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Peter's Trail (loop or out & back) - Tonto National Forest

Summary: A nice loop hike in a lesser visited section of the Superstitions.
Directions: From Phoenix take US 60 east.  Exit at Apache Junction and drive northeast on State Highway 88.  Follow 88 to the end of the pavement (about 25 miles) then a few miles further until you reach the signed parking area for Tortilla Trailhead on the right hand side.  Those with passenger cars may park here for the out and back hike (see hike 2 below) or with a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle follow the rough dirt road (FR 213) three additional miles to it's end (see hike 1 below).
Road Conditions: Passenger Car - ok to get to the car park off of Highway 88.
4-Wheel Drive - required to reach the Tortilla road end, the first 1/4 mile has some rough sections.
Navigation: Moderate - sections of faint trail
Length: Loop Hike - 16.1 miles
Out & Back - 19.0
Date Hiked: Loop - March 2000
Out & Back - April 1998
Weather Conditions: Nice - highs in the upper 70's
Required Skills:
Hike Description: Hike 1 (Loop): From the Tortilla Trailhead look for the steel windmill (Aeromotor, Chicago) and tank.  Walk past these structures to the signed beginning of the Peter's Trail.  The trail follows the stream (flowing water both times the author was there) on one side or the other, then begins climbing steeply up the ridge to the left of Tortilla Mountain to an unnamed saddle.  The trail then winds through the chaparral before dropping down and crossing a stream bed.  After a moderate climb to the top of Peter's Mesa, the trail then winds through an ocotillo forest before dropping down to the signed intersection with the Dutchman's Trail (6.5 miles) at the bottom of LaBarge Canyon.  Turn left onto the Dutchman's Trail and follow this level horse path as it winds through the scrub oak beside the stream bed.  After 1.0 mile (7.5 miles) you will reach the signed intersection with the Red Tanks Trail, the Dutchman's Trail branches right, stay to the left and continue on the Red Tanks Trail.  The trail remains a horse path as it continues beside the stream bed.  The path is sometimes a little confusing where it crosses the stream bed, look for cairns or failing to find any, continue up the stream bed until you can pick up the trail once more.  After two miles (9.5 miles) you will arrive at the intersection with the right branching Whiskey Springs Trail.  Continue straight on the Red Tanks Trail into Upper LaBarge Box Canyon.  Despite the fact that La Barge Canyon is fairly far from any trailhead, I always run into people in this section - it may have something to do with the fact that though there are no perennial water sources in the Superstitions, Upper LaBarge often has water when many other streams are dry.  After a short walk the trial turns left and crosses the stream bed where a bent tree crosses the path, then climbs the left bank of the canyon and winds it's way along this slope for the remainder of the trail.  An additional 1.5 miles (11.0 miles) will bring you to the intersection with the Hoolie Bacon Trail, turn left onto this trail.  The 4.3 miles long Hoolie Bacon Trail doesn't see as much use as other trails in the area & is somewhat faded and overgrown with Cat's Claw in places.  Take your time and look for cairns & you shouldn't have too much trouble.  For the first few miles on the Hoolie Bacon Trail you will be moderately ascending through rolling hills typical of the eastern portion of the Superstitions.  After a few miles the trail reaches a shoulder then descends more steeply back down the other side before leveling out in a wash.  An easy walk on level ground brings you to the intersection with the right branching JF Trail (15.3 miles).  Stay left and hike this faded jeep track the remaining 0.8 miles back to the car park (16.1 miles).
Hike 2 (Out & Back): From the car park off of Highway 88 complete the three mile road walk on foot (3 miles), follow the Peter's Trail to it's end at the intersection with the Dutchman's Trail (9.5 miles).  Return the way you came (19 miles).
Rating (1-5 stars):
This is a nice hike in which you are unlikely to see many people.  The hike passes through some very pretty areas, with the exception of the 2.5 mile section before Upper LaBarge which seems to be seeing an increased amount of horse/mule traffic with the corresponding degradation/odor. 
Maps: Beartooth Maps - Superstition Wilderness Topographic Map
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Climbing up to Peter's Mesa. Great desert scenery.