Located outside of Apache Junction, just forty-five minutes east of Phoenix, this Arizona State Park in the Sonoran Desert is home to a fabled lost gold mine. Nestled at the base of the Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park features a fantastic network of hiking trails, a hint of springtime wildflowers, native wildlife, and many options for staying overnight under the desert sky.
History of Lost Dutchman State Park
According to this Native Land map, the modern-day state park is Akimel O'odham (Upper Pima) and Hohokam Native land. The legend of the Lost Dutchman begins with the Superstition Mountains, a name inspired by Pima Natives. Ancient cliff dwellings and caves line the area, and it is said that long ago, Salado or Hohokam Natives roamed the area.
Centuries later, the Apache tribe used the area as a trade route; the park now sits on the Apache Trail with the Tonto National Forest on the north and east sides of the park. The Peraltas, a northern Mexican family, started developing gold mines there in the 1840s.
In 1972, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) developed the land as a day-use area. The basic infrastructure originally included restrooms, ramadas, paved roads and parking, and picnic areas. In 1974, the BLM worked with the Arizona State Parks department to add Lost Dutchman to the system.
Legend of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine
Legend says that on their last journey to bring gold back to Mexico, the Peraltas were ambushed and killed by Apaches. For decades after, no one could successfully locate the Peralta mine, which adds mystery and lore around this "lost" gold mine.
A German man named Jacob Waltz and his partner Jacob Weiser allegedly found the mine in the 1860s. Over the years, either Waltz or Weiser are referred to as the infamous "Dutchman." The story goes that Weiser was killed by the Apaches (or, in some versions, Waltz), but not before making a deathbed confession.
He allegedly told his neighbor the location of the mine, and people have explored the Superstition wilderness endlessly and fruitlessly to find it. No one may ever know the story's truth, but the legend does not stop people from becoming fascinated by the story and visiting Lost Dutchman State Park.
Hikers will delight at the miles of hiking trails found at Lost Dutchman, including the Native Plant Trail, the challenging Siphon Draw Trail to the top of the Flatiron, Jacob's Crosscut Trail, or the Treasure Loop Trail.
Bikers will appreciate that the park recently added a four-mile biking loop for mountain bikes to take in the surrounding beauty.
Camping Around Lost Dutchman
There are many ways for campers to stay overnight at Lost Dutchman and enjoy the vast desert scenery. For RV and tent camping, choose from 183 sites (68 of the sites have electric and water hookups). Every site is equipped with a picnic table and fire pit with a grill grate. Well-behaved pets are allowed, and there is a dump station for RVs and no limit on RV size.
A different option is to rent one of the cabins. There are a total of five cabins, ranging from two to three rooms and furnished with beds, chairs, ceiling fans, lights, electricity, and even air-conditioning and heating! The cabins are wheelchair accessible.
Wildlife & Wildflowers
If the desert received more rain than usual when you plan on visiting, you might be able to witness the striking blooming of desert wildflowers. Although this is typically in the springtime, you can still observe the beautiful desert plants all year. Native wildlife includes javelina, jackrabbit, mule deer, and coyotes.
Information to Visit
Suppose you are looking to visit this central Arizona gem. In that case, the park entrance fee is $7.00 per vehicle for 1-4 adults and $10 per vehicle on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from October to May. The fee is $3 for individuals and bicycles. The park is under a two-hour round trip from Phoenix.
Stop by the visitor center to ask the park rangers any questions or grab a map or souvenirs. Be sure to bring plenty of drinking water, as the desert presents brutal temperatures and little shade. The address is 6109 N. Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ 85119, and the phone number is (480)-982-4485.
Follow along for more adventures at our Wide Open Roads Facebook!
READ MORE: 5 Oregon Road Trips For A Weekend Getaway
Enjoy reading about the open road?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.