Distance: 3.5 miles (5.6 km) round trip
Elevation: 1800 - 2600 feet (550 - 790 m)
Difficulty: Moderately Easy (strenuous behind petroglyphs)
Season: Anytime, except mid-day in summer
Located just outside of Apache Junction, in the Superstition Wilderness, this is a relatively easy, easily accessible trail that offers year-round water and some ancient petroglyphs. So, as you can imagine, it is also heavily visited, particularly by those who don't often go on long backcountry adventures.
But, despite the crowds, a visit to the Hieroglyphic Canyon petroglyphs is worth it. The trail begins in the sprawling community of Gold Canyon just off Hwy 60 heading toward Globe. The suburban developments go literally up to the Tonto National Forest boundary. Turn left on Kings Ranch Road and go 2.8 miles until turning right on Mohican road. Then, look for the brown hiker sign and follow it at several more turns until arriving at the huge parking lot.
The trail heads up the hill to an intersection, where you will stay left. Then, it heads out across the bajada straight toward the Hieroglyphic Canyon ahead. The canyon cuts deep into the sheer cliffs of the Superstition Mountains which makes for a might site. Behind you, you can see Mount Lemmon near Tucson and Mount Graham far off in the distance.
The trail is wife, but rocky, but as it approaches the mouth of the canyon, get much more rugged. You will soon begin to hear the sound of the stream as it tumbles over several waterfalls. Make sure you look out for the boulder filled with ancient grinding mortars. At the middle falls are the densest set of petroglyphs. You will also know you are there when you see the hoards mulling about.
If you are adventurous, consider continuing up the canyon, boulder-hopping your way up to the sharp right turn the canyon makes. From up there, there is a spectacular view of very high cliffs and rugged speaks of the Superstitions. It isn't easy to get up there, but it is fun.
Retrace your steps to return to the trailhead