Second Water - Boulder Canyon - Black Mesa Loop, Superstition Wilderness: First Water Trailhead, Phoenix - Scottsdale - Mesa, Arizona

Second Water - Boulder Canyon - Black Mesa Loop - 12.25 miles

Superstition Wilderness: First Water Trailhead

Cobbled washes and large pools in Boulder Canyon

Cobbled washes and large pools in Boulder Canyon

Round-Trip Length: 12.25 miles
Start-End Elevation: 2,275' - 2,748' (max elevation)
Elevation Change: +473' net elevation gain (+1,264' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Second Water - Boulder Canyon - Black Mesa Loop - 12.25 Miles Round-Trip

The First Water Trailhead accesses an extensive trail network in the Superstition Wilderness. The Second Water, Boulder Canyon and Black Mesa trails form a 12.25 mile loop through varied terrain, distinct geological features and lightly traveled sections of Boulder Canyon.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The following description begins on the Second Water Trail and travels clockwise:

From First Water, follow the Dutchmans Trail to the Second Water Trail and veer left (.3 mile). The Second Water Trail heads NE into the foothills with emerging views of the mountains' inner-topography.

At 1.05 miles it drops across a wash and begins a short, rugged climb through a canyon that moderates into Garden Valley (1.65 miles : 2,397'). This vast, flat expanse is an ideal place to find jackrabbit and coyote.

The pace quickens to the Black Mesa Trail split (1.8 miles : 2,397'); veer left on Second Water to maintain clockwise travel on the loop.

The Second Water Trail levels across Garden Valley before slipping through a narrow passage between Hackberry Mesa and Black Mesa (2.4 miles : 2,378').

It drops sharply from 2.9 miles (2,265') into a cluttered slot (3.35 miles) that spills into a capacious opening on the floor of Boulder Canyon (3.6 miles : 1,925').

The Boulder Canyon Trail bends S-SE up canyon, crossing the central wash immediately and many times after en route to the Dutchmans Trail 3.65 miles ahead.

Crossings are well marked and fairly intuitive, but remain vigilant - cairns may be difficult to see in this indistinguishable landscape.

The trail shifts quickly through heavy brush on (fairly) well-defined paths up both shoulders of the wash.

Long sleeves are recommended through dense pockets of cats claw. Expect loose cobble and large, seasonal pools when traveling in / across the central wash.

The trail levels on a high rock terrace above the wash (4.95 miles : 2,037') and crosses east to the Cavalry Trail split (5.15 miles : 2,055').

It continues to a high-walled bend in the canyon (5.75 miles), past which grades steepen with emerging views of Weavers Needle, Palomino Mtn, Black Mesa and Black Top Mesa.

Walls recede and brush thins in the open upper-canyon to the Dutchmans Trail split (7.25 miles : 2,295'). Bear right on the Dutchmans Trail for a quick up-down jaunt to the Black Mesa Trail (7.4 miles : 2,273'), located in a wide berth in the upper-canyon.

The Black Mesa Trail turns NE across several cobbled washes and turns sharply uphill (7.6 miles). It climbs steeply to a bench (8.05 miles : 2,576'), then again to milder terrain on the upper mesa (8.6 miles : 2,652').

Grades level on a high flat just below the basalt rim of Black Mesa to the route's high point (9.2 miles : 2,748').

It continues NE on a steady descent with sweeping views across Garden Valley back to the Second Water Trail to complete the loop portion of the route (10.45 miles : 2,397'). Retrace your steps on the Second Water Trail back to First Water Trailhead (12.25 miles).

Facebook Comments

Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N33 28.808 W111 26.580 — 0.0 miles : First Water Trailhead
  • N33 28.644 W111 26.381 — .3 miles : Second Water - Dutchmans Trail split
  • N33 28.609 W111 25.788 — 1.0 miles : Mild, rolling climb into foothills
  • N33 29.151 W111 25.654 — 1.8 miles : Second Water - Black Mesa Trail split (2,394
  • N33 29.329 W111 25.566 — 2.05 miles : Level travel through Garden Valley
  • N33 29.592 W111 25.242 — 2.5 miles : Slip thru Hackberry and Black mesas
  • N33 29.820  W111 24.845 — 3.0 miles : Steep, rugged descent
  • N33 29.940  W111 24.364 — 3.6 miles : Second Water - Boulder Canyon Trail
  • N33 29.676 W111 24.150 — 4.05 miles : Shifting, variously rugged travel
  • N33 29.179 W111 23.672 — 4.95 miles : Rock terrace over canyon floor
  • N33 29.036 W111 23.563 — 5.15 miles : Boulder Canyon - Cavalry Trail split
  • N33 28.773 W111 23.593 — 5.5 miles : (2,090')
  • N33 28.577 W111 23.601 — 5.8 miles : Approach bend in canyon
  • N33 27.945 W111 23.444 — 6.7 miles : Landscape opens in upper canyon
  • N33 27.623 W111 23.539 — 7.25 miles : Boulder Canyon - Dutchman Trail
  • N33 27.610 W111 23.686 — 7.4 miles : Dutchman - Black Mesa Trail split
  • N33 28.031 W111 23.972 — 8.05 miles : Steep climb briefly levels (2,578')
  • N33 28.140 W111 24.347 — 8.6 miles : Travel moderates on upper mesa
  • N33 28.311 W111 24.553 — 9.2 miles : Crest on mesa top in big clearing
  • N33 28.919 W111 25.290 — 10.0 miles : Steady descent into Garden Valley
  • N33 29.150 W111 25.654 — 10.45 miles : Black Mesa - Second Water Trail
  • N33 28.772 W111 25.684 — 11.0 miles : Brief drop through rugged canyon
  • N33 28.683 W111 25.927 — 11.5 miles : Rise from wash around cholla hillside
  • N33 28.820 W111 26.578 — 12.3 miles : First Water Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • Anticipate heavy brush - particularly cats claw - in Boulder Canyon. Durable long sleeves are recommended.

  • The First Water Trailhead 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 on 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.

Directions to Trailhead

The First Water Trailhead is located east of Mesa AZ in the Superstition Wilderness, just north of Lost Dutchman State Park.

The trailhead is located 9.9 miles north of Highway 60.

From Highway 60, take the 88 / North Idaho Road exit. Continue 2.2 miles to a fork and bear right. Continue past Lost Dutchman State Park (7.1 miles) to the turnoff for the First Water Trailhead on your right (7.3 miles). Follow signs to the trailhead (9.9 miles).

Note this final segment runs on a graded dirt road suitable for 2WD vehicles.

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

Lost Dutchman State Park
6109 N. Apache Trail
Apache Junction, AZ 85119

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


No one has written any comments


Add Comment

Only used to identify you to ProTrails. Will not show on comments list.
Tell us when your experience with this trail happened.