Monthly Archives: March 2015

Superstition Mountains: Massacre Grounds Trail

I enjoy all kinds of trails, but one of my favorite kinds of trails are destination trails, even when (sometimes especially when!) these trails are in my own backyard. So what would make a local trail a “destination” trail? One that has some kind of really cool and unique feature that you look forward to appreciating during your time on the trail. Massacre Grounds Trail is such a trail because it goes out to a bluff and a (seasonal) water fall, and as any of us who live in Arizona know, anything with water is a cool place to go and see!

Different day: Massacre Grounds Sunrise - By Matt

Different day: Massacre Grounds Sunrise
– By Matt

Parking for this trailhead is located at coordinates 33.471412, -111.469378, and is in the same parking lot as the Jacob’s Crosscut Trail. Jacob’s Crosscut leaves the parking lot to the right towards the Siphon Draw trail, and is the route that most people take. This of course gives Massacre Grounds Trail a pretty high solitude factor. Massacre Grounds Trail leaves the parking lot on the left. There is a new, marked opening in the fence allowing easy access to the trail, and it is signed. The trail quickly enters and exits a wash, and then begins steady, though not steep, climbing all the way out the 2.9 miles to the waterfall.

Superstition Mountain from the Parking Lot - By Me

Superstition Mountain from the Parking Lot
– By Me

Trailhead Parking Lot - By Me

Trailhead Parking Lot
– By Me

When I left the parking lot for this run, mine was the only car there. I headed out into the early gray of dawn, looking forward to the quiet ahead of me.

Different day: Massacre Grounds Sunrise - By Matt

Different day: Massacre Grounds Sunrise
– By Matt

The lower part of the trail is very clear and easy to follow. The plant life through here is interesting and beautiful; different wildflowers, shrubs, and cactus edge the trail. Because the trail climbs immediately, you quickly begin having views out towards the valley behind you (if you stop to look). Most of the climbing on this lower section is at a very easy grade with some small rollers, and the trail is very smooth and clear of debris. There is one micro-hill shortly before the trail pops out at an old parking lot that is no longer in use. Keep right here, sticking close to the fence, and you will see the opening where the trail crosses the fence and continues on.

After the fence crossing, parts of the trail become intermittently rocky. Climbing the hill just past the fence crossing can be somewhat challenging because of this. After reaching the saddle there, though, the trail continues on to cross some tight washes with tall myrtle shading your path. The trail also performs some seriously fun twists that make a run incredibly fun. After climbing out of the wash area you come to a saddle that looks out towards mountains to the north. As I went through here the mountains looked like a painting; they were so regal and calming.

Continuing my climb after the couple of wash crossings, I reflected on how I’d been clearing spider webs from the trail with my face. It’s unpleasant, but it made me happy to know that I was the first one on the trail this morning!

The trail after the wash crossings becomes much rockier and a little steeper. It is here that you will want to ensure you are watching the trail as sometimes it can become a little unclear. However, it is much more clear now than it was in years past, and is well marked with cairns. As long as you look up and watch for them, you really shouldn’t have any issues following the trail. One of my favorite parts of this trail is actually just after this super rocky section- the trail goes up some smooth granite. It’s just an interesting formation that I enjoy running on.

Just after the smooth granite you will have almost reached the end of the trail. The trail forks and you can go left to look out over the bluff, or go right and head up to the waterfall. Both are very close at this point and it is worthwhile to do both if you have the time. The bluff is a great spot to sit and have a snack while looking out over the valley below. I, of course, like to dangle my feet over the edge- but I understand this is not for everyone. The trail up to the waterfall used to be difficult to follow, but it’s quite clear now. When I was there I could hear the water coming down over the rock from down the hill a little ways. Its shining black glimmer stands out against the red-brown rock and makes it very clear from far down the hill where your destination is. The area around the waterfall is fun to climb around in, with lots of boulders and bushes to play on.

Different Day: View from the Waterfall - By Matt

Different Day: View from the Waterfall
– By Matt

Different Day: Sitting in the Waterfall (it was dry) - By Matt

Different Day: Sitting in the Waterfall (it was dry)
– By Matt

My run back down was, of course, much faster since it was all downhill. I flew along, enjoying the twisting, technicality of the trail and feeling of my body negotiating its intricacies. Upon arrival back at the parking lot, mine was still the only car there. It was a great day for a great run.


  • My Garmin gave me not quite 1200 feet of gain over the entire 5.8 miles.
  • This is an excellent trail to take children out on! I have taken mine here and they absolutely love that they are hiking to a waterfall and a cool bluff! My son especially enjoys climbing around on the boulders back by the waterfall.
  • If you want to show people some Arizona desert, this is a great trail to take them on. They will get some great views and will get to see how lush our desert really is.
  • The only amenities at this trailhead are numerous bushes for all of your call of Mother Nature needs. There is no water.

Whether you hike it or run it, this trail is a good time for whatever level you, your friends, or your family are at. Because it’s out and back, if you feel that the distance or climbing is too much, you can simply turn around and save the bluff and waterfall for a different time.
Depending on the weather, this is also a great trail to see wildlife:

Different Day: Tarantula - By Matt

Different Day: Tarantula
– By Matt

Different Day: Millipede - By Matt

Different Day: Millipede
– By Matt

Different Day: Toad - By Matt

Different Day: Toad
– By Matt

Different Day: Baby Rattlesnake - By Me

Different Day: Baby Rattlesnake
– By Me


Superstition Mountains: Black Mesa Loop

Sometimes I need to get out into the wilderness and enjoy a little quiet wild-time. However, I don’t always have time for a long jaunt, and need to just “get my fix” and get home. This morning was one of those days.

I met a few friends out at the FIRST WATER TRAILHEAD, which was fairly busy since the weather is nice and the population in the Valley has seen its usual winter influx. My plan for the day was just to do the 9 mile (my Garmin gave me 9.2 miles) Black Mesa Loop (Dutchman Trail #104 > Black Mesa Trail #241 > Second Water Trail #236 > Dutchman Trail #104). One of my friends was getting over being sick and was out to simply enjoy some desert time. The other two were looking for a longer run and would be heading out to the Canyon Lake Marina and back after running Black Mesa. After signing the guest register, we began from the trailhead on Dutchman Trail (#104) with a nice, fast, gentle downhill. The desert was looking lush from all of the recent rains! About a quarter of a mile in the trail makes a fork. We went right to stay on Dutchman. Most people tend to stay left at this fork onto Second Water Trail which is wider and smoother, so we quickly had our solitude.

The Dutchman Trail through here is very clear and easy to follow, plus quite a bit of it is nice, tight single track. Because we have had rain recently, we had numerous stream crossings this morning, which is always a treat in Arizona! When crossing the streams it is important to look up to see the cairn on the opposite side marking the trail. I often run with my head down watching my footing, so sometimes I end up doing slight side jaunts until I regain the trail. Dutchman Trail has nice rollers giving you some climbing to keep it interesting, but nothing major. In general, the rocks are also not too bad, just watch your footing.


Cool rock formations on Dutchman Trail


I think in the next week or two it will be the perfect time to head out to see the wildflowers. If you don’t know, as I did not know for years, Arizona has an incredible wildflower season. Each spring, the desert is absolutely blanketed with delicate flowers: oranges, yellows, purples, whites, reds, and pinks carpet the landscape. Different areas and elevations get the flowers at different times.  This morning the Black Mesa loop was just starting to get a few flowers poking their heads out. I think any rain we get will cause an explosion of color!

The next trail we came to was the Black Mesa Trail (#241) which cut back to the left. One of these days, I plan to stay on Dutchman and head out towards Weaver’s Needle, but that will have to be a different day and different blog entry. Weaver’s Needle is very prominent here and the mountains surrounding the area feel welcoming.


Somewhere near Parker Pass


We met some campers back on Black Mesa and said hello, and then proceeded up the one “big” climb on the entire loop. I think the toughest part of this climb is the rockiness. If it weren’t for that, it would be much easier for me to run up; it certainly isn’t very long. As it was, today I hiked it. It was here that my friends and I completely split up, and I didn’t see them again (but I checked in, and we all had a great run!). Once I got to the top of the hill, I began running again. It was cloudy this morning, with all the hallmarks of a storm rolling in, and on top of Black Mesa itself the wind was gusting and I felt a deep chill try to crawl into my bones. Thankfully I was quickly off the mesa where the wind was not quite so strong.

Running down the west side of the mesa is a blast! It’s fairly rocky in places, but the downhill just sings. Plus, the views here are gorgeous- they look out onto more wilderness, which at the moment is incredibly green.


The base of the mesa to Second Water Trail (#236) is smooth and easy to run. I was at the intersection in no time, where I turned left back towards the First Water Trailhead. I knew I had about 2 miles left to go, so I began to push.

As I mentioned at the beginning, most people who hike from this trailhead head out on Second Water Trail. I had to slow down quite a few times for groups of people who were also out enjoying the outdoors. I saw a father and his children, a group of campers, a boy scout troop, and numerous other small groups of individuals all soaking in the beauty of the day.

Second Water Trail is relatively smooth. It does have some rocky areas, but nothing too major. It has some fun places to hop over boulders and a few corners to zip around. The way back to the trailhead has one climb up out of a wash, but it’s perfectly runnable, unless you’re tired, as I was today. However, before I knew it, I was back at my car where a friend of mine who is injured was hanging out waiting with donuts!

This loop is a great trail for a quick run, or a relaxed hike. My Garmin read 1,068 feet of elevation gain over the entire 9.2 miles. This trailhead is a great place to start at if you want to enjoy some time out in the desert with your children, or introduce visiting family members to the beauty of Arizona. You could of course do a simple out and back if you are looking for a hike or run that is perhaps not quite so long, or that is a little easier.

The only amenity at the trailhead is the pit toilets which are kept clean and well stocked. There is no water, so make sure you bring plenty of your own.

THIS LINK will take you to a map showing the trails we ran today. They are on the left side of the image.

The pictures on here were taken by Matt on a different day during a different season because, well, I’m terrible at taking pictures. I hope you see how pretty this area is!