Lost Dutchman State Park, a Scenic Gem

Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert in central Arizona at the base of the Superstition Mountains. The park is named for the “Lost Dutchman,” Jacob Waltz, a German prospector who supposedly knew the location of a fabulously rich gold mine in the mountains.

The proximity of the Superstition Wilderness Area makes the park an ideal base for hikers and horse riders. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For generations, treasure hunters have been scouring the Superstition Mountains for some trace of the Lost Dutchman’s gold.

Mystery and Legend

The Superstition Mountains have been a source of mystery and legend since early times. The area is dotted with ancient cliff dwellings and caves, many showing signs of former habitation by a number of different Native American groups, up until the 1800s.

Even the name is inspired by Pima Indian legends. During the 1840s, the Peralta family of northern Mexico supposedly developed a rich gold mine in the Superstitions. According to legend, an Apache ambush ended the family’s last expedition, and the gold remained in the area. In the 1870s, Jacob Waltz (“the Dutchman”) was said to have located the mine through the aid of the Peralta descendant. Waltz and his partner, Jacob Weiser, worked in the mine and allegedly hid one or more caches of gold in the Superstitions. After Waltz’s death in 1891, several people attempted to seek out the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, all without success.

Later searchers have sometimes met with foul play or even death, contributing to the superstition and legend of these mountains. The legend of the “lost mine” has been fueled by a number of people who were supposed to have known the mine’s location or even worked it. Maps have surfaced over the years, only to become lost or misplaced.

Hiking

The proximity of the Superstition Wilderness Area makes the park an ideal base for hikers and horse riders.

Five trails, from easy to strenuous, lead through the Sonoran Desert. You can hike to the top of the mountains, to the Flatiron, at 4,861 feet, but the trail is not maintained near the end.

Use caution when hiking. Those planning to use the longer trails should carry a topographic

Lost Dutchman State Park could be a goldmine for Arizona. It has beautiful trails and is just minutes away from Apache Junction, Canyon Lake, and Goldfield Ghost Town. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

map. Each person should carry at least one gallon of drinking water per day. Remember summer temperatures often exceed 100 degrees.

Treasure Loop Trail: 2.4 miles round trip, rated moderate, elevation change of 500 feet, trail terminates at either picnic area.

Prospector’s View Trail: 0.7 miles, rated moderate, connects Siphon Draw Trail with Treasure Loop Trail also connects with Jacob’s Crosscut Trail.

Jacob’s Crosscut Trail: 0.8 miles along the base of the mountain, rated easy, connects Treasure Loop Trail with Prospector’s View Trail, and continues 4.5 miles past the park area along the base of the Superstitions.

Siphon Draw Trail: 3.2 miles round trip, very scenic hike, trail winds up into a canyon known as Siphon Draw. It is possible to hike up the Flatiron, 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. Allow at least five hours to the Flatiron and back.

Discovery Trail: Connects campground and day use areas, features information signs, a wildlife pond, bird feeder, and viewing bench.

Wildflowers

The Superstitions have been a source of mystery and legend since early times. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park has practically become synonymous with wildflower watching. Prime times are March and April.

Mexican goldpoppies, golden bursts of brittlebushes, mustard evening primroses, lupines, and countless other brightly colored spring petals pave the picture-perfect slopes of the Superstition Mountains.

The especially scenic wildflower vistas along the Jacob’s Crosscut, Siphon Draw, mango-colored fiddleneck, and Discovery trails are worth their weight in blooming bullion and may well be the gold that’s in them thar hills?

Because Mother Nature has a mind of her own, Arizona’s wildflower season varies from year to year.

Birding

Common birds are Costa’s hummingbird, gilded flicker, Gila and ladder-backed woodpeckers, cactus and rock wrens, phainopepla, verdin, black-tailed gnatcatcher, Gambel’s quail, house finch, long-billed thrasher, and Harris and red-tailed hawks.

Campground Construction Update

Sites 16-32 and 41-58 (which were closed for construction) are open again for tents or RVs at $15 per night on a first come-first served basis; these sites have water hookups only.

Location: 5 miles north of Apache Junction, off of AZ 88 (Apache Trail)

Park Entrance Fees: $7.00/vehicle

Information: (480) 982-4485

Worth Pondering…
The Amen of nature is always a flower.

—Oliver Wendell Holmes

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