If I were to tell you that there was a giant, 140 foot waterfall hidden in the middle of the Arizona desert, would you believe it? Well, it’s absolutely true! Arizona, is a land blessed with a unique beauty and a richness in diversity that is unlike any other place you will find. And it is only in Arizona, with its wide array of geography, scenery, and wilderness adventure, can you also find, as unbelievable as it sounds, a giant 140 foot waterfall oasis hidden deeply in the central Arizonan desert! So if you’re up for a really incredible boulder hopping, bushwhacking adventure, and are ready for a challenging, and very scenic wilderness journey out to a remote and giant hidden waterfall oasis, then be sure and check out the Reavis Falls Adventure Hike, in the Eastern Superstition Wilderness, Arizona!
Early on a beautiful spring weekend morning in late March, I met up with the TLC Hiking Club, led and organized by Eric Kinneman, of the TLC Lending Company, at a meet up location east of Phoenix, at US 60 and Sossaman Road in Mesa. By 6am, after all 35 members had arrived and after receiving a brief overview by Eric about the day’s upcoming hike and what to possibly expect at the trailhead’s limited parking area, we all got into our vehicles and were on our way for the Reavis Trailhead, located in the remote, Eastern Superstition Wilderness.
Our day’s journey and roughly 29 mile mostly off road adventure to the Reavis Trailhead began by heading north on Idaho Road for about 2 miles until we came to SR 88, which is more popularly known as the historic “Apache Trail and Scenic ByWay”. After passing by the gorgeous and scenic, Canyon Lake, we continued our journey on the Apache Trail and by 6:45am we came to the small town of Tortilla Flat, where just up the road a couple of miles, the pavement stops and the Apache Trail becomes an all dirt road. It was highly advisable, but not a requirement for us to have at least an HCV vehicle to do this drive and journey. However, you can make it in a regular vehicle, as I’ve done before, but you must be prepared to add more time to your trip and journey as you’ll need to take it much more slowly than you would in an HCV or 4WD.
Up from Tortilla Flat, the all dirt road, Apache Trail ventures further into the Superstition Wilderness and on up to my favorite, the incredibly scenic, Fish Creek Hill, where from there the road narrows down to a single lane with oncoming two way traffic, venturing straight down for a total of a 1500 foot drop by the time you reach the bottom. Wow! Once we had successfully made it down to the bottom of the beautiful Fish Creek Canyon, we stopped and parked along the side of the road and took a short break, gather up our members, then got back in our cars and continued on.
Continuing from Fish Creek, most write ups estimate that it’s about a 7.2 mile drive from to reach the Reavis Trailhead. I did not gauge it that day, but I did take note that it was only a few short minutes later, by 7:15am, just past mile marker 227, that we saw the sign for the Reavis Trailhead on the right hand side. We made a right onto FR 212 then drove the mountainous, winding 2.9 miles until we finally arrived at the Reavis Trailhead and parking area by 7:30am. Much to our surprise and relief, we found the limited parking area to be completely empty and thankfully, had no trouble having enough space to park all of our group’s vehicles.
We parked, packed up and it was by 7:50am, after a quick group photo shot, that we had hit the trail, the Reavis Ranch Trail, #109. The Reavis Trail, actually an old dirt road, is a long trail that leads out to the historic Reavis Ranch, home to the first Anglo settler in the Superstition Mountains, Elisha Reavis, who back in the 1800’s grew and sold produce in the local mining communities until one day he was found dead and was buried him right where he was found, on the trail!
Starting out from the Reavis Trailhead, and beginning our trek and journey on the Reavis Trail # 109, the views of Apache Lake down below and the Superstition Wilderness are absolutely gorgeous and breathtaking! The trail immediately begins by ascending moderately in elevation with the beautiful views of Apache Lake and 4 Peaks off to the left and northeast. At the same time, straight ahead in front of you and off to the distance to the right, you also have really beautiful views of the mountains and rolling hills of the backcountry wilderness that is the Eastern Superstition Wilderness, which is much higher in elevation than the Western Superstition Wilderness.
We quickly made our way along the switch backing trail, steadily climbing up in elevation, while thoroughly enjoying the absolutely gorgeous Superstition Wilderness views all around us. After roughly about 3.5 miles we arrived at our turn off for Reavis Falls, a cairn marked, narrow path and spur trail where we journeyed left and headed east straight up a grassy hill and continued to venture further out into the secluded Eastern Superstition Wilderness. The names for this “unmaintained” trail are multiple, ranging from “unknown spur trail” to the “Reavis Gap Trail #117”. Whichever the case, I found the turn off to be well marked and the narrow trail to be well developed and easy to follow.
From the turn off from the Reavis Trail 109 and now beginning our trek and journey along the spur trail, we continued to still steadily climb further and further up in elevation. With the absolutely breathtaking views of Apache Lake and Four Peaks now behind us, in front of us and off to the right we now had amazing views of Castle Dome as well as the surrounding beautiful Eastern Superstitions as we continued to press on making our ascent in elevation until we reached a wide saddle that topped out our intense journey so far at 4675 feet in elevation! Wow, what an amazing journey so far! However, after taking a very short break to catch our breaths, we were ready to continue onto the next part of the adventurous journey, making the very steep and intense descent back down again, down to Reavis Creek!
From the top and saddle at elevation 4675 feet, slowly and carefully, step by step, we dropped our way straight down, down, and still further down in elevation, and as the steep and narrow switch backing trail veered over to the left, we went around Lime Mountain, then passed by Lime Spring, switch backed down yet more until we arrived at the straight and level, Cedar Basin. After passing by Cedar Basin, we came to the first creek crossing, Maple Spring, which we were advised to cross. After only a short ways of a little bit of bushwhacking, we finally arrived at the second creek, Reavis Creek, and a total estimated distance traveled so far, 6 miles!
Once down at the bottom of Reavis Creek, the spur trail we had been following for so long, disappeared and we began to notice that there were other people around now, a few backpackers who were camping along the left side of Reavis Creek. A little fatigued by now, we stopped to ask if we were still on track to reach Reavis Falls and were rest assured that we were in fact dead on and if we continued following up the creek, we need only look for the hand built cairns along the way that would lead and guide us right up to the falls and where the rest of our group already were.
Though we felt we were “almost there”, the adventure continued on! We now had the incredible a mile journey along the bottom of Reavis Creek, climbing up and over the humungous rocks and boulders, bushwhacking through thick brush, vegetation and trees which filled the creek’s floor. Finally, after roughly about an hour’s trek, we started to run into other TLC Hiking Club members including Eric Kinneman, who had already been at the falls for about an hour and along with a few others from the front of the group, were starting to make their way back by this time. We were advised by Eric that we were in fact only a short 200 feet away from the falls now. A few minutes later, by approximately 11am, we had finally made it to Reavis Falls, and wow, what an incredible and challenging journey it had been and what an unbelievable, spectacular sight to see! Although the water flow had only been at about that day, having missed the peak flow despite it still being early spring when mountain run off is said to be at its height, it was still a really amazing experience to see. Who would’ve ever thought that such an enormous waterfall as this even existed way out in the middle of the Superstitions? It was truly magnificent and amazing, absolutely worth the long, challenging and intense journey it had taken to get there too.
After taking only a short 40 minute break at the bottom of the falls to eat quick lunch and take some pictures, we knew that the day was heating up fast and the journey and trek back up again was going to be very long and challenging, so we quickly packed back up again and by 11:40am we left Reavis Falls and started our boulder hopping and bushwhacking journey back a mile through Reavis Creek, until one hour later, we made a left onto the spur trail and started our steep ascent back up again.
By now it was well past noon and the forecast for this day in late March was predicted to reach the low 90’s. So the temps were heating up quickly as we began the toughest and most challenging part of our adventure that of the steep ascent and climb back up again in elevation and believe me, it was brutal for awhile too! Though many of us at the back end of the pack had to slow it down to take additional breaks to keep from getting too overheated, slowly but surely, we continued to march on until we finally reached the top again and the saddle at an elevation of 4675 feet, then from there, trekked further on to make our way back to the Reavis Trail #109 junction. After hanging a right at the junction and following the Reavis Trail for another 3.5 miles, we finally arrived back at the Reavis Trailhead again by 3:45pm, where we waited for another 45 minutes or so until the remaining TLC members had made it safely back by about 4:30pm. In all, what an incredible journey and adventure! According to our GPS, our total hiking distance RT was 15.1 miles, with a total elevation gain of 3600 feet which we did in approximately 8.0 hours, on a very warm and toasty 90 degree day too! It was a very remote wilderness hike, and a real “balls to the wall” challenge that due to its length of distance and intense elevation gain, then add to that the a mile of class 3 & class 4 level boulder hopping and bushwhacking, this hike will definitely test your abilities! And that it did too! Described by Eric Kinneman as a serious and challenging hike, one of the top 5 most difficult hikes in all of Arizona, combined with its gorgeous backcountry wilderness scenery out to a giant hidden waterfall oasis, according to Eric, this hike really does have it all! So if you’re ready for an incredible adventure and are up for a real intense “balls to the wall” challenge, then I highly recommend you check out the Reavis Falls Adventure Hike, in the Eastern Superstition Wilderness, Arizona!