Directions: From Apache Junction, go NE on SR 88 approx 5.3 miles to FR 78 (just past Lost Dutchman State Park). Turn right and continue 2.6 miles to the end of the road. Lots of parking, but it can be crowded on weekends in the spring. There is a $4.00 per day fee for parking. Trailhead is accessible in a car.
Trail Information: This trail description is for the clockwise loop - for a more difficult run, do this as a counter-clockwise loop. The longer climbs are further in on the counter-clockwise...
From the trailhead run east on Dutchman #104. At .4 miles go left on Second Water #236. Second Water climbs a small ridge and the drops into Garden Valley, a flat expanse that lives up to its name.
At Garden Valley (1.9 miles from the trailhead), you will find the junction for the Black Mesa Trail #241 - go right. The Black Mesa Trail (total of 3.0 miles) climbs to the top of Black Mesa (elev. 2750 feet). The trail follows a ridgeline as it climbs gently; then, towards the top, the climb becomes steeper then flattens out on top.
The Black Mesa Trail cuts through a dense cholla forest on top of the mesa. Then, the trail descends steeply towards Boulder Creek, just before the junction with the Dutchman Trail #104. As you are descending, you will see some great views of Weaver's Needle here! Also, be aware, as the trail consists of loose chalky dirt that can made the steep descent a little slippery!
To complete the loop, take the Dutchman Trail #104 at the junction. The trail turns north then west as it climbs over Parker Pass. From Parker Pass, it is only 2.5 miles to the trailhead. You will cross First Water Creek several times en route. (Note: This year, there was lots of water in the creek!)
Miscellaneous Information: It is about 8-9 miles with lots of rolling hills...I really enjoy running this one just enough up and down for a decent workout with some cruising in between.