Peralta - Terrapin - Bluff Spring Loop, Superstition Wilderness: Peralta Trailhead, Phoenix - Scottsdale - Mesa, Arizona

Peralta - Terrapin - Bluff Spring Loop - 12.6 miles

Superstition Wilderness: Peralta Trailhead

Looking north from the Peralta Trail

Looking north from the Peralta Trail

Round-Trip Length: 12.6 miles
Start-End Elevation: 2,395' - 3,758' (max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,363' net elevation gain (+3,008' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Peralta - Terrapin - Bluff Spring Loop - 12.6 Miles Round-Trip

The Peralta, Dutchman, Terrapin and Bluff Spring trails join to form a challenging 12.6 mile loop around Weavers Needle in the Superstition Wilderness.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Though comparable in length to the Peralta out-and-back, this route sees lighter use and more varied, rugged terrain on the back half of the loop. The following description begins on the Peralta Trail and travels clockwise:

The trail begins at the mouth of Peralta Canyon and rises quickly on a rugged, heavily vegetated path. Oak, palo verde and mesquite envelop portions of the trail along the canyon's seasonally flowing creek.

Grades steepen past 1 mile (2,902') as brush recedes further from the water source, a chance to study columns of volcanic rock needles that top the canyon walls.

At 1.7 miles (3,428') you'll cross (right) over seasonal pools and resume a steep, shifting course through open rock and cacti gardens on the east side of the canyon. Note the prevalence of agave and contrasting light and dark rock in the upper canyon.

The trail crests on Fremont Saddle (2.2 miles : 3,754') with dramatic views north of Weavers Needle and a maze of canyons, mesas, buttes and peaks in the backcountry.

Here it tilts downhill on the west side of upper Boulder Canyon through comparatively sparse hillsides. Note the absence of saguaro in favor of yucca, grasses and jojoba.

The trail follows Boulder Canyon Creek past several backcountry campsites, which are generally located in level pockets of vegetation by the creek.

You'll pass a campsite at 4.3 miles (2,944') and climb 118' to a crest with rangy views over the wilderness (4.8 miles : 3,062').

The trail resumes a more direct descent before rolling to the east side of a divisive ridge in the canyon (5.55 miles : 2,787'). It drops quickly down the east side of the ridge to the Peralta - Dutchman Trail junction on the floor of Boulder Canyon (6.2 miles : 2,493').

Anticipate several steep segments, rugged conditions and periodic loss of clarity beyond this point.

The Dutchman Trail leads through then crosses the central wash (6.45 miles : 2,508') before climbing 287' to Upper Black Top Mesa Pass (6.9 miles : 2,795').

Note high concentrations of saguaro on this south-facing segment, and the basalt boulder cap for which the mesa is named.

The trail undulates ruggedly down from the pass to the Terrapin Trail junction (7.35 miles : 2,634'), a wide berth on the canyon floor where Bluff Spring Mountain Canyon meets Needle Canyon.

The Terrapin Trail bends SE in Needle Canyon and climbs to a level, heavily vegetated corridor with several shaded campsites on this brief stretch (7.5 miles : 2,648').

It emerges from the canopy and crosses left over the creek (7.6 miles : 2,655'), where it climbs 525' in just .6 miles to a saddle with rangy views across the wilderness (8.25 miles : 3,179').

A series of steep undulations lead through the route's most complex topography up to Bluff Saddle, an elevated oasis ringed by needles and rock formations in the upper canyon (9.55 miles : 3,396').

The trail continues SE on a sharp, shifting descent to the Terrapin - Bluff Spring Trail junction on the rock-slab canyon floor (10.2 miles : 3,137').

The Bluff Spring Trail leaves the wash on a short climb that tilts back down through a grassy expanse to another wash (10.8 miles : 2,900').

Cairns lead across this wash and two wide braids into a narrow, high walled canyon. Anticipate these quick maneuvers into the canyon, which has no clear trail but is adequately marked by cairns.

A clear trail resumes once through the slot and climbs to a high ledge with panoramas (south) across the sprawling bajadas of Coffee Flat Valley and Barkley Basin (11.4 miles : 2,985').

Travel moderates along cholla-studded hills with long views over the bajada and up Peralta Canyon (12.05 miles : 2,890'). A final descent winds back into Peralta Canyon to complete the loop (12.6 miles : 2,395').

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N33 23.858 W111 20.873 — 0.0 miles : Peralta Trailhead
  • N33 24.237 W111 20.951 — .5 miles : Moderate climb through heavy brush
  • N33 24.475 W111 21.212 — 1.0 miles : Grades steepen into upper canyon (2,904')
  • N33 24.815 W111 21.659 — 1.7 miles : Cross (right) over seasonal pools
  • N33 24.944 W111 21.889 — 2.2 miles : Fremont Saddle (3,758')
  • N33 25.100 W111 21.972 — 2.65 miles : Moderate descent down west side of canyon
  • N33 25.287  W111 22.188 — 3.0 miles : Variously rugged and brushy travel (3,385')
  • N33 25.659 W111 22.432 — 3.55 miles : Trail runs adjacent to Weavers Needle
  • N33 25.932 W111 22.739 — 4.0 miles : Brief descent
  • N33 26.251 W111 22.919 — 4.5 miles : Slight rise to crest at 4.8 miles
  • N33 26.544 W111 23.120 — 5.0 miles : Grade moderates near canyon floor
  • N33 26.795 W111 23.050 — 5.5 miles : Roll over to east side of divisive ridge
  • N33 27.081 W111 23.094 — 6.2 miles : Peralta - Dutchman Trail junction
  • N33 27.006  W111 23.015 — 6.3 miles : Cross creek and begin climb
  • N33 26.962 W111 22.756 — 6.9 miles : Upper Black Top Mesa Pass (2,797')
  • N33 26.962 W111 22.363 — 7.35 miles : Dutchman - Terrapin Trail junction
  • N33 26.827 W111 22.217 — 7.6 miles : Cross wash, begin very steep climb
  • N33 26.631 W111 22.165 — 8.0 miles : Steep climb above wash (2,920')
  • N33 26.631 W111 22.165 — 8.25 miles : Pass or Saddle (3,180')
  • N33 26.031 W111 21.706 — 8.95 miles : Rugged, undulating course (3,202')
  • N33 25.591 W111 21.506 — 9.55 miles : Bluff Saddle (3,402')
  • N33 25.414  W111 21.316 — 9.85 miles : Shifting descent to Bluff Spring Trail
  • N33 25.350 W111 21.021 — 10.2 miles : Bluff Spring Trail split (3,137')
  • N33 24.939 W111 20.873 — 10.8 miles : Cross consecutive washes into narrow canyon
  • N33 24.559 W111 20.666 — 11.35 miles : High saddle, travel moderates (2,985')
  • N33 24.159 W111 20.786 — 12.0 miles : High ledge overlooking bajada (2,892')
  • N33 23.858  W111 20.873 — 12.6 miles : Peralta Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • Heavy vegetation and wash crossings may obscure brief sections of the loop. Remain vigilant and use cairns for guidance.

  • Anticipate overgrowth - particularly cats claw - on the east half of the loop. Durable long sleeves are recommended.

  • The Superstition Mountains were born inside the core of an ancient caldera, the result of a series of major eruptions that occurred 15 - 25 M years ago. Though subsequent geologic activity and erosion have obscured the caldera's appearance, evidence such as lava flow channels and columns remain today. The vertical outer walls of Peralta Canyon are remnants of the original caldera.

  • The Peralta Trail sees heavy use, especially on weekends. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Dispersed camping is permitted in the Superstition Wilderness. No fee or permit is required.

  • Fires are not permitted along this loop, and in most locations on the west side of the wilderness area.

  • Camp only in established sites, which are not marked but intuitively found right along the trail, usually near a water source.

  • Water is seasonally available along the trail, but always plan on carrying all of your own water. Treat all natural water sources before consumption. Note that Water Reports are usually posted at the trailhead, but may not be current.

  • Contact the Mesa Ranger District (408.610.3300) for current trail information and potential restrictions before heading out.

  • Group size is limited to 15 individuals.

Rules and Regulations

  • There is no day-use fee to enter the Superstition Wilderness from this location.

  • Horses are permitted on the Terrapin Trail, but not on the Peralta of Bluff Spring trails.

Directions to Trailhead

The Peralta Trailhead is located east of Mesa AZ in the Superstition Wilderness, 7.3 miles north of Highway 60 (Superstition Highway) on Peralta Road.

Exit Highway 60 just past mile marker 204 onto Peralta Road, and follow this up to the trailhead.

Note the road turns to groomed dirt .9 miles from the turnoff, but is suitable for 2WD cars. The road forks suddenly after 5.5 miles - keep left. You'll pass the Lost Goldmine Trailhead (6.9 miles) before reaching the Peralta Trailhead (7.3 miles).

Contact Information

Superstition Wilderness
Mesa Ranger District
5140 E. Ingram St.
Mesa, Arizona 85205
Monday-Friday: 8 am - noon | 12:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"This is a great alternative to hiking back on the Peralta Trail and I recommend it if you have the time. I took my daughter this weekend and she loved it so much she's going back today with her husband! It's a more difficult route as the description suggests, and there are a few places where the trail is faint. You'll also get snagged a bit ducking through the cats claw! Terrapin is a beautiful canyon and the views are great."
Sandy Finnegan  -   -  Date Posted: April 20, 2017


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