Robber’s Roost is a cool little rock grotto nestled between Peralta Canyon and Carney Springs Trail in the Superstition Wilderness. Though the navigation to the trail can be a little tricky, you’ll be enchanted by the plentiful hoodoos, and you’ll likely have this hidden gem all to yourself.
This hike should not be confused with Robbers Roost in Sedona, which is a waaaay easier hike in a totally different part of Arizona (but also worth doing).
Robber’s Roost can be accessed from the west on Carney Springs Trail or from the east on Peralta or Cave Trail. The first time we went, we took Carney Springs, and the navigation was a little tricky. There are cairned paths going in multiple directions, the trail is faint, if there at all, and it’s easy to get turned around back there. The second time, we took Peralta Trail, which ended up being a lot simpler, though you still have to pay attention to stay on trail beyond Fremont Saddle. An alternative to Peralta Trail is the Cave Trail, which is very difficult to follow in the upper sections of Peralta Canyon, but your reward is fewer crowds and a visit to Geronimo Cave.
Option 1: Peralta Trail (recommended)
For your first visit to Robber’s Roost, I highly recommend taking Peralta Trail. The trail is one of the most popular trails in the Superstitions, which is why I like to call it the Peralta superhighway. But the benefit is that it’s very easy to follow this trail to Fremont Saddle, and it might have water if you go after rain. When you’re getting pretty close to the saddle, there’s a cave along the trail where you can stop for a break.
A cave that overlooks Peralta Canyon
Once at Fremont Saddle, look to your left to see some hoodoo rock formations, and see if you can locate some cairns marking the route to Robber’s Roost. The general idea for this route is that you’ll make a sharp left and hike along the western flank of Peralta Canyon, this time high above Peralta Trail to your left and a rugged ridge to your right. The trail here is pretty well defined, but occasionally splits into two. Whenever possible, I recommend staying on the higher trail. Why lose elevation?
As you near the end of the ridge, you’ll begin to make a turn toward Robber’s Roost. The terrain back there is both captivating and confusing. You should be able to see a rock friend I call Nessy, and if you do, be sure to say “hi” for me and drop a note about your visit in the comments. Don’t judge my yoga!
Keep your eye on the GPS and the cairns to make your way down to the roost. It’s likely the first time you try to get down in there, you’ll cliff out at a dry fall. If that happens, back up and make your way around the left side. You may have to climb up a little to go around, but if you’re persistent, you’ll eventually find the secret entrance.
There’s some graffiti in there from groups in the past, and I trust you won’t be the one to desecrate our public lands. We have Facebook and Instagram now to prove we were there. Leave no trace.
Take your time, look around, and enjoy. There are so many cool rock formations. You’ll feel like you’re communing with the ancients.
On the way back, you can choose to return down Peralta Trail, make a loop of it by going down Carney Springs and then connecting back to your car by way of Peralta Road, or take the more adventurous Cave Trail once you’re back at Fremont Saddle.
Option 2: Carney Springs Trail
Carney Springs is the steeper, more rugged choice for getting to Robber’s Roost. You can start at the Carney Springs Trailhead, or if you’re making a loop, you might want to start at the Lost Goldmine Trailhead, then take the Lost Goldmine Trail to the intersection with Carney Springs Trail and turn right (if you’re doing this, remember the intersection is at the wash and you’ll need to keep an eye out for the opening in the fence that lets hikers through).
Once you’re on the Carney Springs Trail, it’s a steep climb up the canyon with a disheartening false summit along the way. By the time you make it to the saddle, you’ll be so grateful that you just might kiss the sign.
After this point, you’ll make your way to the right, following a faint use trail along the wash for a bit, later making your way up and to the right. We did spend an evening getting completely lost in this area in our attempt to get from the Carney Springs Trail to Peralta Trail. And yeah, we did have GPS, but here’s the really important part. . . we are the BLUE dot. Turns out we got completely turned around and were walking in the opposite direction, so all I’m saying is, even if you have GPS, this area can be tricky. Check it often. There are some cairns that can be helpful, but we discovered they mark multiple routes, so it’s hard to distinguish them without GPS. You’ve been properly warned.
Option 3: Cave Trail
Cave Trail is the more adventurous alternative to Peralta Trail. It’s actually marked on most maps, so that can deceive you into thinking it’s easy to follow. In the upper canyon, there are sections that require scrambling over obstacles, and sections that go along solid rock, so it can be difficult to stay on the trail. In the lower canyon, the trail is pretty well-defined, but we still lost it somehow one time and ended up visiting what I affectionately called Cochise’s Cave on the other side of the formation from Geronimo’s Cave. It was cool, too, but I think I almost killed my sister-in-law with that little diversion.
Assuming you stay on the trail, you’ll find yourself at Geronimo’s Cave overlooking Peralta Canyon.
Map & Directions
Location Superstition Wilderness, Tonto National Forest, Gold Canyon, Arizona
All of these trailhead options are on Peralta Road, which is accessed from US60. The road is well-maintained and almost always suitable for a passenger car (but please, pull over when you see our red Expedition or dark gray Jeep coming through!).
Use the Peralta Trailhead to get to Robbers Roost via Peralta Trail or Cave Trail. From US60, head north on Peralta Road. Go left at the fork, and follow to the end to Peralta Trailhead.
Trailhead Facilities There are pit toilets at the trailhead. No water.
Carney Springs Trailhead
The Carney Springs Trailhead is about 1.3 miles before the Peralta Trailhead on Peralta Road. There should be large yellow chains at the parking area.
Fees/Passes You’ll need a recreational permit from the Arizona State Land Department to park here.
Trailhead Facilities None
Lost Goldmine East Trailhead
For the loop option, I recommend parking at the Lost Goldmine East Trailhead and using the Lost Goldmine Trail to access the Carney Springs Trail. (Be careful to distinguish this from the Lost Goldmine West Trailhead, which is located near the Hieroglyphic Trailhead.) This trailhead is located about half a mile before the Peralta Trailhead on Peralta Road.
Trailhead Facilities None
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