Fremont Peak 4180′
Total Time: 5:00
Distance: 6.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 1980′
Crux: Class 3
Trailhead: Peralta Trail, pit toilets
I had been neglecting the Superstitions since my big outing on Weavers Needle, and had yet to head back since the weather cooled down for the season. So needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to head into the range when Holly suggested an outing on a weekend off. She had yet to hike the Peralta Trail to Fremont Saddle, arguably the southern Superstition’s most popular hike. I suggested we head up to the pass to view the needle, then tag Fremont Peak just above the pass. I was unsure of the route above the pass, but at only 200′ above, she was game to give it a go with hope that the brush wouldn’t be too terrible. We left home fairly late given the less ambitious outing and found the Peralta Trailhead was completely full by the time we reached the Superstitions, with a ranger directing us to an auxiliary lot. It was pretty warm for January as we headed up the canyon in full sun, with the pinnacles of the ‘Zonerland’ climbing area on the western side of the canyon, and the cliffs of the ‘Fortress’ climbing area on the east.
We had plenty of company as we hiked along, and I had forgotten how deceptive the trail was- every time you thought you were close to the saddle, another switchback would show you a higher layer to the canyon above. We took a break about 2/3rds of the way to the saddle in a rocky outcrop providing some shade. The higher elevation provided a nice angle on Miner’s Needle and Miner’s Summit to the east, with plans to climb the ‘Thread the Needle’ rock climbing route before Phoenix became too hot again.
Leaving the comfort of the shade, we closed the remaining distance to the saddle, giving us our first look at the dramatic south face of Weavers Needle that day. The hard work of the climb long forgotten, I was already day dreaming about climbing it again as we took in the views from the saddle.
Looking up towards Fremont Peak, basically an extension of the Zonerland pinnacles, it was hard to pick out the highpoint or a brush-free line up. I pulled out my GPS and was surprised to find a trail marked heading up towards the summit of Fremont Peak from Fremont Saddle named the Dacite Trail. Sure enough, when we hike just a few feet further north along the Peralta Trail, we found an unmarked turn off just past some high boulders. We started up this trail, mostly cairns marking the way up open slabs, and found it was actually pretty easy to follow. Unfortunately, the route we were on seemed to be traversing hard to the south and further from the high point. My GPS showed a junction with the Robbers Roost Trail (which I couldn’t find on the descent) which we had seemingly missed. We were only about 60′ below the ridgeline and it was fairly easy cross country to bring us the rest of the way upslope, and we hoped to pick up a game trail along the ridgeline. However, the ridgeline wasn’t much of a ridge at all, but more of a complex maze of pinnacles and rock fins separated by deep basins filled with brush. We contoured back to the north and had our first bit of bushwacking, no more cairns to guide the way. We reached a section that looked like it could be the highpoint and I scrambled up some class 3 slabs to the top. There were a few other blobs of rock to the north vying for the highpoint, but my GPS showed I was more or less in the right spot and I wasn’t looking to get in trouble with the Mrs. climbing every scrap of rock near the top to get the highest one. So headed back down and led Holly up to the summit, just big enough for us both to recline back into the rocks and enjoy the views across the Superstitions. Weavers Needle dominated the views to the northeast, and Superstition Peak and the Flatiron made up the entire views west. Picketpost Mountain and Mount Lemmon could be seen in the distance south, with Four Peaks to the east. While Battleship Mountain was blocked by Weavers Needle, I could spot Black Mesa and Yellow Peak from that long loop through the range two years prior.
Voices echoed up from the Peralta Trail only 200′ below, and I spotted a series of cairns leading off the summit rocks that seemed to be headed in the right direction. Dropping down class 3, we followed cairns on what was an initially easy track.
The cairns unfortunately dead ended in some brush, which ultimately led to some bushwacking and cactus tromping to get us back to the trail we traversed across on, just enough thorns to get me in trouble with Holly. We hit Fremont Saddle finding it just as crowded as we had left it, then headed back down the trail towards the trailhead. It was late enough that the sun was dropping below the western canyon wall, providing some much needed shade for the hike out. We passed a surprising number of people on the descent, many of which would have to hike out in the dark if they were planning on making the saddle at such a late hour. Back at the car, we left the range and headed to our usual post-Superstition hike burger at Wilderness Brewing before heading home.