Three Sisters in the Superstition Wilderness

Three Sisters


Mileage: 7.0
Elevation gain: 2810 feet
Time to complete: 4-6 hours
Stars: ★★★★½
Difficulty: 4/5 (Ratings explained)

Three Sisters sits at the opposite end of the Superstition Ridgeline from Flatiron and makes a great alternative because it provides a superior experience. Unlike Flatiron, you won’t have to deal with the crowds of inexperienced hikers who don’t seem to understand trail etiquette, but you will still get the awesome workout (Carney Springs Trail is no walk in the park), the excellent views, and a lot more satisfaction.

Trail Description

From the Carney Springs Trailhead on Peralta Road, follow the masses as they begin their hike to the Wave Cave. Don’t worry, you won’t be with them long. Past the fence, there’s a fork in the trail at 0.8 miles where they (and the white spray painted arrows) will all go left, but you’ll blissfully go right. There was a nice sign there at one point, but I didn’t see it last time, and the giant cairn that is usually there seems to be inconsistent.

Carney Springs Trail

I promised I wouldn’t knock the Carney Springs Trail anymore after we finally found it in the dark one time after spending a few hours lost. I was never so happy to see that trail in my life. Nevertheless, it is steep and it has a false summit—that’s just fact. But the upside is that I once saw half a dozen big horn sheep on my way up, and that’s not something you see just anywhere. I know, it’s not a great pic. It’s times like these that I wish I had my good camera (but then I’d have to haul it up there, so. . . this is gonna have to do).

Bighorn sheep on Carney Springs Trail
Bighorn sheep on Carney Springs Trail

At the saddle, you’ll intersect and head left (west) on the Ridgeline Trail. Now don’t be thinking you’ve done all the climbing you need to do and it’s just an easy jaunt from here. As you travel along the back side of the ridgeline, there’ll be ups and downs (but mostly ups), and some of those steep parts are gonna make you cry inside a little. There’s a lot of loose rock and maybe not as many switchbacks as there should be. You’ve got this, though!

If it’s been raining recently, you may encounter a small stream as you cross the final gulley on the way to the main ridgeline trail. It’s a great place to stop on the way back and refresh tired feet after a long hike.

Seasonal stream on the way to Three Sisters

You’ll have views of Superstition Peak 5057 in front of you and Weaver’s Needle behind you. Don’t forget to stop every now and then and take it all in.

Overlook of Weaver's Needle on the way to Three Sisters

The Summit

Once you make it to the top of the ridgeline (and, believe me, you’ll know it when you do—hallelujah!), you’ll take a left and follow a trail across mostly flat terrain to the precipice of one of the Three Sisters. It’s a beautiful thing. Eat your heart out, Flatiron!

View from the summit of Three Sisters

If you just can’t get enough, there’s another trail out to the other main sister. I’m just sayin’ there might be a man in a loin cloth out there, so go at your own risk. Especially if it’s a windy day.

Map & Directions

Location Superstition Wilderness, Tonto National Forest, Gold Canyon, Arizona

Carney Springs Trailhead

To get to the Carney Springs Trailhead, take US60 to Peralta Road and go north. Fork left, and then find the Carney Springs Trailhead on the left side before you reach Peralta Trailhead.

Fees/Passes A recreational permit is required from the Arizona State Land Department.

Trailhead Facilities No restrooms or water.

Lost Goldmine Trailhead East

Alternatively, you could drive up Peralta Road a little farther and park at the Lost Goldmine Trailhead and then take the Lost Goldmine Trail to where it intersects with the Carney Springs trail (near the wash—look for an opening in the fence for hikers).

Trailhead Facilities None

Download KML or GPX

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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!

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