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Dutchman's Trail Loop - Tonto National Forest

Summary: A decent loop hike through the western part of the Superstitions.
Directions: From Phoenix, drive east on the Superstition Freeway (U.S. 60) past Apache Junction.  About 4.5mi beyond the end of the freeway at milepost 204, turn left following the signs for the Peralta Trailhead. The road is initially paved as it heads through a housing development, then becomes well graded dirt. At the signed fork 5.4 miles from the highway, bear left following the sign, and continue another 2 miles to the parking area at the road's end (complete with an automated fee station & restroom facilities).
Road Conditions: Passenger Car
Navigation: Moderate - a few sections of faint trail
Length: 16.2 miles
Date Hiked: October 2000
Weather Conditions: Nice - highs in the lower 70's
Required Skills:
Hike Description: Every time I come to this trailhead it has been developed further to the point where a Dairy Queen wouldn't really seem out of place anymore.  In addition to the housing development going up near the Rt 60 Peralta turn off, there is now a dirt highway to the trailhead, restroom facilities and an automated money collection machine to take that $4 entry fee off your hands (credit cards accepted).  I guess the Forest Service could put that money to use restoring overgrazed habitat or removing cows from heavily impacted areas or enhancing your wilderness experience but it would be a tragedy to put some snow bird's Lincoln Town Car at risk with a bumpy road (and they do tend to complain more loudly than an ecosystem in decline).  

From the parking lot (0 miles) head right on the Bluff Spring Trail which begins by climbing a shoulder on the east side of Peralta Canyon.  The trail then bends to the right, and begins a series of rolling ascents/descents through one of the prettiest sections in the Superstitions in my book (look for cairns to the right where the trail intersects a stream bed).  After 2.1 miles (2.1 miles) you will arrive at a signed junction with the Terrapin Trail.  Those wishing to do a shorter hike may turn right and continue on the Bluff Springs Trail which meets up with the Dutchman's Trail a mile later (total loop distance for this shortened hike is 8.5 miles).  We, however, will turn left onto the Terrapin Trail which winds it's way beside a streambed in the shadow of Weavers Needle to the west.  The trail then climbs a short ways before descending towards the base of Black Top Mesa.  After 2.8 miles you will reach a signed 'T' junction with the Dutchman's Trail (which you will follow for the remainder of this hike) (4.9 miles).  Turn right onto the Dutchman's Trail (a little faint in places, look for cairns where the trail passes through horse camps) and continue 0.8 miles along the western flank of Black Top Mesa to the junction with the left branching Bull Pass Trail (5.7 miles).  Turn right and continue on the Dutchman Trail along a flat sandy horse trampled section past the left branching Cavalry Trail (6.1 miles), then 1.4 miles further to the intersection with the left branching Peters Trail (7.5 miles), along the way you will pass a use trail leading to the left into Charlebois (locally pronounced Charlie Boy!?) Canyon and a horse camp.  Continue on the Dutchman Trail, which continues it's path along the same wash for another mile (look for cairns where the trail crosses the stream bed).  Stay right at the signed junction with the Red Tanks Trail (8.5 miles), the trail then brings you into some rolling hills where you will climb a gentle grade for a while before dropping down along a stream bed once again.  After 2.3 miles you will come to the signed junction with the Bluff Springs Trail where you would come out if you had taken the short cut described earlier (10.8 miles).  Continue on the Dutchman as you climb a low hill 1.2 miles to the signed junction with the left branching Whiskey Spring Trail (12.0 miles).  Continue straight as the trail descends 1.6 miles past Miners Needle then an unnamed rock formation to the east to a signed junction with the Coffee Flat Trail (13.6 miles).  Remain on the Dutchman's Trail as you turn right and follow the flat trail through cow trampled desert the remaining 2.6 miles to the trail head (16.2 miles).

Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife completed this hike in 8 hours, stopping along the way for lunch at the Charlebois camp.  This was done on a day after two weekends of significant rain.  Streams that are normally dry were all seen to be flowing.
Maps: Beartooth Maps - Superstition Wilderness Topographic Map
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Rock formation to the east
of Miners Needle.