Less than an hour from Phoenix, AZ near Apache Junction is the mysterious and beautiful Superstition Mountains. Our day spent in this area was a highlight of our trip to Arizona. This area of Arizona is imbued with legends and history. Our family loves hearing a good legend, our boys even entertain each other on long car rides with “legends” they’ve made up themselves.
Superstition Mountains Museum
Our first stop of the day was the Superstition Mountains Museum. We hadn’t planned on stopping here but I’m so glad we did. The museum is small but does a great job illustrating the history of the area. Several exhibits of Native Americans, Jacob Waltz, the mining industry, and even the filming of hundreds of old westerns tell an intriguing story of the area. We met a couple of volunteers that gave us even more information. One man was especially knowledgeable in the history of the area and took delight in teaching the boys. One benefit of traveling with children is that people love to teach children! If my husband and I had been at the museum without the boys we wouldn’t have learned about the legends of the Apache Tears, the Apaches and the Jumping Cactus, or the Hoodoos.
The museum has a real copper mining machine on site. It was interesting to learn how precious metals from the earth are mined and made into something useable. They also have some old buildings on site that were used in the filming of old westerns. A film set had burned down and instead of rebuilding, the buildings that had escaped the fire where moved to the museum. If you’re an Elvis fan you won’t want to miss the Elvis Chapel. There is also a short and easy hiking trail. They also have a gift shop full of books about the Superstition Mountains and Arizona. I wish I had more room in my suitcase.
The museum is inexpensive, only $5 for adults and children are free. Even if children weren’t free I would recommend visiting the museum. Plan at least an hour to see everything.
Lost Dutchman State Park
Our next stop was hiking at the Lost Dutchman State Park. Legend has it that German immigrant Jacob Waltz, “the Dutchman,” found a gold mine and on his deathbed gave the directions to the mine to his nurse. The location and details were quite like a puzzle and to this day the mine has never been found. Many have tried and even lost their lives looking for the legendary mine. I wish I had thought to pack my mining pick, I could be loaded and traveling the world right now!
We really enjoyed hiking here. There were many trails to choose from and the Ranger Station had children’s guides for the boys to use on their hike. There is almost no shade during the day so take plenty of water with you. We were there at the end of November and it was still very warm. If you visit during the summer plan on getting there early in the morning and hiking before going to the museum.
The Apache Trail and Tortilla Flat
We had planned on visiting the Goldfield Ghost Town after Lost Dutchman State Park, but as we drove up to it I had a feeling that it wasn’t authentic and mostly a tourist trap. We stopped in the parking lot and looked up reviews and found out that the expensive “abandoned mine” tour wasn’t even a real mine. We instead decided to head down the Apache Trail to the tiny town of Tortilla Flat, Population 6. Tortilla Flat has a post office, a general store, a restaurant and the world’s tiniest museum which used to be the town’s school house. Tortilla Flat isn’t much to visit, however, the drive along the historic Apache Trail through the Superstition Mountains and the Tonto National Forest is breathtaking! I can’t believe we almost missed it!