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Coffee Flat Loop - Tonto National Forest

Summary: A decent loop hike from the Peralta trail head that is not as over run with people. Loop utilizes the Dutchman Trail, Whiskey Spring Trail, Red Tanks Trail and Coffee Flat Trail. 
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: there are a couple spots that are confusing, take extra care since this is a pretty long hike.
Length: 18.9 miles
Date Hiked: February 2001 
Weather Conditions: Nice, highs in the upper 60's
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the Peralta Trailhead begin walking east on the Dutchman Trail (0 miles).  You will climb a low ridge then descend to the flats on the other side.  This easy stretch of trail then parallels the Superstition front range towards Miner's Needle.  After 2.6 miles you will reach the signed intersection with the right branching Coffee Flat Trail, stay left on the Dutchman trail which ascends at a moderately steep grade up the ridge to the east of the needle.  The trail climbs for 1.6 miles (4.2 miles) until you reach the signed junction with the Whisky Spring Trail.  Turn right onto this trail which climbs a short distance to a saddle before dropping down the other side with views of Coffee Flat Mountain ahead of you.  The trail bends left and continues to descend gradually along a drainage towards the rugged outcropping of Picacho Butte ahead to the right.  After 1.8 miles you will come to the signed 'T' junction with the Red Tanks Trail (6.0 miles).  Turn right onto the Red Tanks Trail which heads through the steep walled canyon of Upper La Barge Box.  The trail starts off on the left side of the stream, crosses to the right, then, where the bent over tree crosses the path, switches over to the left side once again climbing up the side of the canyon before leveling off.  Once through Upper La Barge the trail drops back down to stream level then travels a ways until you reach the signed junction with the left branching Hoolie Bacon Trail (7.5 miles).  Stay right on the Red Tanks Trail as it bends right traveling over a flat area until you reach the stream once again.  When the author first completed this hike 3 years ago the Red Tanks Trail was considerably overgrown with cat's claw.  Perhaps due to the exorbitant entrance fee that is now being charged, this trail now appears to be in much better condition.  When you hit the stream it's a little confusing, turn left and rock hop upstream a short ways then look for the trail on the left side.   When you're on the trail once again you will parallel the stream bed a short ways, cross it, then climb over a low hill down to another wash.  The trail follows this wash up to where it boxes out, then climbs up the right side to a saddle.  There is a similar canyon just on the other side of the saddle.  It is down this wash that the trail now travels (a few sections are a little overgrown, but otherwise the trail is in good shape).  At the bottom of this canyon another drainage enters from the left, the trail bends right and follows the combined stream (if any is flowing) down canyon.  A short distance from this confluence there is a sign on the right indicating La Barge Canyon 2 miles back and Randolph Canyon 0.5 miles further (9.5 miles).  After 0.5 miles you will see another sign pointing the way to Coffee Flat, continue onward as the trial parallels the stream bed of Randolph Canyon.  Towards the end of this section the trial becomes somewhat steeper then drops you down to the red sandstone canyon bottom at the unsigned intersection of Frasier and Randolph Canyons (12.2 miles).  Turn right and head down canyon along a very flat stretch of trail which crosses the stream a few times as it proceeds.  Take care along this next section as there are no signs in this area.  At the end of Randolph Canyon you will see a large outcropping of rock on the left (Buzzards Roost) and a windmill on the right (13.6 miles).   Turn right and follow the well established trail which passes the windmill on the right.  After a short distance you will pass through a gate.  On the other side of the gate look for the trail to branch left, if you miss this turn off you will come to a grassy area and another windmill and the trail dead ends.  Assuming you have found this left branching path you are now on the Coffee Flat Trail (though I've often thought that Cow Crap Flat Trail would be a more fitting description).  The trail climbs up and over a low hill (you will be able to see Miner's Needle in the distance from the summit) then winds through the flats which have been heavily impacted by years of overgrazing.  There are some small rolling hills in this section as the trail heads west passing the rock formation which is east of Miner's Needle, then climbing a hill on the left side of the flats (stay right when you come to an unsigned branch) before dropping down once again and bending north towards the needle and the intersection with the Dutchman Trail (16.3 miles).  Turn left and retrace your steps on the Dutchman Trail back to the Peralta parking lot (18.9 miles).
Rating (1-5 stars):
All of the streams were flowing when the author last completed this hike, making for some pleasant scenery.  Traveling solo the author completed this hike in 7 hours, hiking rather briskly the entire way (most will probably want to allow for additional time to complete this hike).
Maps: Beartooth Maps - Superstition Wilderness Topographic Map
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
The view from a saddle before the trail
descends towards Randolph Canyon.