an overnight hiking trip to a surprisingly lush corner of Arizona’s Superstition Wilderness at Reavis Ranch
Reavis Ranch Trail Guide
MAP: Trails Illustrated
PERMITS/DESIGNATION: no permit required / Tonto National Forest, Superstition Wilderness
BEST SEASONS: fall, spring, winter
DISTANCE: 9.5 miles one-way
WATER: flowing stream at Reavis Ranch (Reavis Creek), reliable in most seasons
ELEVATION: trailhead 3600, reavis ranch 4800, high point 5000+
ACCESS: dirt road, steep grades, but a passenger vehicle is generally okay
DIRECTIONS: Follow US 60 East from Phoenix. Take the exit at Apache Junction and follow Highway 88 northeast. The road will turn to dirt and descend into a deep canyon. Once at the bottom of this steep hill, continue maybe a mile or two until you see a sign for Reavis on the right. Turn right (east) on this road and follow it a short distance to the trailhead.
ROUTE: well maintained, popular trail, signed junctions
MORE: This northern approach on the Reavis Trail is the most popular way to hike to Reavis Ranch, but there are other options. Some of these include the southern access of the trail (Which requires high clearance, 4wd), the Reavis Gap Trail, and the Arizona National Scenic Trail. Other nearby destinations that caught my eye are Reavis Falls and ascending Castle Dome. The nearby Tortilla Flat restaurant sounds like a good place to stop for a meal. Black bears have been known to forage along the creek.
GUIDEBOOK: Hikers Guide to the Superstition Wilderness
Rabid Animal!!! Battle Stations!!!
Have you ever encountered a rabid animal while hiking?
I think I just did last weekend.
I was backpacking in Arizona’s Superstition Wilderness with Haley and her friends Liz and Rose. Liz’s dog was also with us – her name is Kiva.
It happened only a couple of miles from our destination at Reavis Ranch. Liz and Kiva were in the lead, followed by Rose. Haley was next, and I brought up the rear.
Suddenly Rose was running down the trail toward us – she was being chased by a gray fox! The fox wasn’t at full speed, but it was after her heels with purpose.
In the same instant I saw Haley running at the fox, waving her hands in the air and roaring, trying to frighten it. She said later that the fox flinched when she charged it, but called her bluff and starting coming at her! Her immediate reaction was to throw her hat in its face.
By the time Haley threw her hat, I’d run up and fired a couple of sizable rocks at its feet. I didn’t want to hurt the little guy, but if it didn’t come to its senses immediately, the next throw would be more than a warning shot!
I don’t know if the fox’s next move could exactly be called “coming to its senses,” because it took Haley’s hat in its mouth like a prize! It ran off into the brush, and neither fox nor hat were to be seen again.
Liz’s story of how it all happened was that she and Rose saw the fox near the trail. They got a few pictures and considered it to be fortunate that the fox was just hanging out, letting itself be photographed. Then her dog, Kiva, “got excited” and the fox came at them! Kiva was tight on a leash but the fox stopped within a few inches of Kiva’s nose, baring its teeth and snapping at the air a few times. It was presumably at this time that Rose took off running, and the fox thought “Chase!”
Clearly this behavior has rabies written all over it, but I was especially convinced after finding recent reports like this. All ended well, as none of us had any direct contact with it, and Kiva was up to date on her rabies shots.
We were hiking for just a single night to a popular destination called Reavis Ranch. The modern history of the ranch traces back to the late 1800s, when it served as the homestead of Elisha M. Reavis, the so-called “Hermit of the Superstitions.” His reputation is in sync with that of your typical crazy old pioneer man. For more about Reavis, check out this historic write-up from the Arizona Sentinel that reported his death in 1896. It says he was found “half eaten by coyotes.”
Reavis Ranch is most notable as a backpacking destination because of its lush setting, good water, and historic orchard that still produces edible apples!
Trip Notes and Photos
Each year in November, a local AZT trail angel hosts a “Thanksgiving in the Superstitions” event here. Hikers haul in all kinds of unlikely food and hold a potluck feast and party. Haley had been to a few of these of these gatherings in the past and suggested we go. My first reaction to the idea was that I wasn’t in the mood to go backpacking with 50 of my “best friends,” but it turned out to be a lot of fun!
The trailhead parking was almost full when we arrived late in the morning. A car with four more hikers (Two couples) arrived a few minutes behind us. Getting straight to business, it was either Haley or Liz that asked “Are you here for TITS?!”
One of the young men in the group looked confused, but only for a fleeting moment.
Well done, good sir. It reminded me of the old Budweiser commercials where the guy says “Yes I am.” Anybody remember those?
But they weren’t there for TITS.
T.I.T.S. is, of course, the acronym for Thanksgiving In The Superstitions!
75 degrees, sunny, and flowers… gotta love autumn in Arizona!
If I’m not mistaken, the peak seen here (above) is called Castle Dome. The Reavis Trail gradually ascends from the parking lot and clears a saddle on the left side of the peak, from this perspective.
I get the impression that the summit is a totally doable, 3rd-class scramble.
The Four Peaks (Of local brewery fame) dominate the northern skyline from here (above).
The upper section of the initial ascent was strangely reminiscent to me of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Obviously these are two drastically different landscapes, but I think I was just pleasantly surprised to feel as though I were in the mountains!
By this point in the day I’d already decided that this is my favorite hike to-date in Arizona’s Superstitions. Granted it’s only my third, but still!
We saw a few other hikers. This is to be expected, especially on a Saturday, and especially with the planned gathering at Reavis, but I’d expected to see a lot more people! My preconceptions of the area were established by the crowded southern portals like the Peralta trailhead.
Signs of bears in the desert!
Time for Thanksgiving!
I don’t know what the temperature was, but it felt really cold out to me once the sun disappeared. I guess I’ve already gotten spoiled by the Phoenix-area weather! There was a great campfire, but with so many people around it was tricky to find a warm place to stand.
Someone had a guitar around the fire and was quite good, so I drifted asleep to the sounds of the Gin Blossoms ‘Hey Jealousy’ and Prince ‘When Doves Cry.’
I love and totally approve of the way these songs have become legit campfire tunes.
We lingered in camp the next day until about 10am, and retraced our steps back to the car. The weather remained warm but there was some thin, hazy cloud-cover that allowed me to get a different take on photos.
Above is a candid shot of the crew before we left camp. This was Rose’s (left) first-ever backpacking trip, and she did great. Liz (center) is an avid hiker and climber and she’s been all over the Superstitions.
The Four Peaks were a lot more in-your-face on the return trip.
Until next time!