Hiking Hieroglyphic Trail in the Superstition Mountains is a perfect family-friendly activity suitable for hikers of all levels and ages. This trail is an unforgettable adventure that should be on your Arizona bucket list!
The Superstition Wilderness Hieroglyphic Trail is a popular hike near Mesa, Arizona that offers a unique glimpse into Arizona’s past.
I’ve hiked Hieroglyphic Trail a handful of times and is at the top of my recommendation list for my friends and family visiting Phoenix! This adventure offers a mix of history, nature, and exercise, making it a must-do for outdoor enthusiasts.
In this blog post, I’ll guide you through what to expect on Hieroglyphic Trail and share some tips to help you make the most of your experience.
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Hiking the Hieroglyphic Trail
The Hieroglyphic Trail is a 3-mile hike located in Gold Canyon, Arizona, which is about 40 minutes east of Phoenix. The trail is rated as moderate and takes around 2-3 hours to complete.
Along the way, hikers can expect to see panoramic views of the Sonoran Desert, towering saguaro cacti, wildlife, and seasonal waterfalls! However, the highlight of this hike is undoubtedly the ancient petroglyphs etched into the rocks.
Hieroglyphic Trail Stats
- Trail Length: 3 miles
- Elevation Gain: 564 ft
- Route Type: Out-and-back
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Kid-friendly: Yes
- Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
- Parking: There is a parking lot with about 40 marked spaces. Be mindful of the “no parking” zones and respectful of the residential neighborhood.
- Facilities: Port-a-potties and trash cans
- Fee/Permit: No
History of Petroglyphs
When I first hiked this trail, I asked my friend, “Why is it called Hieroglyphic Trail if they are actually petroglyphs?”
A fellow hiker overheard me and kindly explained the differences between the two: Petroglyphs are images that are carved into rocks, while hieroglyphics are complex writing systems that use picture signs as linguistic writing.
The origin of the trail’s name is uncertain, but it may have been a result of a misunderstanding or confusion by early visitors who saw the petroglyphs and associated them with hieroglyphs. The name has stuck, and today the trail is widely known as the “Hieroglyphic Trail” despite the incorrect terminology.
Either way, the petroglyphs found on the Hieroglyphic Trail are fascinating! They are believed to have been created by the Hohokam people between 750 and 1450 AD and depict a variety of symbols, including animals, humans, and abstract designs.
While the exact meaning of these symbols is unknown, they offer a fascinating insight into the beliefs and culture of the Hohokam people.
Getting To Hieroglyphics Trail
The Hieroglyphic Trail is located in the Superstition Wilderness area near Gold Canyon, Arizona. The trailhead is in a residential neighborhood and Google maps can help you get there easily.
The parking lot can fill up quickly, especially during peak hiking seasons, so it’s recommended to arrive early to ensure a spot. Please respect all posted no parking and no trespassing signs. If the trailhead parking is full, try the Lost Goldmine East Trailhead!
When to hike the Hieroglyphic Trail
The best time to hike the Hieroglyphic Trail is during the cooler months, typically from November to April.
In the winter and spring, the trail also offers the added bonus of seasonal waterfalls, which can make for a refreshing break from the desert landscape. Additionally, the wildflowers in the area bloom during the spring, adding vibrant pops of color to the scenery!
During the summer months, which typically span from May to October, the temperatures in the area can become dangerously hot, often reaching over 100°F (38°C). This can make it challenging to stay properly hydrated and can increase the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Additionally, flash flooding during the summer monsoon season can create hazardous conditions on the trail.
Hieroglyphic Trail Waterfall
I’ve been lucky to witness waterfalls every time I’ve hiked Hieroglyphic Trail! Sometimes it was only a trickle but other times it was raging! Waterfalls only occur in the winter and spring months and are a result of heavy rain and snowmelt from the surrounding mountains.
It’s important to note that while the seasonal waterfalls can be a highlight of the trail, they can also create hazardous conditions if hikers are not careful. The rocks near the waterfalls are very slippery, and flash flooding can occur if there is heavy rainfall in the area.
Tips for hiking the Hieroglyphic Trail
Here are some tips for hiking this amazing trail in the Superstition Wilderness:
- Wear appropriate footwear: The trail can be rocky, uneven, and slippery in some areas, so it’s important to wear sturdy hiking shoes with good traction to prevent slipping or twisting an ankle.
- Bring plenty of water: Arizona is a desert state, and the Hieroglyphic Trail has limited shade, so it’s important to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. It’s recommended to bring at least 1-2 liters of water per person for a 3-mile hike.
- Protect yourself from the sun: The desert sun is intense, so it’s important to wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes. Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing can also help keep you cool and protect you from the sun.
- Check the weather before you go: Arizona weather can change quickly, so it’s important to check the weather forecast before your hike in case you need to cancel your plans or bring appropriate gear in case of rain, wind, or unexpected temperature changes.
- Practice Leave No Trace principles: When hiking the Hieroglyphic Trail and viewing the ancient petroglyphs, it’s important to practice “Leave No Trace” principles to ensure that these cultural resources are preserved for future generations. This means that hikers should avoid touching or damaging the petroglyphs in any way, and should not add any markings or carvings of their own.
- Respect wildlife: This trail is home to a variety of desert wildlife, including snakes, scorpions, and javelinas. Be aware of your surroundings, stay on the designated trail, and respect animals by giving them plenty of space.
What to Pack For A Desert Hike
The time of year will impact exactly what you need to bring to hike Hieroglyphic Trail. If you visit in the winter, you’ll definitely want to bring long layers and warmer gear but if you visit in the summer, you’ll want light sun-blocking layers.
No matter what time of year you visit, there are a couple of basics I recommend for hiking in the desert:
- Sturdy hiking shoes
- First Aid Kit
- Hiking day pack
- Water bottle/water bladder
- Hiking snacks
- Sun protection
Final thoughts on Hiking the Hieroglyphic Trail
With its stunning views and ancient history, hiking Hieroglyphic Trail is an experience that you won’t soon forget!
From the petroglyphs to the wildlife, this trail offers something for everyone. So pack your bag, hit the trail, and get ready to make some unforgettable memories!