Arizona Hiking Gallery
Bluff Spring Loop Hike
Superstition Wilderness, AZ
March 20, 2010
Gallery contains 74 photos
Gallery last updated: 5/21/2010

This hike is about a 9 1/2 mile counter-clockwise loop hike in the Superstition Wilderness starting from the Peralta Trailhead. The first part of the hike begins on the Dutchman's Trail generally heading east along the southern edge of the Superstition Mountains. Lots of wildflowers were blooming on this section of the trail. After about 2.5 miles The Dutchman's Trail reaches Miner's Needle, turns north, and begins its climb up Miner's Canyon around to the north side of Miner's Needle. At the top of the climb the Whiskey Spring Trail comes in from the east, but this hike continues northwest on the Dutchman's Trail as it drops into a valley. At around 6 miles the Dutchman's trail crosses a small stream and intersects with the Bluff Spring Trail. The loop hike takes the Bluff Spring Trail west up Bluff Spring Canyon which is a real nice walk with the trail following along a stream. In about a mile the Bluff Springs Trail turns south as it climbs over a small ridge and drops into Barks Canyon. Here the trail becomes steep and rocky in places as it heads down the canyon. Near the end of the hike the Bluff Spring Trail climbs out of Barks Canyon and then makes a steep plunge back down to the Peralta Trailhead.

Bluff Spring Loop Hike: Image 1
Almost immediately after leaving the Peralta trailhead, the Dutchman's Trail crosses a small stream. In the background are strange volcanic formations of the eastern edge of the Dacite Cliffs.

Bluff Spring Loop Hike: Image 2
A view of the Dacite Cliffs from the Dutchman's Trail.

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A Coulter's Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus) spire.

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Coulter's Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus), sometimes called Desert Lupine is a common springtime wildflower here in the Sonoran Desert sometimes forming large spreads and often mixed with the orange of the Mexican Gold Poppies.

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As the Dutchman's Trail tops a small ridge a view of the southern edge of the Superstition Mountains takes front stage.

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Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma pulchellum) are another common wildflower in the Sonoran Desert and begin blooming in the early spring. In the background is a Phacelia or Scorpionweed.

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Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma pulchellum).

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After blooming this Silverpuffs (Microseris linearifolia), will form a large striking silver puff-like seed head.

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Volcanic formations as seen from along the Dutchman's Trail.

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A large Chain Fruit Cholla (Opuntia fulgida).

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A Saguaro skeleton and Fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia) frame volcanic cliffs.

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Closeup of Saguaro skeleton.

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Saguaro Cactus (Cereus giganteus).

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Saguaro Cactus stand below volcanic cliffs.

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Desert Chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana).

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This strange flowerhead is Chia (Salvia columbariae).

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Blues and golds of Coulter's Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus) and Mexican Gold Poppies (Eschscholtzia mexicana).

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Coulter's Lupine, Mexican Gold Poppies, and Desert Chicory and splashes of color to the desert floor beneath volcanic cliffs.

Bluff Spring Loop Hike: Image 19
Mexican Gold Poppies (Eschscholtzia mexicana) glow brightly in the desert sun.

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Mexican Gold Poppy's (Eschscholtzia mexicana) bright orange glow contrasts with the dark green of an Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) in a full coat of leaves.

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Volcanic formation known as Miner's Needle, rise from the desert floor.

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More strange volcanic formations rise above a forest of Saguaro Cactus.

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In the southeastern part of the loop we round Miner's Needle, a famous landmark that towers over the surrounding landscape.

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Wildflowers dot the desert floor beneath Saguaro Cactus and Miner's Needle.

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Miner's Needle.

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In this close view of Miner's Needle the "eye" of the needle can be seen on right.

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A spread of Coulter's Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus).

Bluff Spring Loop Hike: Image 28
Coulter's Lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus) line the Dutchman's Trail as the trail begins its turn to the north.

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Lupine, poppies, phacelia, and chia carpet the desert floor with color.

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Hillside covered in wildflowers.

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More lupines and poppies.

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The silvery spines of a trio of Teddy Bear Cholla (Opuntia bigelovii) glow as they catch the desert sun.

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As the Dutchman's Trail heads north it starts its climb out of the valley and up into Miner's Canyon. This is a look back across the valley to the hills beyond.

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Strange formations to the east of Miner's Needle.

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A view of the eastern side of Miner's Needle.

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The Dutchman's Trail climbs up the eastern side Miner's Canyon with the imposing Miner's Needle on your left.

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Another view of Miner's Needle as the trail makes its way up Miner's Canyon.

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A view looking back down Miner's Canyon.

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Miner's Needle looks far less imposing on the north side.

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A neat rock formation on the climb up Miner's Canyon.

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The eye of Miner's Needle from the north side of the needle.

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The Dutchman's Trail as it nears Miner's Summit.

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At Miner's Summit the Dutchman's Trail intersects with the Whiskey Springs Trail.

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I will stay on the Dutchman's Trail as it heads northwest and drops into a valley.

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The other famous needle in the Superstitions is Weaver's Needle, here seen peaking over a ridge.

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The Dutchman's Trail weaving through a thicket of Chain Fruit Cholla.

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This shady spot along a stream at the intersection of the Dutchman's and Bluff Spring trails made a nice lunch stop.

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Here I leave the Dutchman's Trail and hop on the Bluff Spring Trail for the return hike.

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Interesting bouldery hillside along the Bluff Spring Trail.

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The bright red plumage of a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) stands out sharply against the desert foliage, although it was his wonderful song that first drew me to him.

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A Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) perches on a bare branch in Bluff Spring Canyon.

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Saguaro Cactus stand before the cliffs of Bluff Spring Mountain.

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A trickle of water flows down the bedrock in Bluff Spring Canyon.

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A ribbon of water flows along the Bluff Spring Trail.

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A large boulder rests on the canyon's floor.

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Common Bedstraw (Galium aparine).

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A large Saguaro Cactus clings to a rocky hillside.

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A view of Weaver's Needle as the Bluff Spring Trail nears Barks Canyon, just over the ridge.

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Bright green algae contrasts against the reddish rock.

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A river of bright green algae flows down the canyon.

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Sotol or Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) with hundreds of saw-toothed leaves.

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The leaves of this Sotol, or Desert Spoon, (Dasylirion wheeleri) form a spectacular large round cluster.

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As the Bluff Spring Trail tops a ridge a view of Barks Canyon unfolds. Here the trail turns to the south and follows the canyon down.

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Closeup of a dried agave seed cluster.

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A trio of totems in Barks Canyon.

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Looking down upon a forest of Saguaros in Barks Canyon.

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A wonderful view of Weaver's Needle from Barks Canyon.

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Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wislizenii) protected by tightly wrapped sharp, stiff spines.

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Closeup of Chain Fruit Cholla.

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This is my view as I take a rest in Barks Canyon.

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The Bluff Spring Trail follows a stream in Barks Canyon beneath towering cliffs.

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Looking back to a view of Weaver's Needle as Bluff Spring Trail climbs out of Barks Canyon.

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Globemallow (Sphaeralcea sp.).

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A view to the south as the trail tops out on a ridge after climbing out of Barks Canyon. From here it's a STEEP descent back to the trailhead.

All images Copyright ©2010 Terry Wright. All rights reserved.