Located in Central Arizona’s Tonto National Forest -- within an hour of Phoenix -- the rugged 160,000 acre (64,750 hectare) Superstition Mountain Range is one of the state’s best hiking, rock climbing and outdoor activity attractions, especially for those with a true sense of adventure. Some popular treks in the Superstition Mountains include Miner’s Needle, Weaver’s Needle, Cave Trail and Peralta Canyon Trail (Peralta Canyon Area) and Treasure Loop Trail, Siphon Draw Trail and The Hand (Lost Dutchman Area). Those wanting to enjoy otherworldly desert scenery will love the mountain’s hoodoos and curving canyons, formed by volcanic eruptions that occurred over 15 million years ago.
Superstition Mountains is an apt name for the range, as it’s home to a number of legends. Its history dates back 9,000 years, with some of its many inhabitants including the Apache Indians, Spanish explorers, Mexican gold miners and American trappers. One story is of the “Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine,” about a man named Jacob Waltz (aka the Lost Dutchman) who supposedly knew where the world’s richest mine was -- somewhere in the Superstition Mountains -- and kept the secret even after he died in 1891. Additionally, Apache Indians believed there was a hole in the mountain that led to hell.
An interesting related attraction is the Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction, where visitors can peruse artifacts, historical treasures and folklore objects from the Superstition Mountains and surrounding area. You’ll also find the Elvis Memorial Chapel, a chapel and movie museum showing films made at Apacheland. The museum is open 9am to 4pm daily (except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). Admission is $5 per adult, $4 for seniors 55 and over, and free for youths 17 and younger with a paid adult.
As the Superstition Mountains are located in the desert, it’s important to bring extra water, sunscreen and layers -- especially ones that can keep you cool -- to be prepared for the weather. The best time to visit is considered October through April, when the heat is less intense. There are two main areas when visiting (although these aren’t your only options): Peralta Canyon Area, located on Peralta Road off Highway 60, and Lost Dutchman State Park off Highway 88 toward Canyon Lake.