2015 AH Classic Wall CalendarShop the AH Store >>

Our 2015 calendars are now available!

Classic Wall Calendar

CL15 $10.99

Our classic 13-month spiral-bound calendar features 30 full-color photographs and a handy map of Arizona on the back.

Order Now >>
Purchase Camping GuideShop the AH Store >>

Featured Book

Arizona Highways
Camping Guide

AGCS3 $22.95

Our newest book, which includes Arizona Highways iconic photography and maps, is sorted by region and is written for car-campers and families. Detailed information about accessibilty, amenities and fees is included for each campground.

Order Now >>
2011 AH Wildlife CalendarSee Selection of Images >>

Featured Prints

Poster Prints
Special Edition Prints

Many of the extraordinary images found in our award-winning magazine, scenic coffee-table books and exquisite calendars can be purchased as fine posters and prints.

Order Now >>
Shop the AH Store >>

Featured Gift Item

Centennial Issue Reprint

SPCENN2 $4.99

If you missed our February 100-page Centennial Issue on newsstands earlier this year, here's your second chance to get a copy of this special collector's edition of Arizona Highways magazine..

Order Now >>

  • print page
  • Tell a Friend
  • Post to Facebook
  • YouTube
  • past to del.icio.us
BULLEThiking archive
Hike of the Month Photo
Spring flowers bloom in the Superstition Wilderness.

© Paul Gill

>> Click on image to view
it larger in a separate window.

Additional Reading expand
Arizona Hiking Guide Book

Our newest book, Arizona Highways Hiking Guide, is now available and features 52 of Arizona's best day hikes for winter, spring, summer and fall.

To order, call 800-543-5432
or visit our online store.

Second Water Trail
Hyacinths, anemones, Mexican goldpoppies, desert lupines ... this time of year, wildflowers take center stage along this spectacular hike.

By Robert Stieve

Most trails have a hook — a highlight, a focal point, a reason people hit the trail in the first place. On the Bright Angel, it's the Grand Canyon. On the Weatherford, it's the Inner Basin. And on West Clear Creek, it's West Clear Creek. Throughout most of the year, the centerpiece of any hike in the Superstition Wilderness is the rugged Sonoran Desert landscape — despite its proximity to the sixth-largest city in the United States, this is one of the most remote areas in all of Arizona. In the springtime, however, the hyacinths, anemones, Mexican goldpoppies and desert lupines take center stage.

Nothing against the bluebonnets in Texas or the cherry blossoms in D.C., but there aren't many wildflower spectacles that can rival the explosion of color that washes over the Arizona desert in February, March and April. To see a delicate flower emerge from the unforgiving soil is a good reminder that Mother Nature is capable of just about anything. It's a sight worth seeing, and there are a number of trails that'll get you there. Second Water is one of the many.

The route begins at the First Water Trailhead. Initially, you'll be on the Dutchman Trail, which leads to Second Water after about 10 minutes. Just beyond the intersection you'll come to First Water Creek. Most of the time, there won't be any water, but in the springtime, it's a possibility. If the water is flowing, you won't need a boat to get across — just a little agility. From there, the clearly marked trail follows a gentle route through saguaros, chollas, paloverdes and ocotillos to an intersection with the Black Mesa Trail. Keep left and look around. After a wet winter, the desert floor in this area, known as Garden Valley, is carpeted with wildflowers and grasses. Think focal point.

Continuing, there's a steady dose of Sonoran Desert, and after about an hour, you'll come to one of the more interesting saguaros in the world. At some point in its long life, the stately plant suffered some kind of trauma that bent it in half, leaving a good portion of the cactus lying on the ground. Fortunately, the saguaro bent but didn't break, thus allowing it to keep living and keep growing. As of this writing, three new "arms" had sprouted up from the horizontal section on the ground. Like the surrounding wildflowers, this is another one of Mother Nature's many miracles.

Ten minutes beyond the cactus phenomenon, the trail begins a downhill run toward Boulder Canyon. This is where most of the elevation change occurs along the trail. It's not much of a challenge, but it helps deter the masses. As you work your way down, you'll see a canyon to your right. That's Second Water Canyon, which parallels Boulder Canyon up ahead. Canyons are common in this wilderness, and they tend to look the same to an untrained eye. It's one of the reasons so many people get lost and, in some cases, die in the Superstitions. There's no risk of getting lost on this trail, though. It's easy to follow and eventually leads to a thicket of reeds growing in a riparian area just before Boulder Canyon. The lush scene will surprise you. And so will the creek that marks the end of the trail.

After about an hour and a half of hiking, you'll come to an intersection with the Boulder Canyon Trail and a tributary of La Barge Creek. Like First Water Creek earlier, there's a good chance of seeing water in this stream if winter storms have delivered an average amount of precipitation. As far as turnaround points on a trail go, this has to rank as one of the most spectacular. The surrounding rock walls of the canyon, the saguaros dotting the landscape, the flowing stream ... it's almost enough to make you forget that wildflowers are the focal point of this hike.

Trail Guideclick to expand/contract

Map of Area Length: 6.6 miles round-trip

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation: 1,940 to 2,420 feet

Directions: From Phoenix, drive east on U.S. Route 60 for approximately 25 miles to Tomahawk Road (Exit 197) and turn left. Drive north for 3 miles to State Route 88 (the Apache Trail), turn right and drive approximately 5 miles to the First Water Trailhead, which serves as the starting point for the Second Water Trail, as well.

Vehicle Requirements: None

Dogs Allowed: Yes (on a leash)
Horses Allowed: Yes

USGS Map: Goldfield

Information: Mesa Ranger District, 480-610-3300 or www.fs.usda.gov/tonto

Leave No Trace Ethics:
  • Plan ahead and be prepared.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly and pack out your trash.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Respect wildlife and minimize impact.
  • Be considerate of others.
  • >> Visit Hiking Archive

    Story ArchivesFind previously published stories online... [more]

    Global SnapshotsSend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

    Photo of the DaySend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]


    Social MediaJoin our Facebook, Twitter and Flickr communities for behind-the-scenes glimpses at Arizona Highways... [more]

    Events & PromotionsEscape, experience and explore Arizona, one event at a time... [more]

    Best of AZ50 of our favorite things around the state, including photography, nature, dining, adventure, lodging... [more]

    site map  |  terms of use  |  privacy policy  |  corporate sales  |  about us  |  contact us

    Arizona Highways Television AZ Dept. of Transportation AZ Dept. of Public Safety Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

    © Copyright 2014 Arizona Department of Transportation, State of Arizona. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. The images on this Web site are copyrighted, digitally watermarked and registered with the Digimarc tracking system. All rights reserved. Copying and downloading images from this site are strictly prohibited.