Hieroglyphics Trail, Superstition Wilderness: Hieroglyphics - Lost Goldmine Trailhead, Phoenix - Scottsdale - Mesa, Arizona
Hieroglyphics Trail - 2.9 miles
Superstition Wilderness: Hieroglyphics - Lost Goldmine Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||2.9 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||2,085' - 2,655' (2,655' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+570' net elevation gain (+592' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Hieroglyphics Trail - 2.9 Miles Round-Trip
The Hieroglyphics Trail begins at the Lost Goldmine Trailhead on Cloudview Ave in the southwest corner of the Superstition Wilderness.
It rises 1.45 miles through a bajada into the mouth of Hieroglyphics Canyon, where several panels of well-preserved petrogylphs are located above seasonal pools. The basalt rock etchings were mistaken by early European settlers for Egyptian hieroglyphs, hence the erroneous name.
These petroglyphs were created by the Hohokam People, a civilization that thrived in central and southern Arizona from 500 - 1450 AD. Hohokam translates to those who have gone or all used up in native dialect.
The Hohokam were master canal builders, which enabled them to exploit water from the Gila, Salt and Verde river basins for centuries. These canal networks are considered the largest gravity-fed irrigation systems built in the prehistoric New World.
Hundreds of miles of canals fed an agricultural system centered on corn, squash, beans and cotton. An estimated 20,000 - 40,000 acres were irrigated and cultivated during the height of this civilization.
Canals were perfectly pitched to maximize water flow while reducing silt build up. The canals were dug largely by hand with rudimentary tools, an effort on par with the engineering feat.
The Hohokam disappeared from archeological records around 1500 AD, the cause of which is still being studied.
Most archeologists don't believe that a single, catastrophic event was the impetus, but rather a series of circumstances related to water, drought, shifts in societal hierarchies and possibly war.
Some hypothesize that land was over-irrigated, infusing high levels of salt that killed crops and collapsed the agricultural economy. This theory has been largely dismissed, however, because evidence in the soil would still be detected today.
War with neighboring Apache tribes may have contributed to the decline, but it's thought not powerful enough to erase the entire civilization.
Extended drought in the late 1400s is a stronger possibility, and supported by tree ring evidence. It's likely that a dearth of water and subsequent strife quietly disbanded the society over time.
Interactive GPS Topo MapKey GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84
- N33 23.389 W111 25.476 — 0.0 miles : Lost Goldmine - Hieroglyphics Trailhead
- N33 23.415 W111 25.402 — .13 miles : Hieroglyphics - Lost Goldmine Trail split
- N33 23.600 W111 25.452 — .38 miles : Superstition Wilderness boundary
- N33 24.152 W111 25.294 — 1.0 miles : Steady climb up bajada to canyon
- N33 24.467 W111 25.180 — 1.47 miles : Petroglyphs and pools
- Hieroglyphic Canyon is subject to flash floods. Be mindful of weather and exit the canyon before storms develop. Rock slabs around the pools and petroglyphs are especially slippery when wet. The maintained trail ends at the pools and petroglyphs, but it's possible to continue up Hieroglyphics Canyon to connect with the Flatiron on Superstition Mountain.
- Petroglyphs are rock carvings made by pecking directly on the rock surface to expose a lighter surface underneath. Petroglyphs are distinguished from Pictographs, which are painted.
- Modern canals and irrigation systems are closely modeled after the Hohokam's, and some are even built right over the originals.
- The Hieroglyphic - Lost Gold Mine Trailhead sees very heavy use, especially on weekends. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Dispersed camping is permitted in the Superstition Wilderness. No fee or permit is required.
- Fires are not permitted on this trail, and in most locations on the west side of the wilderness area.
- Camp only in established sites, which are not marked but intuitively found along the trail, usually near a water source.
- Water is seasonally available in Hieroglyph Canyon, but always plan to carry all of your own water. Treat all natural water sources before consumption. Note that Water Reports are usually posted at trailheads, but may not be current.
- Contact the Mesa Ranger District (408.610.3300) for current trail information and potential restrictions before heading out.
- Group size is limited to 15 individuals.
Rules and Regulations
- There is no day-use fee to enter the Superstition Wilderness from this location.
- It is illegal to touch, move or remove historical and archeological artifacts.
Directions to Trailhead
The Hieroglyphics - Lost Goldmine Trailhead is located on Cloudview Ave in Gold Canyon on the SW edge of the Superstition Wilderness.
From Highway 60, exit on Kings Ranch Road and travel north 2.8 miles. Turn right on Baseline Ave for .3 miles, then left on Mohican Road for .3 miles, and left again Valley View Drive. Turn north on Whitetail Road for .3 miles, then right on Cloudview Ave for .4 miles to the trailhead.
Mesa Ranger District
5140 E. Ingram St.
Mesa, Arizona 85205
Monday-Friday: 8 am - noon | 12:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Lost Dutchman State Park
6109 N. Apache Trail
Apache Junction, AZ 85119