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Just the name alone of Lost Dutchman State Park conjures up romantic visions of buried treasure and the mysteries of the desert. This small 320-acre park 40 miles east of Phoenix packs in loads of history and activities, and supposedly a wealth of gold underneath the red dirt. In addition to great hiking and mountain biking, it's also an excellent spot for wildlife enthusiasts, bird watchers, and stargazers. It's a must-see park if you're going to book an RV in Pinal County.
Native Americans inhabited the Superstition Mountains for thousands of years, up to the 19th century. Signs of their cliff dwellings are still visible in the area. Gold prospectors searched for their fortunes in more recent times, and the Bureau of Land Management eventually took over administration of the land. In the 1970s the property was signed over to the state of Arizona for creation of the park.
Lost Dutchman State Park is named after Jacob Waltz, known as the "Dutchman." He is supposedly the only person who knew what happened to a vast gold fortune lost when the original prospectors fell victim to an Apache raid. He drew maps and gave hints on his deathbed, but to this day no one has been able to find the treasure in the Superstition Mountains. Perhaps it will be you?
Lost Dutchman State Park features six hiking trails for everyone, including a short, paved, wheelchair-accessible trail. The shorter, easier trails include the Discovery Trail, Native Plant Trail, and Jacob’s Crosscut Trail. These informative trails give you great introductions to the views and plant life in the Sonoran Desert. One of the more strenuous, although most scenic, trails is the four-mile Siphon Draw Trail. This incredibly scenic trail will take you up into the Siphon Draw canyon, where you can connect with the longer six-mile Flatiron climb if you’re up to it. Be sure to bring a hat and plenty of water, as temperatures can quickly rocket past 100F during the day.
Mountain bikers will find four miles of singletrack around the base of Superstition Mountain. The trail is easy enough for beginning riders but more advanced riders will also appreciate the beautiful desert landscape. The adjacent Tonto National Forest features even more trails, which can be accessed from Lost Dutchman State Park; mountain bikes are not allowed in Superstition Wilderness.
If exerting yourself in the hot desert doesn’t sound like fun to you, there’s still plenty to see. You’ll be able to spot a variety of wildlife year-round, including javelina, jackrabbit, and bobcat. The Sonoran Desert is home to numerous species of birds, including colorful cardinals and orioles, birds of prey, vibrant hummingbirds, and four species of owls. The best time for wildlife viewing is either early morning or late in the afternoon when temperatures are cooler, and the critters come out to feed. If you happen upon this park in the spring after periods of heavy rain, you'll be in for a treat with a beautiful display of wildflowers.
The Lost Dutchman campground is open year-round. The RV campground includes 138 mostly back-in sites, but there are some pull-through sites available as well. There are no length restrictions for RVs. Water and electrical hookups (20, 30, and 50 amp) are available at 68 of these sites. Every site has a picnic table and fire ring with grill. There is one dump station located at the campground for registered guests.
Additional campground amenities include flush toilets, showers, and a camp store at the visitor center. Pets are welcome at Lost Dutchman State Park campground if they’re kept on a leash and well-behaved. The Sonoran Desert doesn’t provide much in the way of shade, but the shorter trees and shrubs do provide some semblance of privacy throughout the campground, where some of the sites are tightly-spaced.
You’ll find plenty of adventures in and around Lost Dutchman State Park. The park has a visitor center where you can see exhibits to learn more about the area, and you can also sign up for any of the guided hikes that the park offers. These events include stargazing, a guided walk to the base of Superstition Mountain, and nighttime hunts where you can search for desert scorpions using blacklights.
You’ll find even more to do after heading southwest in your motorhome on Highway 88. First, you'll come to Goldfield Ghost Town, a restored mining town you can explore on foot and also take tours of the mines. The Superstition Mountain Museum is just past that, featuring interactive exhibits and artifacts from all periods of history in this area. This stretch of highway also provides different opportunities for ATV tours and horseback riding.
The Phoenix metro area lies less than an hour southwest of the park and is your best bet for provisioning your rental RV. You’ll hit Apache Junction first, with plenty of large gas stations, big box outfitters, and restaurants featuring outstanding Mexican food and steakhouses. If your adventure will take you northwest out of Lost Dutchman State Park, be sure to provision in Apache Junction before heading to the park, as you won’t find much after you leave, other than countless RV camping opportunities.