Take a trip to hike one of the best state parks in Arizona any time you need a change of pace and scenery. The Lost Dutchman State Park is about 40 miles east of Phoenix, in the Sonoran Desert in central Arizona, near Apache Junction. The park is open all year, and it is a great destination for Arizonans and others who want to explore some of Arizona’s natural features as well as history.
The History of the Lost Dutchman
The Lost Dutchman State Park is named for a local legend. According to one version of the story—there are many—a Dutchman named Jacob Waltz and a partner found an old gold mine in the nearby Superstition Mountains in the 1870s. The gold mine was originally operated by a northern Mexican family until Apache Indians attacked and massacred most of the clan. The Dutchman’s partner was a descendant of these Mexicans, and he too was killed, under mysterious circumstances, by either the Apache or the Dutchman himself.
On his deathbed, the Dutchman reportedly told a neighbor where the gold mine was, but the neighbor and others were not able to find it. The Lost Dutchman’s Mine remains lost, though people have continued to search for it, and many, according to legends, have mysteriously died trying.
The Development of the Park
The Lost Dutchman’s State Park was developed in 1972 by the Bureau of Land Management. It has expanded over the years to approximately 320 acres. The park was initially developed as a recreation area for day use only, but it now includes overnight camping areas for recreation vehicles and tents. The park includes paved roads, parking lots, picnic areas, restroom facilities, a visitor center, and a gift store. Hiking trails lead from these areas into the surrounding wilderness.
The Road to the Lost Dutchman
The road to the Lost Dutchman State Park is known as State Route 88 or the Apache Trail. The Apache Trail traverses northeast out of Apache Junction. Travelers often stop at the Superstition Mountain Museum or in Goldfield, a gold-mining ghost town. The road to the Lost Dutchman offers some of the most scenic vistas of the legendary Superstition Mountains.
Take a Hike With the Lost Dutchman
Hiking is a popular activity in the Lost Dutchman State Park and a way to experience the native flora and fauna. Area wildlife includes coyote, mule deer, jackrabbits, javelina, and various bird species that thrive on desert plants. Desert wildflowers are a popular attraction in the spring.
There are many park trails leading into the Tonto National Forest and Superstition Wilderness. Park trails have various lengths and difficulties (many are short and easy), and they have intriguing names, such as Treasure Loop Trail, Prospector's View Trail, Siphon Draw Trail, Jacob's Crosscut Trail, and Discovery Trail. Trail maps are available at the park’s visitor center.
Be Prepared for the Hike and the Drive
Visitors to the Lost Dutchman State Park should be physically prepared for their hiking goals and should stay on designated trails. Hikers on long trails should carry maps and one gallon of water per person per day, and all hikers should have proper clothing, footwear, and other protective gear, including sunscreen.
For the drive to the park, vehicles should be well maintained and equipped to handle high temperatures that frequently exceed 100° F in the summer. Park visitors and vehicles should be prepared for temperature fluctuations and weather conditions that can change suddenly.
A trip to hike the Lost Dutchman State Park is worth the drive whether you are looking for gold or a golden opportunity to escape your busy urban life for a while. Your perspective on life can be enriched, like others who seek treasure in the wilderness, if you find the Lost Dutchman.