Great Hikes: Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, AZ

Updated on November 18, 2017
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Tom Lohr is an avid fan of science, space travel and exploration. He has spent 13 months at the science station at the South Pole.

The Superstition Mountains
The Superstition Mountains | Source

The Quick and Dirty

DIFFICULTY: easy

LENGTH: 2.2 miles

TYPE: loop

TIME: 2 hours

ELEVATION GAIN: easy

Few hikes will allow lovers of the outdoors to experience the diversity and beauty of the desert like Lost Dutchman State Park. Arizona has a splendid system of well maintained parks, and Lost Dutchman is the crown jewel of the department. It is not only in a gorgeous location, but it is conveniently located a short drive from Phoenix and a mere 5 miles from all the amenities of Apache Junction. Want a Starbucks coffee after your hike? There is one just down the road in the Fry's grocery store. And despite the close proximity to all the comforts of home, a stay at Lost Dutchman allows hikers to feel completely immersed in nature.

Then there is the lore of theLost Dutchman gold mine. There is plenty written about it, and movies have been made using the story as a plot. There is a ton of speculation about the local history, and if you are interested the Lost Dutchman Museum is only a mile or two away. My personal thoughts are that if the gold really exists, someone would have found it by now. Plus, after hiking all the way up there in the heat, there is no way in the world I am lugging bags of gold back to the parking lot.

While you may not get rich finding the Dutchman's gold, you can enjoy the riches of a hike that highlights the scenic beauty of the SuperstitionMountains, along with a showcase of the types of cactus found in the Sonoran Desert. This is an easy hike with mild elevation gain that one should be able to complete in about 2 hours. While it is one of the few hikes that one could do in the Arizona summer, I highly recommend waiting until any season other than summer. As always when hiking in the desert, bring as much water as you think you will need, and then bring another liter.

On the Trail Near the Green Boulder
On the Trail Near the Green Boulder | Source

The trails could be completed in tennis shoes, but hiking shoes/boots are highly recommended. There are points along the trail that you will appreciate the grip that proper footwear provides. For hiking in warmer weather, resist the temptation to wear sandals unless they are designed for hiking. For this hike, I used a pair of Keen Newport sandals. Keen makes sandals that have the essentials for light hiking: closed toe, and a tough, grippy rubber sole that provides adequate traction. Use an open toe sandal and your piggies will get beaten up by the rocks, and ordinary sandals never provide the stability on dirt and rock needed for a safe hike. If the weather and trail conditions make hiking in a sandal attractive, you cannot go wrong with a pair of Keen Newports.

To begin your hike, note that there is a $7 per day user fee per vehicle. I recommend parking in the Cholla day use parking lot and start there. From the parking lot, enter trail 56 which is named the Treasure Loop Trail. Your walk will be mostly a gradual eastwards, uphill affair until you curve south and reach the aptly named Green Boulder. There, your trail will intersect the Prospector's View Trail, number 57. Take 57 and continue southerly. As the path gently strays to the southwest, it will cross Jacob's Crosscut Trail, number 58. Take 58, it heads back to the north and and will eventually cross trail 56 (your original trail) twice. At the second crossing, turn left onto trail 56 and head west back to your starting point. All of the trails are clearly marked with both the trail name and number, making navigation simple.

For the majority of your hike you will be able to see all of the other trails. With nearly no trees and only scrub brush and cactus to obscure your view, coupled with the entire trail area being on an upward slope that butts up agains the sheer cliffs of the Superstitions, it is nearly impossible to lose your way.

Trail Marker
Trail Marker | Source

To make the trip even more interesting and educational, grab a cactus guide and see how many varieties you can identify on your hike. Want to make a hike with some added suspense? Read up on the mysterious killings that have taken place throughout the history of the Superstition Mountains and plan your hike to take in the sunset. As twilight falls, discuss your murderous theories with your hiking partner.

This hike is the perfect outing for those that are not in the best of shape, but still want to get some exercise in one of the most scenic vistas in all of Arizona. It is a kid and dog friendly hike that will whet your appetite for more exploration of the Superstition Mountains.

Lost Dutchman State Park at Sunset
Lost Dutchman State Park at Sunset | Source

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