Battleship Mountain

How To Hike Battleship Mountain via. First Water Trailhead

If you’re searching for a dose of adrenaline then you’ve come to the right place! Hiking Battleship Mountain in the Superstition Mountains is not for the faint of heart. The views from on top are outstanding but require some courage to reach.

We’re not just talking long mileage but some thrilling and sketchy scrambling along the entire length of the mountain spine. You’ll be climbing to the top of the spine from the south end, then scrambling up and down the volcanic rock to the north end. Let’s not forget to mention the steep drop offs on either side along the way.

You’ll want to be extremely careful while hiking Battleship Mountain so I’m glad you’re here. I’m excited to share this hike with you as it is my favorite hike in the Superstition Mountains! In this guide we’ll go over all of the things you’ll need to know so you can conquer it too.

This hike is one of 10 Amazing Superstition Mountains Hikes for your Bucket List. Check out the post for more!

*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 Hike Stats

  • Hiking Distance | 12.0 miles
  • Difficulty | Difficult
  • Elevation Gain | 1,700 feet
  • Total Time | 6-8 hours
  • Permits/Fees | None
  • Trailhead | First Water Trialhead (also Dutchman’s Trailhead)
  • Road Conditions | Dirt, inaccessible when wet, 2WD okay but SUV recommended.
  • Dog Friendly | No

Below is a map of the route to Battleship Mountain.

Map Of The Route To Battleship Mountain.

To reach Battleship Mountain you’ll be connecting trails, crisscrossing a wash, and scouting for the social trail to approach the climb up. While there are a couple climbs that require the buddy system or some improvising, this hike doesn’t require any ropes or technical gear.

I will strongly advise against bringing children and dogs on this hike, though. Even though my German Shepherd, Monty, is a great climber and hiker for a dog, I deemed this one too dangerous for him because of the narrow drop offs.

We’ll dive into all of those details later in the post, but for now I do suggest downloading the Gaia GPS app so you can access and follow my GPX track for this hike.

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 like Gaia GPS.

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!

How To Get To First Water Trailhead

Battleship Mountain sits within the Superstition Mountains, one of the best mountain ranges near Phoenix for hiking. It is about a 60 minute drive (depending on where you’re coming from) east of the inner city.

You can type Dutchman’s Trailhead or First Water Trailhead into your GPS and map it. Both lead to the same place.

From Apache Junction you’ll take Highway 88 to Lost Dutchman State Park. Drive past the park entrance only a few yards and turn right onto the first dirt road- First Water Road. Follow the road all the way to the end where it dead ends at the parking lot!

First Water Road travels through flood zones- never enter when flooded! Typically the dirt road is in good enough condition for 2WD for I’ve never had issues. A SUV is highly encouraged, though. Be careful after storms for the road can be very wet and muddy. Just use your best judgement but remember Arizona has the stupid motorist law!

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-April. Do not attempt this one 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.

The Hike: Battleship Mountain

First Water Trailhead Signs.
Signs at the First Water Trailhead.

Let’s begin this epic Arizona hike!

From the parking lot you’ll spot the National Forest and Superstition Wilderness signs. Feel free to read them, take photos so you can remember, and sign your name in the registry before heading out.

The hike begins on Lost Dutchman Trail #104 which is fairly peaceful. You’ll pass through two different wide open spaces that tend to fill up with backpackers who set up camp. This is a beautiful area when in bloom, and I even made a mental note to return and backpack one day myself.

A wildfire burnt through the area in summer of 2020 so you may still see remnants of the damage for the first couple miles. The desert recovers quickly from wildfires though, so a lot of vegetation has regrown since I last took these photos.

Destruction from the 2020 summer wildfire.

Not far from the trailhead and you’ll run into the first junction in the trail. You’ll want to take Second Water Trail #236 to head to Battleship Mountain. From here on out the trail becomes rocky as it leads you down into the canyon.

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

Boulder Canyon rarely is flowing with water. It is not a reliable water source in the Superstition Wilderness. On the maps it may show it as water, but it typically only flows after recent heavy rainstorms. Welcome to the desert!

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 creek 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 the Gaia GPS app. About 1 mile upstream there will be a set of cairns on the left side of Boulder Creek marking the beginning of the scramble to the base of Battleship Mountain. Try to make a mental note to begin counting distance once you hit the creek- it’ll be easier!

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

Quick Directions: Battleship Mountain

  • Park at First Water Trailhead.
  • Begin on Dutchman’s Trail #104.
  • Connect to Second Water Trail #236.
  • Turn right onto Boulder Canyon #103, hike upstream.
  • 1 mile in turn left onto a social trail to reach the mountain base.
  • Once at the base, begin boulder climbing to the top, then continue route finding to the end.
Hiking Battleship Mountain With A View Of Weaver's Needle.
Standing near the base of Battleship Mountain, looking out at Weaver’s Needle.

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 a partner comes in handy because you can help each other at these spots.

Just remember 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 get down than up. The views are impressive from the base of Battleship Mountain and you should be pleased you made it that far!

Hiking Along Battleship Mountain.
Hiking along the spine of Battleship Mountain.
Standing On The Spine Of Battleship Mountain.
Standing on the spine, looking towards the North end. This is what you have to scramble!

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 route finding on your own. You’ll be bouldering up, down, and to different sides for the trail doesn’t just lead down the middle.

Once you make it to the end of Battleship Mountain you’ll have stunning views down the entire spine you just climbed, and even out as far as Weavers Needle. This is one of my favorite views in the Superstition Mountains!

After you’ve taken your break at the top you’ll climb down and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

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!

Battleship Mountain 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!

Final Thoughts On Hiking Battleship Mountain

Best Superstition Mountain Hikes.

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.

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Battleship Mountain Views.

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