The Cave Trail-Peralta Loop is a moderately strenuous day hike through some of the most spectacular and best-known terrain of Arizona's Superstition Wilderness. The trail through Peralta Canyon is a popular Class 1 affair, but the less-used and more rugged Cave Trail involves a bit of scrambling, really more like clambering, if one follows the correct route. In addition, there are some outcrops along the Cave Trail that could make for some nice bouldering objectives.
Spring might be the best time for this outing since one can expect to enjoy warm temperatures and the desert's ephemeral wildflower display. Winters should be pleasant, and fall will be much like spring but without all the wildflowers. Summer temperatures frequently top 100 F, so hike early or late in the day and carry plenty of water.
Hiking early in the morning is preferable because the trail will not be too busy, and photograhers will find that the conditions for photographing the famous Weavers Needle from Fremont Saddle, a scene which is perhaps the iconic image of the Superstitions, are best at that time of day.
Getting There8.5 miles east of Apache Junction on U.S. 60, turn onto the road signed for the Peralta Trailhead. This gravel road leads for about 8 miles to a parking lot, fee station (self-pay), and trail register. The fee per car was around $5 when I was there in 2004, so have a bit more than that just to be safe.
There are two trails originating here: the Dutchman's Trail and the Peralta Trail. Take the Peralta Trail, which is on the left and heads northeast.
Route DescriptionApproximate Round-trip Distance: 5 miles
Approximate Total Elevation Gain: 1500'
Start with the Peralta Trail. In 2.25 miles, it climbs 1300' to Fremont Saddle, which offers postcard-quality views. The trail is occasionally steep, but it is easy to follow and is well-maintained. Take note of the changing vegetation as you climb.
At Fremont Saddle, walk a few yards to the right and look for the beginnings of the Cave Trail. The trail, which follows the ridge that comprises the east rim of Peralta Canyon, is named for a shallow cave along it, but the real highlight of the trail is the views, some of which encompass virtually untouched expanses of Saguaro-adorned desert. Expect some Class 3 scrambling on this route, and harder if you get off-route.
Some hiking guidebooks say this trail is too rugged to be called a trail, but anyone used to scrambling probably won't see it that way. Anyway, do be alert for long and sudden dropoffs and steep descents along smooth rock.
The Cave Trail joins the Dutchman's Trail a few minutes' walk from the parking area.
Essential GearHiking boots and plenty of water. Although the climate and terrain are friendly to hiking sandals, I advise against using them since this is rattlesnake territory; also, cactus spines could get into your sandals and make for a very unpleasant hike.
Weavers Needle USGS quad.