Backpacking in the Superstition Wilderness

My eyes couldn’t believe what they were seeing! Water flowed steadily down this small creek that seemingly bled out of the desert floor. After hiking for hours with little to no water to be seen, this tiny stream was a welcomed sight.

A Homecoming Vacation

Backpacking is something that my wife and I loved to do together. Ever since our first trip in Rocky Mountain National Park, we had continuously gotten better about the gear that we took, as well as our trip planning.

So after she returned from a seven-month deployment on her ship, we naturally wanted to go test out our new backpacking gear! With February temperatures making the mountains in California a bit too cold for us, we set our sights on something brand new to both of us—Arizona.

Neither one of us had been to Arizona for an extended amount of time, so we figured that finding a place to backpack would be a good way to get to know the area a bit better. Knowing that staying in the desert was the best way to avoid extremely cold temperatures, we set our sights on the Superstition Wilderness.

Why the Superstitions?

Located only an hour outside of Phoenix, the Superstition Wilderness holds a vast number of treasures to be explored and discovered. With over 160,000 acres of desert wilderness, the Superstitions provide a stark contrast to the urban sprawl that makes up the greater Phoenix metro area.

The mountains that make up the Superstition Wilderness are jagged and wild. And one of the biggest attractions of the area is a giant monolith known as the Weaver’s Needle.

Created from eroded volcanic material, the Weaver’s Needle stands as an anomaly to be seen from all around. It served as a geological marker back in the days of gold mining when the Dutchman Mine drew people in from all over the country.

That weekend, it was our goal to see the Weaver’s Needle up close.

Cameling Up

Water was the only thing that was on my mind as my wife and I gathered our gear together to drive to the trailhead. Neither of us had backpacked in the desert before. Backpacking in the mountains nearly always gave us opportunities to find streams to refill our water supplies.

But hiking into the desert gave us a new challenge, namely that water was not going to be as abundant as it was in the mountains.

So we filled up extra water bottles in case we were unable to find a water source on the trail. With swollen packs, we drove to the trailhead and set off on our quest to find the Weaver’s Needle.

That Arizona Heat

As we hiked along the trail, sweat began to pour down off our heads. Despite being February, the temperatures were well into the 80’s as we made our way into the Superstition backcountry.

All I could think about was water. Am I drinking enough? Will we run out? What do we do if there’s not a single source of water to refill from?

I tried to keep these thoughts out of my mind as best as I could. The beauty around us was enough to delay the thoughts for a while. I hadn’t thought much about the desert as being a place to explore, especially being that I loved the mountains.

But the landscape was enchanting. Jagged hills chock full of trees and cactus that shot their bows off into different directions painted a collage of shapes against the horizon. As the sun began to dip low in the sky, the shadows coming off of these plants danced in the dimming light.

And that’s when I heard the most wonderful sound.

Desert Dreams

It was the sound of water moving down a creek flooding the canyon we were hiking toward. As we hiked further and further into the canyon, the sound grew until we saw one of the most wonderful sights: water.

A small stream slowly made its way down the canyon. It pooled in holes in the rock, making small areas that would be easy to gather more water to replenish our dwindling supply.

After filtering out the water, drinking our fill, and eating dinner, my wife and I settled into our tent for the night. The sound of the stream filled our tent as we slowly drifted off to sleep knowing we would be okay. We had plenty of water to allow us to safely explore the Superstitions further and make it back to the car.

If you enjoyed this story like we did, don’t wander off too far! We’ve got plenty more to share with you. Make your way over to our Tales from the Trail section to read more stories of outdoor adventure to get inspired to make your own adventures!