Montana Mountain Trail
On this trail, take a scenic ride near the pristine Superstition Wilderness. Along the way, you’ll pass through scenic canyons and normally dry washes before climbing into the Tonto National Forest.
Where to go:
From the I-10/I-17 interchange in central Phoenix, head south on I-17 for 6 miles. Merge onto I-10 and follow it east for 5 miles. Keep right and follow the signs for Mesa/Globe as you merge onto US-60 east. Follow US-60 for 43 miles to Queen Valley Road. Turn left and follow it for 2 miles. Stay to the right onto Hewitt Station Road/FR 357. Numerous staging areas within first mile. The trail begins on the left, 3.1 miles further up the road at 33°18'3.87"N 111°14'41.15"W (Hewitt Canyon Road). Head north to start the trail. Please note: Hewitt Station Road is closed to through traffic. See end for details.
Montana Mountain Trail leaves Hewitt Station Road and crosses a wide and normally dry wash. Stay right after half a mile as the wide trail slowly climbs through the desert. After 2.6 miles, the trail drops into a usually dry creek. The trail then parallels the creek as you head into a scenic canyon. The trail crosses the creek several times after 3.4 miles. Depending on recent rain, this section may have water on the trail and may be impassable, but most of the year it’s dry. Off to the left at 3.9 miles is a natural rock arch just off trail. Off to the right at 4.1 miles is a small stone cabin up on the hill. The trail continues to wind through the canyon crossing the dry creek bed often. Conditions may vary in the wash.
At 8.3 miles, the trail begins climbing steeply. You’ll pass several cattle tanks and remnants of ranching in the area as you climb. Use caution around 10.3 miles where the trail sharply turns. Around 12.3 miles you’ll enter the forest after a tight switchback. As the trail levels off at 13.5 miles, you’ll pass some nice spots for camping. A scenic overlook off to the right at 14.0 miles gives you an impressive view of the surrounding area. After 14.7 miles, the trail reaches a high point and begins working its way downhill. Use caution over the next several miles as the trail makes many tight turns and has steep dropoffs. At the 18.4 mile mark, the trail begins its steepest descent. Numerous switchbacks make it slow and go for the next two miles as the trail drops over 1100 feet. This is a scenic part of the trail but requires the driver to focus. Stay right at the junction at 20.5 miles (just after the switchbacks), where there is a small cabin off to the left just down the trail. It makes for an interesting side trip.
The road continues to slowly drop as other smaller trails join the main trail at 21.3 miles. The road again crosses a series of washes that are normally dry and passes the Arizona trail at 22.8 miles. The trail follows along a creek, past an old corral and past Forest Road 1011 (alternative way back to the staging area through some old mines) at 25.7 miles. The trail ends at 29.0 miles at Hewitt Station Road. Vehicles can turn left and hop onto US-60 while OHV’s can turn right and follow Hewitt Station Road/FR 252 bypass 10 miles back to the start of the trail. There is staging at the end of the trail and the trail can be done in either direction, but it is probably easier going down the switchbacks rather then up them. Navigating switchbacks can be dangerous and require drivers to watch the road carefully. No matter what type of vehicle you drive, whether it is the newest SUV on the market or an older model with a TitleMax title loan, remember to exercise caution when driving up or down switchbacks.
Hewitt Station Road Closure & Bypass: A section of Hewitt Station Road (FR 357) was closed to through access in March 2017 due to excessive high-speed OHV traffic. While this was the quickest and fastest way to connect each end of the Montana Mountain loop, there are alternatives that make the loop still rideable. From the east end of the trail, head west on FR 357 for a short time. Watch for signs for FR 252. Make a hard right on 252, crossing the railroad tracks and going underneath the powerlines. Stay west on FR 252 as numerous other roads branch off. You'll eventually cross through the site of the Bomboy Mine before reaching FR 1904. Stay left on 1904 or continue straight on 252 -- both lead back to Hewitt Canyon Road and the west end of the Montana Mountain Loop where you parked. See map below for details.
Notes & Trail Ratings:
The Montana Mountain loop trail is about 30 miles from start to finish, not including any distance traveled on the graded Hewitt Station Road. It will take about 3-4 hours to complete at a leisurely pace although more time can be added for stops/hikes. Along the way, there are numerous spots to hike into the Superstition Wilderness Area as well as camp. We've rated this trail a ‘3’. The trail remains fairly wide and graded the whole way but does have some steep and rutted sections. Most SUV’s with good clearance will make it. 4-wheel drive is recommended. The trail does receive snow so use caution on the steep sections if you attempt this trail after a recent snow (not advised).