Great Hikes: Siphon Draw Trail, Apache Junction, AZ
The Quick and Dirty
DIFFICULTY: easy to moderate
DISTANCE: 4 miles
TIME: 2.5 hours
TYPE: out and back
ELEVATION GAIN: easy to moderate
I cannot heap enough accolades upon Lost Dutchman State Park. It has unparalleled beauty, mystery and some absolutely stunning hiking trails. The park is located on the border of the Tonto National Forest, and its Siphon Draw Trail provides one of the more interesting gateways into the Superstition Wilderness. The Siphon Draw Trail leads hikers out of the park and up a continuous but slight grade into the Superstition Mountains. The trail ends at an area called The Basin. It is so named for its large smooth rock valley that traverses the area between the canyon walls. It an impressive rock formation that makes the perfect picnic spot and offers abundant shade in an area that typically has a merciless sun beating down on hikers for the duration of their journey.
Two words of caution. The first should be apparent; this is a desert hike. Hiking in the desert means paying very close attention to your personal heat condition and carrying an adequate amount of water. If hiking the the Siphon Draw Trail in fall, winter or spring you should be fine with a few liters of water. During the summer, it is only recommend as a very early morning hike. Carrying enough water is key. I use and highly recommend the personal hydration system. It has never let me down in years of use and places 2 liters of water in a nifty backpack-like package that has a few pockets to store your cell phone and a few snacks. Camelbak Rouge
The other warning is this is not a hike to be taken directly after a rain. Yes, it does rain in the desert, and sometimes quite violently. The end destination of your hike is The Basin. This smooth rock formation is called The Basin because, as the black streak down the middle can attest, it serves as a water runoff for Siphon Draw when it rains. When dry, the rock provides excellent grip for most shoes. When wet, it is a slippery danger that should be avoided. If you start to slide down the steeply sloped basin, you will not be able to arrest your slide and will be injured.
Start your hike at the Siphon Draw trailhead parking lot in the day use area of Lost Dutchman State Spark. Note that there is a $7 day use fee per vehicle. From the parking lot, pick up trail number 53, which is also labeled as Siphon Draw Trail. You will not leave this trail for the entire hike. As you come to a fence, you will be leaving the state park and entering the Tonto National Forest, and soon after the Superstition Wilderness. Keep an eye out for cactus and rattlesnakes.
The trail can be rocky at times, and as you enter some thick brush you may have to look around a bit for the trail, but with steep canyon walls on each side of you, just keep going up. Getting lost is virtually impossible. At a moderate pace, you should reach The Basin in about an hour and a half. Sit back and enjoy your accomplishment, take a rest and take some photos.
At the top of the steep basin is a saddle. A trail to the right will lead to the western face of the mountains. Go straight and down over the saddle and you will be on the path to tackle the Flatiron; an ominous looking peak beyond The Basin. This hike ends at The Basin. If you wish to tackle Flatiron, please check with the ranger station as the trails beyond The Basin are not maintained or officially marked.
On the way up or down, if you hear something that sounds like a gunshot, look up. The top of this end of the Superstition Mountains is popular with base jumpers who use a small explosive charge to eject their parachute quickly. You can watch them glide down to the lower trails and then watch them try to avoid being arrested. Base jumping in the area is illegal.
If you are looking for a place to stay while exploring the Superstition Wilderness, I can highly recommend the campground at Lost Dutchman State Park. It is one of the cleanest and best run campgrounds I have visited. Book early, the campground's close proximity to Phoenix and exquisite opportunities for exploring nature make it a popular destination.