Thru-hike the Superstitions via a seldom-visited canyon; gape at the cosmos at a new Dark Sky Park in Wisconsin; and tick off the wildest section of the Florida Trail when you beeline across an Air Force base.
TURN-BY-TURN FROM THE CANYON LAKE TRAILHEAD
1) Take the Boulder Canyon Trail 3.3 miles south to where it doglegs west, away from La Barge Canyon. (Note: There’s no sign here, but it’s near 33.5071, -111.4007.)
2) It’s simple: Stay in La Barge Canyon. Follow the bottom roughly 3.2 miles southeast, boulderhopping, scrambling, and wading your way upcanyon until you meet the Cavalry Trail (near 33.4794, -111.3760). It’s easy to miss; map and compass (and nav skills) required, GPS encouraged.
3) Follow the Cavalry Trail 1.7 miles south to a T-junction.
4) Veer east onto the Dutchman Trail and proceed to an unsigned (but obvious) intersection for Charlebois Spring at mile 9.5.
5) Head .2 mile north to reach the tree-framed camp.
6) Retrace your steps to the junction and continue 3.4 miles on the Dutchman Trail to a Y-junction.
7) Split west onto the Bluff Springs Trail, taking it 3.4 miles to the Peralta trailhead.
CHARLEBOIS SPRING (MILE 9.7)
This oasis is a longtime favorite of Arizona backpackers. Fed by a deep and powerful spring, Charlebois is the only water source for miles in any direction—making it a stopover point for most overnighters. Luckily, it’s a looker, with riparian trees sheltering level campsites. If you arrive early enough, snag one of the spots near the water. Otherwise fill up your bottles and pick one of the sites along the Dutchman Trail.
Arizona isn’t known for its fall color, but hikes like this will make you think it should be. Time it right and La Barge Canyon’s cottonwoods and sycamores should greet you with a golden ceiling of leaves. Peak color varies, so check bit.do/foliageprediction-map to know for sure.
It’s good practice in Arizona— especially if you’re venturing offtrail—to pack either a fine-tooth comb or rubber cement. Use the former to gently scrape spines out. With the latter, smear a glob on the spines, let it dry, then peel it off.
DO IT SHUTTLE CAR 33.3972, -111.3478; 9 miles northeast of Gold Canyon on Peralta Rd. TRAILHEAD 33.5341, -111.4228; an hour-long drive north of the shuttle car on AZ 88/N Apache Trail SEASON November to March PERMIT None CUSTOM MAP bit.do/BPmapLaBargeCanyon ($15) CONTACT www.fs.usda.gov/tonto
Distance 16.7 miles Time 2 days Difficulty
The views start early on the Boulder Canyon Trail.