a strenuous, butt-kicker of a hike to one of the best views in the Superstition Wilderness
Superstition Peak 5057 Guide
MAP: Trails Illustrated
PERMITS: Required for parking at Carney Springs Trailhead and the first section of the trail on State Trust Land. Otherwise none needed for hiking or backpacking in the Superstition Wilderness.
DESIGNATION: Tonto National Forest, Superstition Wilderness
BEST SEASONS: fall, spring, winter
DISTANCE: 7.6 miles round trip
ELEVATION: trailhead 2,200ft – peak 5,057ft
ACCESS: dirt road, but most vehicles are generally okay
DIRECTIONS: Follow US 60 East from Phoenix and continue beyond where the freeway ends. Pass Idaho Road (Apache Junction) and continue 7.5 miles to FS77 (Peralta Road). Turn left onto Peralta Road (turns to dirt/gravel) and continue 6 miles to the parking area on the left for Carney Springs Trailhead.
ROUTE: maintained trail
GUIDEBOOK: Hikers Guide to the Superstition Wilderness
Superstition Peak is reportedly one of the best hikes in the entire Superstition Wilderness. With upwards of 3,000ft in elevation gain, it’s certainly a workout!
This 7.6 mile round-trip hike begins at the Carney Springs Trailhead. Permits are technically required to park here and hike the first half mile of the Carney Springs Trail (see below).
The trail begins at a wide, gentle grade, since you’ll be hiking on an old road. This first section can be especially crowded, since this is the same approach used to access the Instagram-famous Wave Cave.
If you’re especially strong I suppose you could hit the Wave Cave and this peak on the same trip… but the Wave Cave adds an extra 800ft of elevation gain (and loss on the return), so I’d save it for later if Peak 5057 is your top priority.
After hiking the Carney Springs Trail for 0.6 miles, you’ll cross the Goldmine Trail, a potential alternate approach. Another tenth of a mile brings you to a fork in the trail. The main trail to the Wave Cave goes left (west), but here you’ll be leaving the crowds behind and going to the right.
The trail immediately begins to climb at steep grade, and it won’t let up very much for a long time. It works its way up toward the mouth of a drainage and soon ascends the left side of it. Pay attention here, as the trail becomes indistinct at times.
You’ll reach a narrow saddle after 1,300ft of elevation gain, only about a mile from the junction below!
The trail begins contouring to the left, rounding the head of West Boulder Canyon, which falls away to the north.
Pass below an unnamed summit, or take the social trail up and over the top of it. Drop into a major saddle (4,200), and ascend the last 800ft to Peak 5,057. The summit reportedly has 3 different survey benchmarks, dating back to the early 1900s.
Retrace your steps to Carney Springs for a 7.6 mile round trip day hike.
This hike is described as an out-and-back from Carney Springs Trailhead, but there’s a number of other ways to go about it.
The nearest variation to Carney Springs is to approach from the East Lost Goldmine Trailhead, adding a mile to your round trip.
Other variations require a second vehicle. You can complete a loop from Carney Springs to the Hieroglyphic Trailhead – a distance of 7.3 miles.
Finally, Peak 5057 is part of the classic Superstition Ridgeline Traverse, a one-way distance of 10.8 miles from Carney Springs to Siphon Draw.
Remember, backpacking is allowed in the Superstition Wilderness and does not require a permit! Yay!
Highest Peak in the Superstitions?
The mountaintop destination described here has a number of different names, including:
- Superstition Peak
- Superstition Mountain
- Carney Peak
- Peak 5057
Though it’s the highest point on the Superstition Ridgeline hike, the highest place in the Superstition Mountains is actually Mound Mountain, which tops out at 6,266ft.
Required State Trust Permit?
At the parking area for Carney Springs (and several other pullouts along the Peralta Road) you’ll see posted signs requiring a permit for parking and hiking.
The signs refer to Arizona State Trust Land, which is not public land. You can find out more about the management and leasing of state trust land here.
Go to this page to get your Individual Permit for $15. Permits are managed per person, not per vehicle. Foregoing this process not only risks a stiff fine, but it puts Carney Springs access at risk for future visitors.
There’s presently no way to get around the permit from Carney Springs Trailhead without hiking completely off-trail or doing a longer approach.
The boundary between the Superstition Wilderness (National Forest) and State Trust Land can be seen more clearly through this link, where blue marks the State Trust Land.
The Lost Goldmine Trail also has significant sections located on the Trust Land, even when approached from the Hieroglyphic Trailhead.
My Trip Notes and Photos
I hiked the Carney Springs Trail and the applicable section of the Ridgeline Trail on December 25 and 26th, 2018, with Haley and our friend Andrew.
Our plan was to camp on the ridgeline and bag the summit 5057. We climbed up the ridgeline via an off-trail route, but were forced to dive into our tents on the ridge when a rare storm rolled into the mountains.
It rained all night and into the next day, so we opted to save the summit for another day. Haley had been to the summit a number of times prior to this, and it’s her favorite peak in the Superstitions.