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Thread: Old Trail Along Queen Creek to Superior?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Old Trail Along Queen Creek to Superior?

    My only previous knowledge of a sort-of established trail between the town of Superior (AZ) and Miami/Globe mining country in the late 1800s was Stoneman Grade.
    I've hiked and 4-wheeled portions of that route between site of the old Silver King Mine and Oak Flat.
    However, a 94-year-old gent (very mentally sharp) assures me that in 1899, his parents and older siblings came down to Superior via a (very narrow, burro) trail that descended the north side of Apache Leap to Queen Creek. (This is not the super-sheer cliffs of Apache Leap that you see from the west.)
    I was skeptical, but I keep hearing rumors about this trail.
    I drove the old gent up to the site and, sure enough, there is evidence of a shored-up trail descending north from the Leap.
    To get there we drove on Highway 60 just upstream of the 1952 Queen Creek Tunnel, to the first possible pull-out on the right, past the guard rail.
    On the eastern reach of the pull-out, there's a stack of pancake-like stones on the right. Walk until you're just about due-north of them.
    From there, looking ESE, across Queen Creek drainage below, and up to the cliffs on the southern bank above the creek, you can make out out the trail I'm describing.
    In the attached photo I've appended red arrows to show a distinct section of the trail.
    If anyone has information about this route, I'd sure be appreciative to learn of it.

    "The secret to surviving in Vietnam is to walk slowly and drink plenty of ice water." -- 1stSgt Henry Ansley Ulm, K Company, 3rd Battalion, Fourth Marines
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006


    I can't offer any information on the old trail, but I had noticed it when passing through the area. I had thought of driving/walking up the creek from Superior to see if any remnants existed below where it is visible from the highway. It looked to me like a lot of effort had been expended in the construction of the trail. I even wondered whether it would be possible to bring it back into service. I believe that this section of the 1902 topo map of Florence may show the trail coming off of Oak Flat. I am surprised that Superior is not identified on the map. I would have thought that it was an older town than what it apparently is.

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    Last edited by Toysx2; 07-20-2012 at 06:11 AM.

  3. #3
    Vulture's Avatar
    Vulture is offline Rock Crawlin GPS Moving Map Totin Trailblazing Expert Ghost Towner
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Galeyville, AZ


    Really nice find. I love obscure stuff like this. I'd read a bit about Stonemans grade but never heard of this. That is some rugged country around Superior.

    "The good things a person needs-stubbornness, thinking for himself-don't make him a useful member of society. What makes him useful is to be half dead." Sylvan Hart

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Tucson, AZ


    Toys, I've been remiss in not getting back to my initial post, but I think you may be on to something.
    I had theorized that Stoneman Grade might have a junction with a route over Oak Flat and down over Apache Leap, if only because Stoneman ended on the west at the Silver King Mine, which is about five miles north of Superior. Travelers may well have wanted to spare themselves walking that extra distance, even though the last short descent down from Apache Leap would have been harrowing.
    The gentleman who told me about the route said his older brother and sister were transported via burro, each one of them in a pannier on either side of the animal, to balance each other out. But when they got to the final descent, he said, the kids had to be pulled off because the trail was too narrow to accommodate more than about a burro's width.
    This really makes me want to do some walking/scrambling in that area, although it looks like, at least on top of the hill, on west side of Oak Flat, it's on Rio Tinto/BHP Billiton private property.
    The post office with the name of Superior wasn't established until December 1902, but I agree that you'd think there would be a town of some name there. The townsite of Pinal (shown on the map), which is about two miles west of Superior, shut down in 1888, so maybe the mapmakers were slow in catching up.
    I'll let you know if I score any more information. Thanks.

    Give me chastity and continence, but not yet. -- St. Augustine

  5. #5
    campp's Avatar
    campp is offline Rawk Crawlin GPS Totin Ghost Towning Expert
    Join Date
    Nov 2007


    Me too, every **** time I drive up that canyon I think "Note to self - Go explore that cool looking route down there - easy peasy". Yet I've never done it.

    There's lots of mine entrances along there.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2015

    Default Name of Old Trail Along Queen Creek to Superior

    This trail has two names; the Bellamy Trail named after a rancher who had his headquarters near the "Superior" end of the trail, and the Swift Trail (not to be confused with the one up Mt. Graham) because it was built by forestor T.T. Swift around 1905. There were at least two branch trails off the main one. One trail turned south across Oak Flats to Mineral Creek then on to the town of Ray, the other trail branched out of lower Queen Creek Canyon just below Apache Leap and went to the mines at the now ghost town of Belmont. The trails were used by miners travelling between Globe/Miami, Bellview, Superior, Ray, and Belmont, and by cattlemen and other travellers until the first highway was completed in 1922.

    Many people mistakenly think this trail is the famous Stoneman Grade built by General Stoneman in 1870, but it is not. The Stoneman travelled north from Camp Picketpost (where the silver mill town of Pinal would later be located) angling slightly eastward up the face of the escarpment of the Pinal Mountains, just below Kings Crown Peak and topping out near Pump Station Spring then across the far northern skirt of Oak Flat, across Devils Canyon, then up Irion Canyon (now call "Iron") to Irion's Pinal Ranch.

    From Irion's Ranch there were other trails went on to Globe (by about 1900 it was a wagon road) and to Pinto Creek and the Gibson Mine at Bellvue then on to Mineral Creek, Bob Tail Basin, and Pioneer Basin.

    The town of Superior was first laid out in 1900. An early place called Hastings had been located at the outlet of Queen Creek Canyon in 1892. Superior, Miami, and Ray were all established after 1900 when serious copper mining began.

    My third southwestern murder mystery, The Baleful Owl, is set at a Salado Dig near Pump Station Spring where an archeologist is murdered for a valuable owl effigy ceramic (book release is July 15, 2015). Anyway, I did a lot of research on the area in peparation for writing, and the Stoneman Grade is traced and described by Jack San Felice in his book When Silver Was King; I highly recommend this book for great history of the Superior/Pinal/Silver King area.
    Last edited by Virgil Aelxander; 06-25-2015 at 11:39 AM. Reason: Correcting typos

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2011

    Default Bellamy Trail

    Went out this weekend to explore the area just east of Superior with the 1902 topo map of the area. As you leave Superior, park at the first big pulloff at the right (past the landslide fence). It's very hard to find-it angles up the slope to the east of the pulloff heading south. Keep following this faint trail, and you'll find built-up sections of trail farther up that are obviously man-made. I followed various sections of it for about 2 miles, until reaching a small canyon. It looked like the trail originally crossed it, as I could see some kind of man-made pile of rocks on the other side, but turned back there due to impending darkness. This section of trail is barely still there, over grown with Ocotillo and cat claw, and plain old washed away in spots. According to the map, it goes up and over the mountain just north of Apache Leap, and it's probably so rough and hard to find, that making it all the way is probably more than a day trip in winter. I don't want to do it in summer, and especially when rattlesnakes are active!
    By the way, area rancher "Dad" Bellamy ran cattle along the top of Apache Leap, and I believe there was a trail in use there before it was improved by the Forest Service.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2011

    Default More on Bellamy Trail

    Went out last weekend to try to continue following the old Bellamy Trail east of Superior. A friend and I marked and cleared the trail uphill for maybe a mile before losing it in a washed-out canyon. Maybe next week, we'll find more of it. The Bellamy could be a great hiking trail with a little volunteer labor, anyone interested?
    By the way, the trail that follows Queen Creek and is recognized by the stone walls on the south side, is NOT the Bellamy Trail. According to several folks I spoke with in Superior, and historical accounts of the trail, it leads from Queen Creek just east of town, and climbs the mountain immediately north of Apache Leap. The trail in the canyon probably accessed the stone corrals in the higher country on the area.
    Also, there is a trail connecting the Bellamy to the Stoneman Trail, which is still in use. Continue up US60, past the tunnel, past the intermittent waterfall on the left, and turn in to a small dirt road and parking area on the left, well before the turnoff to Oak Flat Campground. The trail angles up to the west from the fenceline; there's also signs of old stone walls up from the highway. You can really see the trail by turning to the right towards Oak Flat Campground, going just past the campground on Magma Mine Road, and looking to your right across the highway. It looks like a slash going up the slope from the parking area.

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