The Apache Tears Trail in Superior might win the award for most unique hike! Where else can you hike just under a mile, and then mine beautiful black rocks out of cave walls? The kids 100% loved this adventure hike, and there was a creek to play in as well!
A quick history lesson before the hiking info: the rocks called Apache Tears are named for a legend in which Apache warriors rode their horses off a cliff rather than die at the hands of the US cavalry. The tears of the mourners is said to be the embedded black stones, also found in New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada. (The stones themselves are obsidian, basically volcanic glass.)
Finding the hiking trail took some research and searching. Basically, from Hwy 60, right before you enter Superior, turn right at the sign for the Superior Airport. Keep right on the next “V”, and then right again at the third “V” to continue straight to the creek. The road is rocky but our mini-van made it fine. The road dips near the creek and there is a crude lot + picnic table to the left. Park here and then cross the creek to start the hike!
If you have an off road vehicle, you can continue past this parking spot, to cross the creek a bit further up. (We tried a few spots but didn’t like the road dips – too risky with our van.) Continue driving up the extremely rocky road to the large metal gate mentioned below.
The moderate mile hike to the caves is pretty much all uphill, on a combo of hard packed hiking paths and a rocky “road” (Perlite Road on the map). About halfway, you’ll see a large metal gate, which is mainly to keep Jeeps and such from continuing. Follow the path around the side of the hill and then down to the caves. The last couple hundred feet are over potentially slippery rocks, so watch your footing.
Of note, the caves are fenced but there is a side opening next to the hill. There is a warning sign of unstable rock. We didn’t see any No Trespassing signs or such.
Now the fun part – mining the stones! Just look for little black spots in the white walls, and use a hammer and flat head screw driver to dig them out! The kids were all over the place, finding these beauties, and there are even small Apache Tears on the ground for littles to collect. Our biggest tip is to find a section, and hack sets at the white perlite rock first. You’re more likely to find bigger obsidian rock below the surface!
We had snacks at the caves, played, and found Apache Tears for a couple hours, before hiking back to the car. The creek was no higher than the kid’s knees and made a great play place for another hour. We then packed up, and explored for a couple hours in Superior before driving home. The Caboose Visitor Center has a fabulous playground, and don’t forget treats at at Felicia’s Ice Cream Shop.
Superior is located about an hour from Phoenix. This is also where Boyce Thompson Arboretum is located, another place we highly recommend for families!
This looks like a great adventure for the little ones!! Thanks for sharing!! I checked on land ownership: the land that the roads, trail and hill is on, is all part of Tonto National Forest, albeit in a relatively unutilized region of the forest boundaries.
Be advised that technically, you need a Tonto Recreational Day Pass for each vehicle, to enter and use this land.
thanks for the comment! If you could email us at email@example.com with the link where you found out about this area needing a day pass, we’d appreciate it.