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U.S. Forest Service

Southwestern Region Viewing Area


Map displaying the route to the Superstition Mountains area.

the Superstition Mountains provide a striking backdrop for a typical Sonoran Desert. The Superstition Mountains provide a striking backdrop for a typical Sonoran Desert scene. Photo Source:, Diane Taliaferro.

giant saguaro cacti. Giant saguaro cacti (Cereus giganteus). Photo Source:, Stephen Peel.

teddy bear cholla cactus. Teddy bear cholla (Opuntia bigelovii). Photo Source: U.S. Forest Service.

Superstition Mountains Desert Foray

Forest: Tonto National Forest

District: Mesa Ranger District

Description: This desert foray gives you the option of several hiking trails at the base of the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. This may be a national forest, but at an elevation of 2,000-2,500 feet in the Sonoran Desert, the vegetation is hardly forest-like, unless you want to count the giant saguaro cacti as trees. The absolutely best time to visit is March after a wet winter (an El Nino year), which occurs only once about every ten years. In these years, the desert comes alive with spring annuals that produce a riot of color not to be seen again until the next El Nino year. Otherwise, the perennial cacti and succulents are always interesting. You will see saguaro cacti, chollas, prickly pears, barrel cacti, ocotillo, agaves, and yuccas. Most of these plants bloom in the spring and early summer.

Safety First: Desert heat and low humidity are real hazards for people unfamiliar with hot climates. A person can loose up to 5 quarts of fluid a day and it is easy to become seriously dehydrated without realizing it, so drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel very thirsty. Temperatures can exceed 100 degrees anytime from April through October. During hot months, try to get out in the early morning before the intense heat of the day. When hiking, even if only a short hike, take a day pack with water, snack foods, protective clothing, compass, flashlight, and first aid kit. To avoid sun injury, wear light loose clothing, use sunscreen on exposed areas, wear a hat, and have sunglasses.

Directions: From downtown Phoenix, drive east on US Highway 60 (Superstition Freeway) to the Arizona Highway 88/Idaho Road exit (Exit 196). Follow Arizona Highway 88 north, then northwest to Lost Dutchman State Park. Hiking trails 53 (Siphon Draw), 56 (Treasure Loop), and 57 (Prospector’s) are accessed from the State Park. Trail 58 (Jacob’s) is accessed from Forest Road 78, which leaves State Highway 88 about .5 mile north of the State Park entrance.

Contact: Tonto National Forest, Mesa Ranger District, 5140 East Ingram Street, Mesa, Arizona 85205. Phone: (480) 610-3300.

Closest Town: Mesa, Arizona.