Ok let’s get something settled: I was wrong. Or rather, I was a little bit confused.
When I first saw this trail on my hiking app, I was so very excited about all of the PETROGLYPHS that you could get up close to see. However, someone had titled it the Hieroglyphics Trail; and each time I mentioned the name to someone, I cringed a little, thinking hieroglyphics were something reserved for the Egyptians alone.
I even did research and it seemed everyone everywhere concurred with that idea, until I found this page defining different types of glyphs. Apparently, though not always carved into rock, the word hieroglyphics come from the Greek roots of hieros, meaning sacred, and glyphein, which means writing, and also applies to Mayan and some Mediterranean cultures. Although I feel “Petroglyph Trail” would better describe this trail, I would be foolish not to think that the writing on these rocks were not sacred to the people that scribed them. Hell, they’ve even become sacred to me, as I feel connected to a consciousness that shares the same respect for nature.
That aside, this has quickly become one of my favorite hikes in the Phoenix area. Today was my second foray into the small canyon. A moderately populated, out and back trail that falls somewhere around the 3 mile mark, dependent on how much rock scrambling or exploring further into the canyon that you do. My app clocked me at 1.6 miles once I was in view of the petroglyphs, and I had climbed about 570 feet in 30 minutes.
Although it is part of the Tonto National Forest, no pass is needed to park in the large parking lot at the east end of Cloudview Avenue in Gold Canyon, Arizona. Although it is searchable on Google Maps, it is easily reachable if you turn north towards the mountains off of Highway 60 at N Kings Ranch Road, turning right on Baseline Avenue and following the various federal and handmade signs showing hikers, or the word TRAILHEAD (or both). This morning I got there at 5:45, about 15 minutes before sunrise, which was perfect because no one else was there yet.
The trail is dog friendly, and it appears horse and bike friendly, although it seems less accessible for the latter two, the closer you get to the springs and rock art. There are other trails that start from the same trailhead that are probably better for the bikers and equestrians. Also, there are no restrooms at the trailhead, and sadly, no trash receptacles.
It briefly explains the history of the Superstition Mountains and the legendary “Lost Dutchman” mine. To the left, around that large shrub, is the entrance. Go through the gate, and when you come to the first fork in the trail, stay to the left.
The first .25 mile is a series of fairly easy switchbacks to get you to the top of a small ridge that you will pretty much follow up into Hieroglyphic Canyon. Towards the top you will encounter the second fork in the trail.
This one has a cool rock with a little metal sign for the Lost Goldmine Trail with carvings into the rock. Again, stay to the left.
From there you will climb steadily up into the canyon, as the trail turns to gravel and then becomes rocky once you begin to get close. Along the way you’ll see many teddy bear chollas, saguaros, prickly pear and a few ocotillo and hedgehog cacti. As you climb higher into the hike, the smaller cactus give way to larger jojoba, palo verde and some mesquite trees.
There’s one more gate to pass, which actually starts the portion of the trail within the Tonto National Forest.
There were many birds and they were excitedly warbling amidst the foliage. I got to add the Loggerhead Shrike and the Curve-billed Thrasher to my Avian Species List, and this is how happy I was:
[Sorry, that’s just me hopped up on my water from my High Sierra hydration backpack (I have the 16L, I believe, but I don’t see it on that link). It’s so good, and the water stays surprising cold for a long time!! Everytime I use it, I’m giddy. But I was excited about spotting two new birds.]
And before you realize it, BAM! You hit the springs, and look across and see rock after rock covered with various petroglyphs, and it’s time to scramble and explore.
I thoroughly enjoy this spot, and having come earlier this time, I got to enjoy it in solitude for the most part. When there are large amounts of people, especially around such a fragile environment, I get a little bit uneasy. Sometimes I see people not being careful with or even cognizant of the fact that touching or using them for leverage is damaging, and it drives me crazy. It had just rained the other day so I was hoping for some water flow or even a waterfall, but no such luck. (One word of advice though, even if you have shoes with traction, be careful. Mine are pretty grippy but I even slid a few times. Pay attention to your scrambling until you get to the rock art!)
While there, my first sight of another person occurred, but he left quickly. The sun started to pour over the eastern ridge and I scrambled about.
Eventually, I headed back. I took out a plastic bag and started picking up any litter I saw. Another hiker appeared and I headed back down, taking longer to descend as I grabbed all the trash I saw on the way down. I passed about a dozen people on their way up, and enjoyed full sunlight most of the way down.
Leaving the parking lot, I would definitely GPS your way back home, unless you have a good memory, because the way back can get confusing.
For (minimal) information from the federal site.
THANK YOU FOR VISITING, AND SEE YOU ON MY NEXT ADVENTURE!