Apache Junction, AZ
April 15-26, 2017 – I had heard a lot of good things about this park from other RVers and I’m such a freak about mountains, the pictures I saw of the Superstition Mountains were enough to convince me I had to see them in person.
From Park History: “The Park provides views and access to the most scenic portions of the legendary Superstition Mountains and maintains facilities to support the recreational activities. The famous tales of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine are known throughout the world, with travelers from all over coming to seek the legend and experience the mystery. If not in search of the gold, they become entranced with the golden opportunities to experience the beautiful and rugged area known as the Superstition Wilderness accessible by trails from the Park.” Sold!
It didn’t matter what time of day it was, every time I got a glimpse of the Superstition Mountains, I really was entranced and I never got tired of seeing them because every time you look, they seem slightly different the way the shadows shift.
My favorite time of day was always just before sunset when the magical mountain starts to glow as the sun goes down from the other direction and it was hard to decide where to look. I laughed and told myself I could go crazy from this kind of beauty. I enjoyed sitting outside watching this view from my site and I loved it so much, I devoted a whole page to Spectacular Desert Sunsets and My Site (coming soon).
I always encourage learning more about a park from the experienced Rangers since you can find out things you might not have known otherwise. So my visit with Ranger Jacque Vallejos was certainly helpful as she shared tips to make my stay safe and enjoyable. The picture was taken at the Cholla Day Use Area with one of the covered ramadas that are available for rent.
Jacque came here just six months ago and said her favorite thing is the clean air and diverse scenery for hiking. Because she grew up in the city, this feels like a great escape to her that feels isolated and worlds away from civilization where you can just escape into nature, yet all the city conveniences are just five miles away in Apache Junction.
Jacque also told me about the so-called Teddybear “Jumping” Cholla that may look soft and fluffy, but are vicious and painful when you get too close to them. If spines get on your clothes or socks, don’t try to pull out with your fingers since their backward pointed fishhook-like spines really hurt when you try to remove them. She said one of the reasons the ranger station carries hair combs is because that’s the best way to remove them! (Place the comb between you skin and the sticker and flick up, being careful not to flick back on you!)
The park is popular for its Hiking Trails, but by the time I got here in mid April, daytime temperatures were uncomfortably hot even for this southern gal who grew up in muggy New Orleans with no air conditioning. Dry heat here or not, it was pretty hard to deal with. The highs were mostly in the 90s, and depending on who you talked to, that was either early in the season to be that hot, or it was pretty much average.
I told Jacque that I had been warned about hiking alone in these mountains and she agreed it wasn’t a great idea for long hikes. She stressed how important it is to drink lots of water even if you don’t feel thirsty and how some visitors underestimate its need and get really sick from dehydration. She reminded me of the hiking rule of thumb: once you’re half out of water, turn back since you’ll need as much going back as you did going up.
But I was determined to get closer to those magical mountains! So before I took off on the 2.4 mile Treasure Loop Trail, I took all that advice to heart: I started off early on a weekend when there were plenty of other hikers, I was lathered with sunscreen, carried and drank lots of water, and wore a hat and sunglasses to protect my face and eyes. I watched where I was walking at all times since rattlesnakes are active this time of year, and I made sure not to get near the jumping Cholla! Those mountains are certainly mesmerizing and another page on that hike coming soon. It took me 4 hours to do that trail because I go incredibly slow and take hundreds of pictures so I can relive the experience whenever I want and am no longer able to do these kinds of trails.
There are also easier trails to choose from, including the Native Plant Trail and Discovery Interpretive Trail that connects the campground and day use areas.
As detailed more in the Campgrounds Overview page, she told me about planned improvements, including cabins, new restroom/shower facilities and wi-fi. It makes her proud to hear people’s remarks on the noticeable cleanliness throughout the park, outstanding scenic beauty, friendly staff and planned Events. She said the park is also popular for weddings, and I can see why.
Like other park managers and rangers I talked to at Arizona state parks, much credit is given the Volunteers who work here (including camp hosts), whose love for the park and dedication helps keep it open for all to enjoy It would be hard to run the park and all its programs without them since Arizona State Parks are self-sustained with no state or public funding. She is excited that the Friends of Lost Dutchman are helping install a Solar Trail where there will be a Sun Dial and info on astronomy and what can be seen in the night skies here.
Speaking of night skies, I was happy I had a chance to go to the Star Party at the Amphitheater that week. Amateur astronomer Bill Dellinges brought a telescope to let us spy the sky from a closer perspective. He told me that the light I’d been seeing over the mountains from my site that I thought was the space station is actually Jupiter! When I looked through the telescope, I could see its three moons, too. Knowing that I was seeing something 420 million miles away was a big wow!
He pointed out constellations like the more easily found Big Dipper, and also how to find Polaris, the North Star, from there. The darker night skies are just another reason I prefer staying in state parks.
When I was here, a few friends brought this neat thing to my attention that I sure wish I could have seen in person. This came from a Facebook post where it said that this shadow that looks like a cougar attacking its prey occurs only a couple of times a year (3 days in March and 3 in September) right at sundown for a few minutes, then it’s gone. I sure enjoyed watching these mountains from my site every day I was here and the sunsets were amazing, and I frequently would play the “that looks like…” game, but I would have dearly loved to have seen this! If any readers have seen it and have pictures or more info so share, I’d love to hear about it in comments below. Here’s an article in AZ Wonders, but it still doesn’t give enough details.
Contact: 6109 N. Apache Trail — Apache Junction, AZ 85119
Location: About 40 miles from Phoenix and 26 miles from Mesa. Closest town is Apache Junction (5 miles) with lots of shopping and dining options.
All Malia’s Miles Lost Dutchman State Park Pages: