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Garden Valley Trail Professional Review and Guide
"An easy loop, for the Superstition Mountains, this hike starts from the most accessible Superstition trailhead, First Water, and uses the Dutchmans, Black Mesa, and Second Water Trails to loop over Black Mesa and through Garden Valley. Garden Valley is a garden all right—a cactus garden."
--Bruce Grubbs, Best Loop Hikes Arizona (The Mountaineers Books).
A GREAT Winter Hike! It’s less than an hour drive from downtown Phoenix and a perfect way to enjoy classic Southwest trail scenery. While this is a relatively easy hike, make sure your boots are in good order. The rugged nature of these trails will bring out the worse in bad shoes and ruin your hike. I also highly recommend trekking poles or Hiking stick. It sure saves the knees during the rocky descents.
I did this loop a bit differently than the trail guide recommends. I went Counter-Clockwise. From the First Water Trail head I took the Second Water Trail to the left and went on to Boulder Canyon. Caution, the trail from the Cholla Spring down to Boulder Canyon is very rugged and could be tough on knees and ankles, but it is easy to follow. Numerous ground squirrels, woodpeckers, Hawks, and hummingbirds kept me entertained during lunch in Boulder Canyon.
I doubled back on Second Water Trail to Garden Valley (Incredible!) to the Black Mesa Trail and hiked it over the mesa to intersect with Dutchmans Trail. Great views of Weavers Needle to the SE as you crest the top of Black Mesa. The last half mile of the Black Mesa Trail, as it descends into Boulder Basin, is VERY steep and rutted from Horse and Mule Travel. I imagine it could be difficult footing after a rain.
The slow gradual ascent on Dutchman Trail to Parker Pass Provides some great views to the East. With the afternoon sun providing brilliant lighting, you will easily fill up a 1 GIG storage card on your camera with the dramatic color of the terrain and vegetation.
With the out and back to Second Water Spring and Boulder Canyon, I added an extra 4 miles to my hike making it approximately 12.5 miles. I was on the trail at 10:30a and back at the First Water Trailhead by 4:30p. You could easily add another hour or two with inexperienced hikers or a photographer that stops at every bend for photo ops.
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