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    Hieroglyphic Trail

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    4.5 km
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    173 m
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    Directions to Trailhead
    Hieroglyphic Trail

    The Hieroglyphic Trail is a 4.5 km hike at the base of Arizona’s Superstition Mountains that leads to the opening of a canyon decorated with petroglyphs. These images date back over 1,500 years when the Hohokam tribe lived here. Not only is the canyon base a living artifact, but your perch here gives you a stellar view of the Gold Canyon, Gila River Plain, and the upper peaks of the Superstition Mountains over 610 m above you.

    This hike is moderately difficult and is suitable for most skill levels and ages. It requires very light scrambling to get into the canyon. Dogs are not permitted on this trail. Note that this hike gets very busy, so you’ll want to visit midweek or early in the morning if you’re able to.

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    Route Description for Hieroglyphic Trail

    The Hieroglyphic Trail is a fascinating hike that leads you up towards the base of the mighty Superstition Mountains into a canyon where petroglyphs decorate the basalt boulders and walls. These images were left here over 1,500 years ago when the Hohokam tribe lived in this area. Along with the petroglyphs, this hike shows off the towering Superstition Mountains above you and the Gold Canyon and Gila River Plain below. In the spring, it’s lined by wildflowers.

    So this route is beautiful, unique, and historical. That means it’s also quite busy! This trail sees plenty of traffic. Plan to visit in the middle of the week if you can, or come early in the morning on weekends. Arriving early is recommended regardless because of the extreme heat this area can experience in the afternoons.

    Although this hike is rated as moderate and suitable for active children, keep in mind that there is some scrambling required to get into the canyon and parts of the trail are rough and rocky. This terrain may be too challenging for young kids, hikers with mobility challenges, or beginners.

    Please bring lots of water with you on this hike and wear sturdy footwear. The conditions of this path would be hard on sneakers! Consider sun protection as well.

    From the trailhead, head out on the trail, keeping left immediately as it zig-zags to a junction surrounded by teddy bear cholla. As cuddly as it sounds, don’t hug the teddy bear cholla!
    Stay left here (if you zig-zag more after this point, you didn’t stay far enough left). The Lost Goldmine Trail heads off to the right.

    Pass a gate marking the boundary of the Superstition Wilderness. You’ll hike along a ridge top for about half of a mile. You’ll descend into a wash near the opening of the Hieroglyphic Canyon. Here, the footing becomes looser and rockier, so watch your steps.

    Reach a short cliff overlooking a collection of volcanic rocks. There are pools that hold water here for most of the year, a rarity in the Arizona heat. We don’t recommend planning to swim in them as they become green with algae when there hasn’t been much rainfall.

    The slopes above you are covered with barrel cacti and some saguaros. Follow the stream to find the petroglyphs, most of them on the far side, carved into the dark basalt rocks. They’re a bit faded from the sun but can still be appreciated.

    As you look at the petroglyphs, remember that touching them causes them to fade much faster because of the oils in our skin and the eroding effect of contact on the rock. Don’t touch them, and by leaving them alone, you allow them to last. Once they’re gone, they can’t be recovered.

    The trail ends here. Turn around and retrace your steps out of the canyon and along the trail to the trailhead.

    Hiking Route Highlights

    Hieroglyphic Canyon

    The Hieroglyphic Canyon is at the base of the Superstition Mountains near Superstition Mountain. The canyon is notable for two things. First, it holds pools of water that stay filled most of the year, a rarity in this hot, dry part of the state. The second is the petroglyphs that cover the walls and boulders of the canyon. The petroglyphs are evidence of the presence of the Hohokam tribe in this region up to 1,500 years ago.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How long is the Hieroglyphic Trail one way?

    One way, this trail is 2.3 km long.

    How old are the petroglyphs in the Superstition Mountains?

    This set of petroglyphs is around 1,500 years old, or perhaps even older.

    What is a hieroglyph versus a petroglyph?

    This canyon is a bit of a misnomer. Hieroglyphs are characters used by ancient Egyptians to write. The images you see in the canyon are petroglyphs, which are rock carvings, usually prehistoric.

    Insider Hints for Hieroglyphic Trail

    • Solid boots are recommended for this rocky trail.
    • Take care as you climb into the canyon, there may be sharp rocks to avoid.

    Getting to the Hieroglyphic Trail Trailhead

    The trailhead for the Hieroglyphic Trail is on E Cloudview Avenue.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground


    • When to do


    • Pets allowed


    • Family friendly


    • Route Signage


    • Crowd Levels


    • Route Type

      Out and back

    Hieroglyphic Trail Elevation Graph

    Weather Forecast

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    Hieroglyphic Trail Reviews

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