulder Canyon

Finally, we reach the turnaround point in out hike.  I never tire of this scene.  The ragged and rugged interior of the Superstition wilderness seems to stretch on forever from here.  Below is LaBarge Canyon, Battleship Mountain dominates the middle-ground, and Weavers Needle flanks her in the background.

LaBarge Canyon

LaBarge Canyon Overlook

That my friends, is why I take this hike every time it is on the agenda.  The scene is breath-taking.  The formation at left is Geronimos Head, at center is Battleship Mountain with Weavers Need peeking over her fantail, and at the horizon the peaks and hoodoos around Barks and Peralta canyons.

At this overlook point there is a 900-foot drop down into LaBarge Canyon.  You could continue your hike from here (see trail segment at lower left).  Following the riverbed in the center of the photo would eventually lead you to the slot canyon at LaBarge Narrows.  Or you could bear right in the bottom of the canyon into Boulder Canyon, pick up Second Water Trail through Garden Valley to First Water, or you could …..   well, the possibilities are endless.

Our group retraced out path back to the Canyon Lake trailhead.  Remember the pretty lake scene near the start of this posting, (repeated below)?

Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake

On the return to the trailhead I wondered, if instead of a quiet lake here, there was the original canyon of the Salt River.  What would this scene be like?  Instead of the dam, would there be a waterfall?  Perhaps evidence of a streamside village built by a Salado tribe a thousand years ago?

What is lost so that the golf courses of Scottsdale are green and lush?

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

 

 

 

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3 Responses to Boulder Canyon Trail

  1. TOM BASSETT says:

    Very nice Hans. Brings back so many memories. Makes me want to go again. Maybe.

    Like

  2. Katie says:

    It’s funny how we forget how much work some parts of our hikes can be, isn’t it? All I can say is, thank goodness, so we have no hesitation about returning to do it again! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your photos with us.

    Like

  3. Mike Hohmann says:

    “Why am I doing this hike again?”… Ha! Been there, and done that too! Thx. Hans

    Like

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