Looking for a Good Family Hike Near Phoenix? Consider the Claypool Tunnel Near Superior, AZ

Now that the weather is getting cool, it’s time to dust off the hiking boots and take down the kid backpack for some outdoor fun. If you’re like us, you can no longer jet off to Camelback Mountain or Squaw Peak with only a water bottle in hand. No, you’re towing at least one small child, probably on your back or front, and need the various accoutrements (which invariably fill a backpack on their own) that come with a family hike to a place that all ages can trek up, including mom, who is only coming because it’s a family outing.

So let me suggest Claypool Tunnel in Superior, AZ. It’s only an hour or 90 minutes from most places in the Valley, which is not so far that it becomes an ordeal but is plenty far enough to get out of the Valley. Take US Highway 60 east, then the little exit for AZ 177 north into the old part of Superior. Park on the eastern edge of town. We parked at the courthouse.

The hike is up the original Hwy 60 road to the Claypool Tunnel. This stretch of road and the tunnel were abandoned in the 1950s for a newer, wider, longer tunnel. Because it’s an old road, the “trail” is wide and fairly level. No climbing or winded lungs from steep inclines. Some pavement even remains in some sections. We didn’t try this, but I bet you could take a Bob or similar stroller the whole way.

There’s some old mining equipment when you first start out, which is a good AZ history lesson (C for copper, anyone?). You cross an original bridge, then walk under one of the new bridges which the highway traverses now. It’s an impressive structure you get to see up close and underneath. Next you pass the water tank that is the town of Superior’s supply. A nice environmental lesson about the importance and use of water in the desert, and how and where our water comes from. Near the tank are some inscriptions of the names and numbers of some of the prisoners who built the road.

There’s a few switchbacks to Claypool Tunnel itself, which is sadly marred by graffiti. Still, it’s pretty cool to walk through and imagine how the men in the 1920s chiseled this thing out, pre-heavy equipment. There’s good shade for a break and snack. It’s 2.5 miles to the Tunnel and 2.5 back down.

We had a nice link to our Faith in the form of a lost pacifier. About 2/3 the way up we realized the baby’s binky was missing. He was asleep so it wasn’t a crisis but could have become one pretty quickly. We appealed to St. Anthony. About halfway down, he obliged, and we found the pacifier. The kids were all excited to see the supernatural and natural meet.

This guy gives a much more detailed description and history with some great pic’s here.

For a bonus, continue east on Highwaywy 60 to Globe, which has some fun things to do and places to eat (like DeMarco’s). Most importantly, it has one of the most beautiful and historic Catholic churches (that’s not a mission) in Arizona: Holy Angels. Enter through the open west-side door. This impressive structure is a tremendous place to visit our Lord and take in the beauty that His people create to worship and honor Him, His Son, and our Mother.

Doug Paul