A rewarding day hike and third-class scramble to the airy summit of a favorite peak in Arizona’s Superstition Wilderness
Battleship Mountain Trail Guide
Please Note: The Superstitions were altered by the Woodbury Fire in 2019. According to this map it looks as though the Battleship Mountain hike was spared, but views to the east may be affected. All images on this page were shot in 2017.
MAP: Trails Illustrated
PERMITS: No permit required – hiking and backpacking in the National Forest is allowed with no permit necessary.
DESIGNATION: Tonto National Forest, Superstition Wilderness
BEST SEASONS: fall, spring, winter
DISTANCE: 11.5 miles round trip
WATER: seasonal – in Boulder Canyon, and springs at the east end of Second Water Trail
ELEVATION: trailhead 2,260ft, peak 2,797ft
ACCESS: dirt road, but most vehicles are generally okay
DIRECTIONS: Follow US 60 East from Phoenix. Take the exit at Apache Junction (Idaho Road, exit 198) and follow Highway 88 northeast. Bearing right on the Apache Trail 88, you’ll travel 7.5 miles from US 60 to the signed turn for First Water Trailhead. Turn right and follow this dirt road (FR 78) 2.3 miles to the trailhead.
Though technically a separate trailhead, entering Dutchman’s Trailhead in Google Maps will bring you to the same location.
ROUTE: well maintained trail with signed junctions, followed by cairned off-trail, 3rd class scrambling with exposed traverses to the summit
MORE: This page describes the shortest and simplest way to do Battleship Mountain, though other approaches are possible – particularly via Tortilla Flat or Peralta Trailheads
GUIDEBOOK: Hikers Guide to the Superstition Wilderness
Battleship Mountain is a wonderful and rewarding day hike – a great way to get a taste of what Arizona’s Superstition Wilderness has to offer. The approach trails provide a fulfilling hike in and of themselves, featuring Saguaro cacti and classic desert scenery.
The day is capped with with the summit attempt, where you’ll get up close and personal with the rock and flirt with the edge of high cliffs, similar to the exposure felt on Angels Landing in Zion National Park. Those comfortable with off-trail route finding will satiate themselves along the peak’s narrow ridgeline.
WARNING: This peak should not be attempted by those with a strong fear of heights, or solo hikers that don’t feel comfortable off-trail. However, no true rock climbing is encountered on this route.
Stay out of the bottom of the canyons during flash flood season (typically in July and August), and watch out for dehydration, heat exhaustion, and hyponatremia in hot weather.
Follow the First Water Canyon Trail for 0.3 miles, and turn left on the Second Water Canyon Trail.
Stay on this trail for 3.2 miles, passing an intersection with the Black Mesa Trail.
The Second Water Trail ends at the less distinct Boulder Canyon Trail, in the bottom of a canyon.
Turn right and follow the canyon upstream, repeatedly crossing the seasonal creek for about a mile to the south end of Battleship Mountain.
From here, turn left and pick up a cairned use-trail that initially follows the steep, rocky slope up to the base of the mountain.
Once you’ve gained the southern ridge, have fun route-finding your way north to the true summit. Be careful and enjoy!
My Trip Notes and Photos
I went up Battleship Mountain on February 4th 2017 – a hike chosen by Superstition aficionados Doug Nering and Haley. We began from the First Water Trailhead and had sunny, warm, beautiful weather.
For full disclosure, we did not achieve the true summit of the mountain. A late start combined with a dinner curfew back in the big city forced us to turn around after we reached the southern ridge.
This was my one and only time up here. I have yet to go back and reach the north summit, though Haley has been up there in past. I’m not sure if Doug has been up there before as well.
seasonal water reflections in Boulder Canyon