The Mountains of Arizona •
Turk's Head • Superstition Mountains
• Pinal County

View of the massive cliffs of the Supes at dawn

Looking west at Dinosaur Mountain

Turks Head, and the hole in its topmost ridgeline

The road that goes up between Turks Head and Peak 2777 to the west

The terrain on the way up (into the glare)

Looking down from the summit ridge

View of the Superstition cliffs from the top of Turks

Same cliffs, now we're looking at the Supe highpoint, I believe

View west of Peak 2777 (Old Turks)

The highpoint rocks

The balanced rock that forms the arch that is visible from below

View as I exit, the hole more evident now

Distance view

Signs and rock near the start

All images

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The Arizona
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Date: January 24, 2020 • Elevation: 2,822 feet • Prominence: 502 feet • Distance: 5 miles • Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes • Gain: 1,040 feet • Conditions: Cool, sunny with some high clouds


Turk's Head is an interesting peak in the Arizona State Trust lands south of the main Superstition Mountains range. It has a long, rocky slope that trends west, and tall cliffs on its east face. The Lost Goldmine Trail runs east-west, skirting the peak to the south. It can be accessed from the south via Peralta Road, or from the west at the Hieroglyphic Trailhead.

The peak is a favorite for hikers exploring this part of the mountain range. Once I discovered some trip reports and photos of the peak and the hike to it, suddenly I wanted to do it. I got maps together and set out early today, a Friday, in order to beat the usual traffic and congestion these trails see. The drive from my home covered 42 miles and took about 45 minutes.

Getting to the Hieroglyphic Trailhead requires some attention to the map. From US-60, I followed Kings Ranch Road through the Gold Canyon development, keeping to the road as it bent north. After a few miles (I did not keep track), the road narrows at Baseline Road. I went right (east) a half mile to Mohican Road, then north to a stop sign to Valley View, which goes west then bends north, now called White Tail. This came to Cloudview Road. I went right (east again) about a mile to the large parking lot at the trailhead. I arrived at 7:15 a.m., the fourth car here. The day was cool with mostly cloudless skies. The sun was still below the east horizon but there was ample light to see by, as sunrise was just a few minutes away.

I started hiking at 7:20 a.m., following the Hieroglyphic Trail through a gate. The trail switchbacks a couple times to gain a ridge, about 50 feet higher from the cars. Here, the trail splits: the Hieroglyphic goes left and stays northbound, the Lost Goldmine goes right and starts trending east. The peak is visible early on, looking like a thumb sticking out of the ground. The top crown features a small opening, formed by a large rock teetering on top of two other rocks. This opening can be seen from down below and from a distance away.

Now on the Lost Goldmine, the trail then makes a couple meandering switchbacks downhill, getting as far north as the Tonto National Forest boundary (marked by a barbed-wire fence). The trail aims eastward, but the ridges and arroyos from the all fall south, meaning the trail has to bend with the lay of the land, gaining and losing a few feet over and over again to work past the many ridges and arroyos.

The sun was now low in the sky and lighting everything up in gorgeous oranges and reds. I was the only person on the trail so far as I could tell. The terrain here is high desert, lush with grasses, bushes and cactus, including large cholla gardens. It was still cool, about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. I enjoyed the walk and did not rush things.

After about an hour, I had come to the west base of Turk's Head. To its west (north of where I stood) was another peak, Old Turk's Head, notable for two cliff bands that encircle it like a wedding cake. Between the two peaks is a drainage, which I descended into. On the other side is the trail, which crosses a road that leads into the crook between the two peaks.

Here, I did a little mix of trail and off-trail hiking, partly the result of following a couple cairns that really didn't lead anywhere. I found the trail again, then hung a soft left onto the road, following it north. Where the road then bends left, I walked into a large clearing and found a couple substantial cairns, suggesting a let-in point for the hike to the summit. To here I had hiked about two miles. It was warming into the comfortable temperatures so I took a short break and shed a layer.

As I approached Turk's Head, I studied its terrain: a jumble of rock layers, rocky slopes, cliff bands and interesting rock formations. I was a little concerned how I would get up the thing, but clearly many people have so I trusted there was some route to the top. At these lower cairns, a decent footpath enters into the grass, gaining about 75 feet. The path ends at the base of the first rock tiers.

There were plenty of cairns to follow, but even so, I "lost" the route, meaning I could not find any cairns near where I stood. So I followed my own senses and worked uphill, gaining another 50 feet through rocks and brush, and soon, found the cairns again. I religiously followed these, always making sure I could see the next one and hopefully the one after that. For short segments, everything would be easy and obvious, then suddenly, no more cairns.

I had to really look for them, even trying a few turns that seemed illogical. But invariably, I found the next cairn. The route would make sudden odd turns to bypass a rock obstacle or take advantage of a break in the rocks. I moved slowly and carefully, following cairns and admiring the rock formations. Higher up, the rock laid back, sometimes just a long bare slope of rock but never so steep to cause concern. I was enjoying this, where the route would only open up a few feet at a time, threading the gauntlet of rock spires and cliffs.

About half-way up, the terrain is essentially all rock by now. The summit is in view again, the hole-in-the-ridge being a dead giveaway. The route works up a couple open rock slopes, feeding up to the base of the small summit ridge-crown. The easiest approach then angles left and meets this crown at its north end, two large rocks with cairns atop them. I dropped the pack and poles and went to inspect this summit ridge.

Getting up to these rocks was easy. I was in a tiny perch, beside the highest of the cairned rocks, but not at the highest point. The highpoint was just about 20 feet away, across a level catwalk of bare rock. So I got up onto this little catwalk and sat there.

For whatever reason, I just did not like this. For all the hiking, climbing and scrambling I do, I don't like narrow catwalks. In reality, it was just a foot at its narrowest. I figured I could crawl across it, or au-cheval it, but none of these tricks worked. I was letting this get to my head, and I was getting rather frustrated with myself!

I dropped off the rocky crown and hiked down a few feet to inspect the crown from below. now about twenty feet below. There were a few cracks I could have scooted up but they did not conveniently lead to the very top. But it did clear my head. I told myself to stop lollygagging and try it again. So back up I went.

This time, I just willed myself across that narrow bit, and it was so damn easy. Past that, it was trivial maneuvering to get to the top-most rocks and the sign-in register. I signed in and snapped a few images, then reversed my moves and got myself back to the other side and back down to my pack and hiking poles.

Sometimes, you just encounter something that spooks you, for no good reason. This is what happened to me. I don't know why this one narrow portion spooked me, but it did. I was happy to get past it, more annoyed at myself at that very moment for being so reticent.

For the hike down, I felt it wise to stick with the cairns, which led me downhill perfectly. But I still had to keep an eye out for them. Lower down, there are options one could choose, but I liked what I had taken up, so I followed it down all the way.

The hike out took an hour. By now, the sun up and everything warming nicely, more people were on the trails. Mountain bikers, people with dogs, hard-core types and casual saunterers. But it did not feel crowded. I passed perhaps a dozen people going out. I suspect most people here hike the Hieroglyphic Trail, which leads to a big bouldery canyon with pools of water.

I was back to the car at 10:40 a.m., by now the lot full, about 30 cars. The two cars parked beside me had license plates from Manitoba and Ontario. Two more nearby had plates from Illinois, and from Wisconsin, which is kind of like Canada. I didn't go looking at all the plates, but I was amused to see the variety. I changed into more comfortable clothes, and drove home, the drive taking an hour.

Turk's Head was a real delight to hike. The scenery along the Lost Goldmine Trail, and on the slopes of Turk's, was gorgeous. The 3,000-foot tall Superstition massif rises just a mile to the north the whole way, the scale so big that it overwhelms. I enjoyed the route through the rocks and even appreciated a little adrenaline rush at the top. Everything worked out well, the weather was perfect, and I had a very enjoyable three hours away from answering emails.

(c) 2020 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.