Take A Hike with the Highlander: Haunted Canyon to Tony Ranch
Distance: 11-13 miles depending on where you park
Elevation Gain: 1,076 feet
Dog Friendly: Yes - as long as they don't mind getting wet!
Permit/Pass Required: No.
Getting There: See Map.
Tips: Don't let the mine maze deter you. Once you get through that chaos, the trail is totally worth it. It can be really confusing - DO NOT drive into the mine. You'll see security and think you've went the wrong way but to your left is a hidden road with the FS sign - take that. Once you see the single lane bridge you will likely miss another hidden road that leads right to the trailhead - it is also to your left BEFORE the bridge. If you cross the bridge don't worry, you can park there too in one of the campsites and walk which is what I did.
If you hike this in spring - you will get wet. I can't speak for how the creek flows at other times of the year, but it was knee deep in some places. Wear appropriate shoes. My Teva hiking sandals were great, but there are some loose rocks in places so if you are prone to rolling your ankles you may want to opt for something else. Just know you're going to have wet feet!
Final tip - this is a LONG hike, but fairly flat. I saw dogs, horses and families with children - all who made it to Tony's Ranch. It's doable, just make sure you plan for a full 6+ hours with enough water and food and supplies.
About the Hike: What a hidden gem this was. The pup and I set out for something that would be crowd-free and the 1.5 hour drive seemed to be what we needed to find exactly what we were looking for. The first 1.5 miles of the trail is actually an old service road. Be aware that you may see a vehicle or two pass even with the road crossing the creek. From here you will see a faded sign with a hiker on it and a makeshift barbed-wire fence and gate. This is the beginning of the trail.
From here you will gradually climb and descend back and forth into the Haunted Canyon. This is the perfect time of year to explore this area as everything was green and lush and the cacti blooms and wildflowers were breathtaking. Most of the hike is shaded when you are in the canyon and you will cross the creek many times...one AllTrails reviewer said she counted 76...I personally stopped counting when I ran out of fingers but she could be correct! Losing the trail can be easy. Just remember to follow the creek bed and look for footprints.
The ultimate goal of this hike is to go back in time 100 years and find Tony (Toney) Ranch. According to the Superstition Area Land Trust, "The property was homesteaded in 1915 by William Toney, but mapmakers dropped the ‘e’ in Toney’s last name and the property has been known as Tony Ranch ever since. A lack of sufficient water and the risk posed by large predators made farming and cattle ranching difficult and unproductive so the property lay idle for many years, however a sturdy log cabin, circa 1919, still stands, along with evidence of a corral and apple orchard."
Finding the cabin can be tricky...when you reach mile 6 of your hike, the trail will fork. Take the left (again, always follow the creek) and the trail will lead you right to the cabin after you cross an open plain. My pup and I explored the cabin and signed our names in the guest book. Old coffee cans and letters and ripped pages of books litter the table. So much history to sift through. The two room cabin had to have been quite cozy for a family to reside a century ago.
Now begins your trek back. Following the trail is much easier now and my pup caught our scent and knew exactly which route to take. We made it to the car in record time and managed to complete 12.8 miles in just under 6 hours.
If social distancing is what you strive for...a haunted canyon and abandoned cabin just may be your answer. Be safe friends and happy ghost hunting.
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