Massacre Grounds Loop, Superstition Wilderness – December 13, 2015

I met a very nice girl named Sky at the Gila River Indian Community’s Winter Bird Count last weekend and we hiked to Massacre Falls in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

We left Phoenix around 7:30am and started hiking around 8:15am. Sky had an appointment at 2:00pm so the trip was kept local so we could go on a descent hike.

Superstition Wilderness Area is located about 30 miles east of Phoenix and is part of Tonto National Forest. The Massacre Grounds Trail’s name is based on a story (true or not; I don’t know) about a crew of Mexican miners that were killed by Apaches in the vicinity of the trail (Charles Liu, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles – Phoenix, 2nd ed.).  There is also a legend of a lost gold mine somewhere in the Superstition Mountains that has yet to be found. I have previously written about the Superstition Mountains in the Lost Dutchman State Park post but I’ve yet to find any gold ;-).

Superstition Wilderness Area with Four Peaks Wilderness Area in the distance

Our planned route was supposed to be a 5.7 mile in-and-out hike with a  moderate energy exertion level. The required physical exertion  was about a moderate level but following and finding sections of the trail was difficult. There were about three fields that were dense with jojoba shrubs and locating the cairns (rocks stacked on top of each other) that marked the trail was very difficult in these locations.

Praying Hands

We made it to this awesome spot that had a great view of a rock structure known as “praying hands” without a problem and took a break. After the break we continued following a trail that we thought was the correct one but we ended up doing a loop and coming right back to the spot that we had just taken a break at. At this point it was about 11:00am and we were probably within a hour from the car. We decided to try and reach Massacre Falls by taking the correct trail that we didn’t take after our brake; either way, we planned on turning around at 11:50am if we hadn’t reached the falls.

We made it out of the jojoba fields and were at an open rocky area with prickly pear cactus that the guide had described. We were now about 10 minutes from Massacre Falls but it was already 11:50am. We ended up going to the falls and did a quick exploration.

Massacre Falls – I believe there is a lot of water that comes off of the falls after a rain

It was about noon when we started to head back. We missed the cairn that would have led us to the semi-grown-in, Massacre Grounds Trail, that we had just followed and ended up following a nice and wide trail back to the Crosscut Trailhead where we parked. This nice-and-wide trail (I’m not sure of the name, maybe Jacob’s Trail or Dutchman’s Trail) was about an extra mile or so and we didn’t get back to the car until about 1:30pm.

Saguaro’s as far as the eye can see – just before returning to the vehicle

Sky was able to change her appointment to 3:00pm but it was too late. She was going to be looking at a new place to live and the owners had already accepted another offer by 3:00pm. I don’t know if the hour would have made the difference between getting the place or not; sorry Sky 🙂



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