In Search of the Proverbial Needle ~ Superstition Mountains, Apache Junction, AZ

superstition mountain

Our hike into the Superstition Mountains took us in search of a needle, Weaver’s Needle to be exact.   There are several hikes in this wilderness area that allow for views of this well-known landmark (and the Needle presents differently depending on the angle), but the Terrapin Trail we chose gets you closer than most.  The entire hike is a 13-mile loop that circumnavigates Weaver’s Needle but we weren’t able to start early enough to do the entire hike so we opted instead for an 8-mile out and back.  This actually was just about perfect, given the section we trekked was fairly aggressive, over rough terrain, and required some boulder-hopping.  We threw in a little bushwhacking just for fun so we could enjoy lunch gazing at Weaver’s Needle.  If you long for isolation while hiking, this trail is far superior, in our opinion, to the Peralta Trail, one of the most heavily traveled in Arizona.

Weaver's Needle
Weaver’s Needle

Weaver’s Needle was named after mountain man Paulino Weaver and was formed from the erosion of fused volcanic ash.  It has played a major role in the stories told of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. Supposedly the Needle’s shadow points to the location of a significant vein of gold.  Many have searched for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold and some have lost their lives in this pursuit.  There are even those who feel that the Dutchman mine doesn’t exist within these mountains at all.

The Superstitions are not kind to those who don’t respect her and the wilderness is rugged and vast, with  many trails not well-marked.  If not careful, you could easily get yourself turned around and never leave.  The stories are endless of those who have disappeared, with some estimates of over 600 deaths or disappearances.  Earlier this week on the local news we heard of a 51-year old woman who had to be rescued from the Superstition Wilderness and this was not a first for her but has occurred many times during her quest for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, the last rescue as recent as December 2012.

Many feel there is a curse in this desolate wilderness.  The fantastic tales of strange phenomena involving the Superstitions are lengthy and quite bizarre, from Aztecs still holed up in caves, to UFO sightings, to portals into other worlds. Strange coincidences swirl around these mountains as well.  Stone from the Superstitions was used to build the Roosevelt Dam on the Apache Trail and 22 died in the construction.  The first water that came over the dam was saved and used to christen the famous battleship USS Arizona.  Twenty-five years later this same battleship became known as the most devastating loss in the attack on Pearl Harbor, with more than 1000 men going down with the ship.

Wicked accidents are a common occurrence as well, as my husband can attest to. Some years ago, while hiking down a rocky trail out here, he stumbled and fell into a teddy bear cholla forest.  Neither he nor the teddies fared very well in this encounter.  Lots of blood and a few tears were shed (mine) as I pulled hundreds of barbs out of his body.  Luckily his face was unscathed, but the palms of his hands took the brunt, along with a shoulder, stomach, and hip.  For weeks afterwards, the teddy bears enacted their revenge on him in the form of secondary barbs that continued to surface in the palms of his hands.  Guess they didn’t take too kindly to him tearing away their appendages in his rush to greet them!

Happiest in nature without teddy bear cholla!
Happiest in nature without teddy bear cholla!

The Superstition Wilderness is fiercely rugged country and a fabulous place to hike in pure isolation, provided you watch the signs and follow those stacked rocks (cairns), which could literally save your life or prevent a rescue mission.

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58 thoughts on “In Search of the Proverbial Needle ~ Superstition Mountains, Apache Junction, AZ

  • This sounds like the type of trail I like to take… full of intrigue and superstitions… wonderful photos and love the birds, are they some kind of songbird….

    • It is rugged and wild out here, just your kinda place I bet! These are lovebirds. Wish I had had a better zoom lens with me when they landed on the ocotillo.

  • Yikes – I can’t imagine such an encounter with a Teddy Bear Cholla! When we leave the Tucson area (Gilbert Ray and Catalina) we would like to vist and do some hiking in the Superstition Mountain area – so, thanks for the info.

    • There are so many hikes out in the Superstitions, with some fabulous scenery. Watch out for those little teddy bears. They aren’t as cuddly as they look!

  • I like superstitions. I love proving them wrong. However, seeing that I can’t walk far without being in pain, I think I’ll give this one a miss 😉

    Great photos LuAnn, thanks for sharing and I hope that the teddy bears have stopped now

      • I used to. Every Sunday when I was a kid, we used to walk about four or five miles. Always the same route. But it was fun as we used to be able to look over the whole town

  • Great Hiking tips! We just arrived at Lost Dutchaman S.P and are eager to get out and explore the Superstition Mtns.
    Your Teddy Bear Cholla story made me shudder in fear. We spent the last 3 weeks in Tucson and have experienced a few minor encounters with these not so cuddly guys. The worst was when I slipped on some loose rocks causing me to fall on a large piece of cactus that then embedded itself into my leg through my pants. It was pretty painful so I can imagine how bad falling into a forest of them would be! We are now much more careful around the teddy bears 🙂

    • Sorry to hear about your encounter with the teddy bears. Thankfully my husband’s is now a distant memory. Are you planning some hiking in the Superstitions? We really wanted to hike up to the Flatiron but it is a very strenuous hike and not one to do when there has been recent precipitation we are told. We’ll have to save it for next time.

    • Sorry to hear about your encounter with the teddy bears. Thankfully my husband’s is now a distant memory. Are you planning some hiking in the Superstitions? We really wanted to hike up to the Flatiron but it is a very strenuous hike and not one to do when there has been recent precipitation we are told. We’ll have to save it for next time. Thanks for stopping by. You have a new follower. 🙂

      • Yes, lots of hiking planned for our two week stay here. We’ve looked into the Flatiron hike. The description sounds a bit scary, but I think we might attempt it next week after it dries out up there.

  • Great post LuAnn. Love the photo of the lovebirds. That’s one to frame….to capture 3 on an occatillo, what are the chances? Wish we were still in AZ. Happy trails….

      • We are hunkered down in Elephant Butte NM waiting for snow to pass. Hopefully Santa Fe tomorrow for even colder temps…. why oh why!!! Ah…responsiblities. We’ll be traveling in between storms. I’d like to explore Santa Fe, but might be wiser not to hang out too long.,

  • We visited that area last spring. We thought it was a hoot to have a famous area named after us…hehe Really, that area is beautiful. Thanks for the picture of Superstition MT. with the snow. Looks lovely.

  • I love this area! We spent 12 days in January and another 10 in February in the Tonto National Forest last winter and will return soon. We were about two miles past Canyon Lake at the Tortilla campground. The energy of the canyon and surrounding high desert was peaceful and intense, simultaneously.
    And I, also, had a personal experience with the cholla…not as bad as your hubby’s though.

    • This part of AZ is beautiful, so rugged the mountains with deep azure lakes set down amongst them. We love to kayak Canyon Lake. Any tussle with a teddy bear cholla cannot be enjoyable.

  • YIKES! That gives me the creeps!!! Even the different hearsays gives me goosebumps. And Holy Guacamole, glad he’s still good after the ‘attack’. That first mountain is beautiful though.
    The problem with me is that I don’t brave it up for longer hikes. 13-mile is a lot for a noob like me. 😀
    I must be reminded to bring a compass and a back pack with goodies in case I got to the wonderful world of Narnia 😆 if I did even consider doing this trail.

  • First the Superstition in snow is captured beautifully! Second, we will be there next time around. We only went sightseeing here and it looks like there are trails to be had. Oh you did manage to picture those lovebirds nicely.

    • There are so many trails in the Superstitions to enjoy. We wanted to do the Flatiron Trail but it is recommended not to do when there has been recent precipitation as it is very steep. We will have to save it for next time. Safe travels.

  • I may have to put your blog on timeout . . . we’re here at home for two more weeks and seeing how much fun you and Terry are having in your wanderings is almost more than I can stand!

    I appreciate the hiking information you share here. It’s very helpful as a point of reference when we’re out and about in the same vicinity. As many hiking books as I have, it’s amazing how many wonderful hikes I read about on blogs that never make their way into a book.

    • Hmmm, I don’t remember ever being put into timeout before! I really like to describe the hikes that I write about because I have found many hikes labeled as strenuous that we considered moderate and vice versa. I think you two would love hiking in the Superstitions. Loved your last post on finances…good stuff! 🙂

  • Whoa, LuAnn; one would need to be very careful here..!
    Your poor husband; what a terrible thing to happen to him.
    I think I’ll leave this terrain to adventurous individuals such as you pair; I’ll enjoy it via your fabulous narration… 😉

    • Good to hear and if you get out there, try the Flatiron Trail as well and let me know how you like it. It was too wet for us to do this time.

  • Hi LuAnn, I have some catching up to do I see. I’d like to apologize in advance because your post was so informative and interesting and the beautiful photography until I got caught up with your story of the time terry fought with the teddy bear cholla, then I just couldn’t get past the whole thing. I kept seeing him with all those awful barbs and you in tears as if the plant was actually alive and he was struggling with it (vivid imagination)! I’m glad he healed well from the experience and hope he had no nightmares, I would’ve! Great post (as always) my friend! Missed you, Penny xx

  • Hi LuAnn,
    I found your site looking for photos of the Superstitions with the recent snow. I am writing to ask permission to use a cropped version of the first image here on our organizations new website home page for a week or two. I will be very happy to place your name and website directly below the image.
    Kelley McGalliard
    Executive Director
    AZ Defense Academy Foundation
    a 501(c)3 charity
    Tempe, Arizona

    • Good Morning Kelley,

      I am fine with you using my photo of the Superstitions blanketed in snow. Thanks for asking and for the recognition of my blog. Best of luck with your organization.


      LuAnn Oburn

  • Ouch! Terry’s accident sounds nasty!
    But the fascinating tales of the Superstitions and that wild rugged landscape is so intriguing Luann. Your posts could make hikers out of couch potatoes 🙂

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