Lost Dutchman State Park is at the base of the Superstition Mountains, at the far eastern end of the Phoenix metropolitan area near Apache Junction. The park is a wonderful place to hike if you want to get up close to the mountains. In the springtime, Lost Dutchman is often a great place to see wildflowers. In the winter, snow sometimes comes to the Superstitions’ peaks, but rarely to the level of the park itself.
In all seasons, the changing face of the Superstitions makes them some of our favorite mountains.
Lost Dutchman State Park gets its name from the old legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Goldmine, and there have been places not too far away where gold has been pulled from the ground. The gold of the park, though, is found in its trails and the desert.
To get to the park, take US-60 (the Superstition Freeway) to Idaho Road. Go north through Apache Junction to Arizona Highway 88 (the Apache Trail). Follow it north and east about 5 miles to the park.
Coming into the park, there is a small botanical garden that’s well worth a stop, especially if you are only in the area for a short time and want to see a lot of the local cacti in one place. Just to the east of the garden, down in a gully, there’s a really tall saguaro that’s a great photo opportunity for a visitor to the area. Another short nature hike is located on the west side of the parking lot. A small shop is located in the entrance building. Cost to enter depends on time of year and other factors, so please check with Lost Duchman State Park for details.
Farther into the park, the Discovery Trail is a short, easy walk that has information signs, a small pond, bird feeder and viewing bench. It does have steps, so is not for everyone.
[As in all Arizona hiking, please make sure that you have lots and lots of water with you. The dry conditions in the desert mean that you may not realize how much you are sweating until you become dehydrated, and summer temperatures can get well above 100 degrees. Also, if you’re hiking on your own, leave a note with your vehicle and tell people where you’re hiking. Getting hurt in this country can be very dangerous. That’s the obligatory warnings.]
It’s awesome to be able to get out in this country, as long as you’re prepared.
The Treasure Loop is a moderate trail, with an elevation gain of 500’ above the base elevation of the park (about 2,000’). It’s mostly a gentle climb on an open slope until you get close to the base of the mountain, and then it goes up a little more steeply. The total distance is 2.4 miles. You can cut across on the Jacob’s Crosscut trail to take an easier trip and still get closer to the Superstitions. That cuts off about half the distance and more than half the elevation gain.
While you’re hiking, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open and don’t just look at the trail. You never know what you might see…
The Siphon Draw trail (my favorite in the park) starts out easy by following the Discovery trail, but then heads up into Siphon Draw. It’s a four-mile round trip and is rated difficult, as much of the trail is unimproved. The first part is wide and fairly easy, though there’s a lot of small loose gravel to walk on. As the trail goes up into the draw itself, the way becomes much harder, but the views are more rewarding. The trail is not always clear to the hiker, so it’s a good idea to take the time to make sure that you’re really on it. I’ve seen people go off it and have to backtrack.
The end of the Siphon Draw trail itself is at a place called the Basin, and that’s a big slick-rock bowl. The Basin is at 3,100’ and over its two miles the trail climbs 1,100’, most of it in the last half. Beyond the Basin, you can continue another mile on up to the Flatiron. It’s rated very difficult because the trail gains another 1,800’ in that distance. And, of course, there’s still the three miles back to the trailhead once you’re up there. Plan on taking five or six hours to complete that climb and return. The park’s own comment on this piece: “It is possible to hike up the Flatiron (5.8 miles roundtrip), although it is not a designated, maintained trail all the way. It’s advised that only experienced hikers in good shape attempt to hike to the top, as the climb is steep and difficult to follow.”
Jacob’s Crosscut trail goes along the base of the Superstitions, connecting on the north end with First Water Road (outside Lost Dutchman’s borders) and at the south end at Broadway. It’s considered easy, but at 6.5 miles in length, nothing in the desert is that easy.
There’s both day-use and campground areas in the park as well.
There are many other trails in the area around the Superstitions, such as the Peralta Trail, that can take you a long way into the back country. On the Apache Trail, just a short distance east of Lost Dutchman State Park, there’s an easy hike to see the Weaver’s Needle and the back side of the Superstitions. Also in the area, you can stop at a former gold mine. You can go east into the mountains and visit Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flat, and even follow the Apache Trail on over to Apache and Roosevelt Lakes. Past Tortilla Flat the road is mostly dirt and in some places a single lane wide. Make sure that your vehicle’s in good shape and gassed up before going that far.