Hike Battleship Mountain via. First Water Trailhead

Battleship Mountain

The Superstition Mountains are easily my favorite mountain range in Arizona. They are basically a massive playground full of mountain peaks formed of volcanic rock, deep canyons, occasional flowing streams, and even waterfalls at times.

Battleship Mountain is a very unique hike within these mountains, as it requires you to boulder climb to the top of the south end of the mountain, then continue to climb along the spine to the north end. This difficult hike is the perfect challenge to take your hiking to another level and witness some epic views.

In this post, I go over all of the things you’ll need to know so you can conquer Battleship Mountain!

Battleship Mountain

BATTLESHIP MOUNTAIN STATS

Distance: 12 miles RT
Type: Out and Back
Difficulty: Difficult
Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet
Location: Superstition Mountains, AZ
Trailhead: First Water Trialhead
Seasons: Winter and Spring

Preparation saves lives. Know where you are going ahead of time and always have a way to keep yourself on trail. One way to do this is with a GPS system or app.

You can download my Battleship Mountain track and gain access to my library of all tracked hikes. Once downloaded, you can load it into your own trusty device for ease of mind!


*Disclaimer: the below links may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through my links I provide (at no extra cost to you). Please see my disclosure for more info.

Battleship Mountain

WHO WILL ENJOY IT

Rated as difficult, this hike is for anyone who is brave enough to push through the fear of heights and are willing and able to boulder climb. I’ve seen adults of all ages conquer this one!

No matter your capabilities, it is safest to hike Battleship Mountain with a partner or in a group. The first time I hiked this one it was with a group and the experience was beyond inspiring. Everyone helped each other push past their comfort levels.

I would refrain from taking children and dogs on this hike if you plan on climbing all the way to the top. Even though my German Shepperd, Monty is a great climber and hiker for a dog, I deemed this one too dangerous for him because of the narrow drop offs.

Packing List

Hiking Backpack

2+ Liters of water and snacks

Hiking shoes with good grip

Climbing Gloves

Tripod for Group Shots

First Aid Kit

Hat and/or Sunscreen


Battleship Mountain

WHEN TO HIKE BATTLESHIP MOUNTAIN

Like most hikes in the Superstitions, you’ll be exposed to the sun the entire hike. It is best to hike to Battleship Mountain during winter and early spring months, or November through March. Do not attempt during extreme temperatures. The combination of high heat, direct sun exposure, and exhaustion from climbing can lead to heat exhaustion.

Because of the length and difficulty of this hike, you’ll want to get an early start– it is an all day adventure! The parking lot fills up very fast. I arrived on a Saturday just before 8 a.m. and was able to sneak into the last spot. There is a small over-flow parking lot but it will add 1 mile total to your hike.


First Water Trailhead

HIKING BATTLESHIP MOUNTAIN

There are several ways to get to Battleship Mountain, but the shortest way is to begin at the First Water Trailhead. Getting to the trailhead is very easy, for it is just past the entrance to Lost Dutchman State Park. The access road will be clearly marked on the right side of the road. You can map your directions from here!

Immediately the road turns into a well maintained dirt road which you will follow until it dead ends into a parking lot from which the trailhead begins. The parking lot is large, however it can fill up very fast on weekends. 1/2 mile down the road is an overflow parking lot, but it will add 1 mile to your total hike.

Destruction from the 2020 summer wildfire.

The beginning of the hike to Battleship Mountain is fairly peaceful. You’ll hike through two different wide open spaces that a lot of backpackers tend to set up camp in. A wildfire burnt through the area in summer of 2020 so you will see remnants of the wildfire for the first couple miles.

Not far from the trailhead and you’ll run into a junction in the trail. You’ll want to take Second Water Trail 256 to head to Battleship Mountain. From here, the trail becomes rocky as it leads you down into the canyon.

At roughly 4.1 miles you’ll run into another junction. This time you take a right and follow trail 103 into Boulder Canyon, hiking upstream. This is where the real fun begins!

LOCAL TIP: Boulder Canyon rarely is flowing with water. It is not a reliable water source in the Superstition Wilderness.

Hike Battleship Mountain, Superstition Mountains
Hiking along the narrow spine of the mountain with steep drop offs on each side.

The first and third time I hiked in Boulder Canyon there was no water, but the second time was a week after a heavy rainfall and the water was abundant. Either way, you’ll be crossing the stream several times following the marked cairns to stay on trail. If there is water you’ll just have to balance and jump rocks to cross!

The cairns are relatively easy to follow. I used them to stay on trail along with my map on my GAIA GPS App. About 1 mile upstream there will be a set of cairns on the left side of the stream marking the beginning of a scramble up to the base of Battleship Mountain.

This is where it can be easy to get off trail. Every time I do this hike I’ve taken a different scramble route because there are so many different trails and marked cairns. It doesn’t really matter which one you take as long as you get to the base of the mountain!

Trail Directions

  • First Water Trailhead, turn left to
  • Second Water Trailhead 256, turn right to
  • Boulder Canyon Trail 103, hike up stream.
  • Approx. 1 mile in watch for cairns on the left indicating the scramble up to the mountain base.
  • Once at the base, begin boulder climbing to the top of the mountain, then continue climbing and path finding along the spine to the end.
Looking North down the spine towards the highest summit of Battleship Mountain.

Once you reach the base of the mountain you’ll face the initial climb up to Battleship. It is the first of 3 tall scrambles/climbs during this hike. This first climb turns away a lot of hikers and if you choose to end here the views are still beautiful.

If you feel comfortable with the first climb and make it to the top, you’ll end up hiking the spine of Battleship Mountain all the way to the end! Along the way you’ll have to boulder your way and climb 2 more difficult spots. This is where hiking with partner comes in handy because you can help each other at these spots!

PRO TIP: It is okay to call it a day and turn back whenever you feel like you’ve hit your limits. You never want to climb up somewhere you can’t get down from because it is usually more difficult to climb down. The views are impressive from the base of Battleship Mountain and you should be pleased you made it that far!

Battleship Mountain

There are a couple narrow spots along the spine so you just want to go slowly and be aware of your footing. It can be easy to lose the trail along the way so you’ll have to do some wayfinding on your own but always be on the look out for cairns!

Once you make it to the end of Battleship Mountain you’ll have stunning views of the entire spine you just hiked and even out as far as Weavers Needle. This is one of my favorite view in the Superstition Mountains. After you’ve taken your break at the top, you’ll climb down and head back the same way you came.

If you do hike Battleship Mountain, look for a metal box at the top which holds written entries from other hikers. Be sure to add your own, and see if you can find mine!

Tips

  • Begin the hike early in the morning.
  • Wear hiking gloves to protect hands.
  • Wear pants/leggings to protect your legs.
  • Bring sun protection- hat or sunscreen.
  • Bring more water than you think you’ll need!
  • Freeze a couple water bottles the night before so they are thawed and cold by the time you reach the top.
  • Screenshot my trail directions to use while on trail! There is no cell reception. OR utilize the Gaia App and follow my GPX track so you know exactly where to go. You can do this by subscribing to my blog and gaining access to my FULL library!

View from Battleship Mountain

FINAL THOUGHTS ON HIKING BATTLESHIP MOUNTAIN

I’ve hiked Battleship Mountain 3 times now and most likely will continue to at least once a year moving forward. This hike happens to be one of my favorites in the area because I find the scrambling fun and challenging with breathtaking views.

One of my bucket-list items is to return and backpack around the base of the mountain for a few days. There are several spots in the area with fire pits already formed and space to pitch a tent!

As always, please be considerate of the environment so we can keep enjoying it and remember to leave no trace.

Other Superstition Hikes:

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