Battleship Mountain Superstition Wilderness

Battleship Mountain


Mileage: 11.6
Elevation gain: 2214 feet
Time to complete: 6-8 hours
Stars: ★★★★★
Difficulty: 4/5 (Ratings explained)
Strenuous, scrambling, exposure, long

Shaped like a battleship cutting through the Superstition Mountains, Battleship Mountain provides the absolute best views of the wilderness and an exhilarating scramble along remarkable topography. The sheer drop-offs and skinny ridges mean those who are afraid of heights should carefully consider whether to attempt this hike.

Trail Description

There are two ways to approach Battleship Mountain: Boulder Trail to the west or First Water Trail to the south. I’ve done it both ways, and I can say that the Boulder Trail is definitely more beautiful, but the First Water Trail is closer to home and a slightly shorter approach. Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong. Battleship is the true star here. This guide describes the approach from First Water Trail.

I’m not going to spend too much time on the approach hike anyway. From the First Water Trailhead, you’ll take Second Water Trail down to where it intersects with the Boulder Canyon Trail and take a right.

Second Water trail to Battleship Mountain

Boulder Trail basically crisscrosses its way along the wash. Or if you’re lucky, there’s water and you’re boulder hopping back and forth. This route is pretty well marked with cairns, so if you feel like you’ve lost the trail, take a second to look around for one. It’s likely on the other side of the creek.

Campsites There are several great spots to camp along the Boulder Canyon Trail, but one of our favorites is near a large pool.

Boulder Creek near Battleship Mountain

The Battleship

As you approach the aft of the battleship, look for cairns marking a trail on the left that leads to the base. Once you reach the solid rock, you’ll immediately be faced with your first challenge, and this is where those who are unsure of their comfort level on this hike will be able to put it to the test. It honestly doesn’t really get worse than this, but you will definitely be faced with a lot more heights as you progress, so keep that in mind.

When you see a giant boulder, you’ll know it’s time to start scrambling onto the ship.

The first sketchy move on Battleship Mountain
First sketchy part of Battleship Mountain

Once on top, it’s still a mile to the bow of the ship, and you’ll be scrambling up rocky faces, sliding down chutes, walking along skinny ridges, squeezing through narrow passageways, and probably getting stuck and having to backtrack a little. The truth is, there’s no right answer, and we choose different routes every time. As long as you’re headed toward the front of the ship, you’re good.

Looking toward the front of Battleship Mountain
Yes, you’re going that way

Pro Tip If your friend is stuck in the narrow part, go over or around. There’s almost always a bypass route.

Squeezing through a narrow pass on Battleship Mountain Arizona

The good news is that for your effort, you will be rewarded with incredible views the entire way. Don’t forget to stop and look back, too.

View of the Superstition Wilderness from Battleship Mountain

See that skinny ridge in the picture below? Yep, that’s the trail. You can’t take the lower ground because there’s a deep chasm right where that saguaro cactus is. So right now, you’re either thinking this is way cool or way scary. Or both?

Trail on Battleship Mountain

The Summit

To get on the summit, you’ll have to circle around the front of it first and then make your way up. From there, you’ll enjoy expansive views of Malapais Mountain, Canyon Lake, and Weaver’s Needle.

Honestly, the worst part about the return hike is not traversing the sketchy sections on the battleship. Nope. When you’re exhausted from a physically challenging day, the hard part is hauling your butt up Second Water Canyon. I know, but it was worth it, right?

Map & Directions

Location Superstition Wilderness, Tonto National Forest, Apache Junction, Arizona

First Water Trailhead

From the US60 take the exit for Idaho Road. Go north on Idaho Road to state route 88 and turn right. Follow this road past the Lost Dutchman State Park to the turn for First Water Trailhead. Turn right and follow the dirt road to the end to the parking lot. There is an overflow lot about a quarter mile back if the main lot is full. The road is usually passable in a passenger vehicle.

Trailhead Facilities Pit toilets available. No water at the trailhead.

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Disclaimer Outdoor activities have inherent risk, and we will not be able to tell you all the risks you may face. You are responsible for your own safety, so prepare as well as you can and know your limits. Follow this guide at your own risk. And have fun!

5 responses to “Battleship Mountain”

  1. Brandon Avatar

    Woah, that actually looks like a battleship! The map is very helpful. I wanna go there!

  2. John K Avatar
    John K

    Been there. Done that. All thanks to the WildPathsAZ!

    1. Stacey Johnston Avatar

      Awesome! How did you like it?

  3. Lisa Ray Avatar
    Lisa Ray

    Are there good car camping sites near the trailhead?

    1. Stacey Johnston Avatar

      Hi there! There are two ways to hike in: from First Water Trailhead or from Boulder Canyon Trailhead. I can’t think of any camping along First Water Road, but the Lost Dutchman State Park is very close and has great camping. Visit to reserve. If you go in from Boulder Canyon, there is definitely no car camping, but there are campsites nearby on the shore of Canyon Lake. Visit to reserve. If you just want primitive camping, you might find spots along Highway 88 past First Water Road. There are some short forest roads and some places next to the highway where it looks like people have camped in the past.

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