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Haunted Canyon & Semi-Loop - Tonto National Forest

Summary: A long streamside hike in the eastern Superstitions. If you like forested walks beside gurgling brooks, this is the hike for you. 
Directions: From Phoenix, drive east on Highway 60 12.8 miles past the town of Superior. Turn left onto Pinto Valley Rd (FR 287) and the entrance to the Pinto Valley Mine. The paved road leads 2.7 miles to a main entrance to the mine headquarters. At the mine entrance, turn left (following the "Public Access" signs) onto a dirt road that passes through the mine property. Stay on the main route (following the "Public Access" signs) as the road drops down past a few evil looking tailings ponds. After driving 6.7 miles from Highway 60 you will come to a split in the road marked with a white sign that reads "Peak Well 26-29", turn left at this sign.  A short distance later you will see a brown Forest Service sign pointing ahead to Haunted Canyon Trail #203. When the author was here the road was closed a short distance past the sign due to high water levels in Pinto Creek. If the road is open drive to the end and park next to the old coral (staying right at the one split in the road), otherwise you'll have to park next to the gate and take a 1/2 hour walk to the trail head. Note: where the road crosses the stream it may be difficult to cross without getting your feet wet.  If this is the case, walk up stream a few hundred yards until the sound of the water increases.  There are enough rocks and branches at that point that you can jump to the other side and continue down the road.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car 
Navigation: Moderate: there are a couple spots that are confusing, take extra care since this is a long hike.
Length: 12 miles (Haunted Canyon out & back)
21.1 miles (Haunted Canyon with Semi-Loop)
+ perhaps an hour road walk if road is closed
Date Hiked: March 2001 
Weather Conditions: Nice, highs in the lower 60's, partly cloudy with afternoon sprinkles.
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the coral a brown Forest Service sign with the universal hiker symbol marks the entrance to the Haunted Canyon Trail (#203). The trail heads up to the right then drops down to follow Pinto Creek through a shady forest of Arizona Sycamore, juniper and cottonwood. You will follow a barbed wire fence for a while, then the trail heads up onto the slope on the right to avoid a narrow section in the canyon. After a short distance you drop down once again and continue following the stream up canyon. The trail is not terribly distinct in places, but it is marked with cairns and pink flagging tape, you can't get lost though - if you're next to the stream, you're on the trail. There are numerous stream crossings as you head upstream, a walking stick is useful in this section for balance when hopping from one dry rock to the next and to pole vault some of the wider pools. Eventually you will reach Tony Ranch Spring, a nice, forested area with a large fire ring, coral and overturned water trough that is obviously used for a couch. There are plenty of good camping spaces in this area. The trail bends right at the camp - follow the large cairns and walk about 10 minutes to the junction with the left branching Bull Basin Trail (#270). The distance from the trail head to this junction is 6 miles (6.0 miles). A hike to Tony Ranch Spring and back would make a good 12 mile day hike. We, however, will continue onwards and complete an additional loop at this point. Stay right on the Haunted Canyon Trail which crosses the stream and begins a series of steep switchbacks up the hill on the other side. After reaching a saddle, the trail then follows a tributary of Pinto Creek and climbs more moderately beside this small stream. The trail along this section is more exposed traveling up a sunny chaparral covered slope consisting mainly of manzanita, jojoba, sugar sumac and scrub oak. After 1.3 miles (7.3 miles) you will reach the junction with the left branching Paradise Trail (#271), turn left onto this trail. The Paradise Trail continues upwards to a saddle where numerous use trails seem to branch off along the left slope and a destroyed sign for 'Tony Ranch 2 miles back' can be seen. Walk directly across the saddle and look for the overgrown trail which descends the other side. The trail, which is somewhat faint in places, meets up with another stream and follows it down canyon through the scrub oak. Eventually the scrub fades back (thank goodness) and will find yourself back in a shady forest on a gently descending path besides a gurgling stream. Further along you will reach an old coral and a short distance later you will reach FR 287A the road which leads to the Miles Trailhead. Turn left on the road and walk about 2 minutes to the sign pointing the way to Trail #212 on the left (10 miles). Pass by the large Tonto National Forest sign for the Miles Trailhead and look for the gray Superstition Wilderness sign and just below, a brown universal hiker sign which marks the entrance to the West Pinto Trail (#212). Follow this level trail 0.6 miles (10.6 miles) as it passes by an old concrete foundation, then past a wide, open field. When you reach a stream you will come to the signed junction with the left branching Rock Creek Trail (#195), turn left onto this level trail which follows the stream, crossing it several times along the way. After 0.7 miles (11.3 miles) you will reach the signed junction with the Bull Basin Trail (#270), turn left onto the Bull Basin Trail. This section of trail begins climbing moderately to steeply for about a mile before topping a rise then climbs more moderately beside yet another stream up through Bull Basin. After passing a coral the trail becomes considerably more overgrown and steep as it climbs out of the canyon to a saddle. You then pass through a gap in the fence at the saddle and drop steeply down the other side, following a similar drainage beside a stream on another somewhat overgrown scrubby trail. Eventually you will rejoin the Haunted Canyon Trail (15.1 miles) which you will follow, retracing your steps, back to the trailhead (21.1 miles).
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author completed this hike solo in 7 hours walking briskly the entire way (8 hours with the added road walk). All the streams were flowing due to recent rains.
Maps: Beartooth Maps - Superstition Wilderness Topographic Map
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.

The stream in
Haunted Canyon.