The Salado Indians occupied cliff dwellings in the canyon from a.d. 1150 to 1450.
© Tom Danielsen
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Rogers Canyon TrailThere are several ways to explore the rugged Superstition Mountains. One of them is a hike into Rogers Canyon, where the main attractions are ancient ruins and stunning landscapes.
By Jen Bondeson
the Superstition Wilderness contains more than 170 miles of trails, ranging in quality from pretty good to practically nonexistent. It's rugged country, and you'll want to get a USGS map before heading out. Here's why: Between 1920 and 1986, more than 25 people died somewhere in the mountain range. This is not a good place to get lost.
It was a spring Saturday when my boyfriend and I headed out. Our journey began before sunrise, after we nervously packed the car, unsure of what was in store. For two hours after we left the pavement, our Suburban ascended a narrow, one-lane dirt road up a mountain to an elevation of 4,800 feet. Our tires rolled into foot-deep crevices and frighteningly close to 1,000-foot drops. If you're cremnophobic (afraid of cliffs), this drive will push you over the edge.
Eventually, we made it to the Rogers Canyon trailhead and got rolling. We'd been hiking for almost an hour and a half when I looked around and realized I couldn't find a sign to indicate we were heading in the right direction. There are 3.8 million acres in the Tonto National Forest, and my heart was beating as loudly as it was earlier, when I'd gazed over the steep cliffs.
A level head got us back on track, and we descended to an elevation of about 3,700 feet. Keep in mind, this 8.4-mile round-trip trail is downhill on the way in, and uphill on the way out, so save some energy. As we made our way into the wilderness, I slipped, for the hundredth time, on a pebble planted loosely in the path. My head jerked back, causing me to look up. That's when my eye caught something on the other side of the canyon — something that Mother Nature couldn't have done herself. Stones were piled neatly inside a cave that sat high in the canyon walls. Cliff dwellings.
The Salado Indians constructed the cliff dwellings in these mountains more than 600 years ago. Before they were sought out as a hikers' destination, the mud-and-stone homes were well preserved. Today, all that remains are the stone walls.
A recreation assistant for the Superstition Wilderness Area piqued my interest when explaining that although the trail's main attraction has always been the ruins, Forest Service officials now encourage hikers to keep away from the dwellings because of preservation concerns. That's OK, though. The ruins are just as impressive from a safe distance.
With the main attraction checked off our list, we hiked down to a stream. The path wasn't easily distinguished, and thoughts of lost hikers resonated as we scanned the brush for an empty clearing. The hike continues beyond the dwellings to a spot called Angel Basin, which is the most common turnaround point. On our hike, we never even made it that far. It was late, we were tired, and the deepening night sky, splashed with glimmering speckles of stars, said it was time to head home and avoid becoming a statistic.
Trail Guideclick to expand
Length: 8.4 miles round-trip, from the trailhead into Rogers Canyon and back. The trail links to other trails for longer hikes.
Elevation: 4,600 to 3,700 feet
Vehicle Requirements: Four-wheel-drive is recommended
Directions: From Phoenix, go east on U.S. Route 60 toward Globe. Two miles past Florence Junction, turn left on Queen Valley Road, go 2 miles to Forest Road 357 (Hewitt Station Road) and turn right. This road is hard to find, so track your mileage. From there, go 3 miles to Forest Road 172, turn left, and go 9 miles to Forest Road 172A (Rogers Trough Road). At FR 172A, you'll see a sign to Rogers Trough. Turn right and go 4 miles to where FR 172A meets Forest Road 650. Stay left at the junction and go a quarter-mile to the trailhead.
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