One of the most iconic mountains in Arizona, and in the Southwestern United States, The Superstition Mountains have a long history of strange occurrences, myths, tales, and riches that add to the already-rich history of Phoenix, Arizona and the desert surrounding it.
The Superstition Mountains are a range of mountains just to the east of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, and is characterized by the main namesake mountain featuring sheer rock cliffs and spires of red rocks jutting upward along the front face. A popular recreational area for Phoenix area residents and visitors to the Valley of the Sun, the Superstitions offer a source for hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, camping and even entertainment at the nearby Goldfield Ghost Town.
The Legend of the Lost Dutchman
Probably the most famous story tied to the Superstition Mountains is the Legend of the Lost Dutchman. In the late 1800s, a German immigrant named Jacob Waltz came to the Arizona territory looking to prospect his way to riches, searching for gold in the area now known as Phoenix. He soon did strike it rich, in the Superstition Mountains, and would haul loads of gold into town from is mining location. With the large amount of gold he was bringing in, it soon became apparent that he had hit the mother lode, though worked diligently to hide the secret location of his mine from anyone who attempted to follow him into the Superstition Mountains. The location of the mine — or whether it ever even existed — is still a mystery to this day, though there have been many that have searched for it.
While there are many stories and theories surround the Legend of the Lost Dutchman, no one knows for sure, making the lost mine an enigma or riddle that hundreds have attempted to solve. The Superstition Mountains are set in a very hostile and rough terrain, making the search for the mine even more difficult. Over the years there have been a number of deaths by those searching for the location of the lost mine, and still to this day, you can run into these treasure hunters while hiking the number of beautiful trails that twist through and around the Superstitions.
Apache Legends of the Superstition Mountains
Pre-dating the arrival of “white men,” and the prospector Jacob Waltz, the Superstitions were well known to the native Indian tribes in the area including the Hopi and the Apache Indians. While the Hopi relate the mountains to “heaven,” and believe that the spires of rocks are actually the frozen bodies of those trying to escape a great flood that overtook the earth years ago, the Apache Indians believe the Superstitions to be much more sinister.
The slopes of the Western facing side of the mountain was the scene of a great battle between Apaches and an Army entering in from Mexico. What happened when the two opposing sides met, was more of a massacre or slaughter that ended with many of the Apaches dead. This alone would be enough for the Apaches to call the Superstitions a “bad place,” but the Apaches also believe that somewhere on the mountain is a hole that leads all the way to “hell,” or the underworld. Furthermore, the Apaches believe that the large dust storms, or “haboobs,” that often tear across the valley emanate from hell, directly from the hole. While no such hole has ever been found, this story is just another in the list of myths and legends that give the Superstitions there supernatural name.
The Arizona haboobs typically roll into the valley as huge walls of dust, sometimes thousands of feet high. While they look imposing and even terrifying, they are a natural occurrence for a desert valley the size of the Valley of the Sun, and usually only happen once or twice per year — mostly in the summer and during the July-September Monsoon season.
Superstition Mountains During the Summer Arizona Monsoons
While the valley and the Superstition Mountains are extremely dry most of the year, the Arizona Monsoons are usually quite rainy, and bring most of the rain and water to the area that it will receive all year long. This once per year event makes visiting the Superstitions a gorgeous hike, as the brush turns lush green and the cacti begin to flower, unleashing a fabric of color across the normally saturated desert landscape. Just after the monsoon rainstorms, visitors to the mountains can also be treated to a number of cascades and waterfalls that spill over the sheer cliffs of the mountain, and the gulches and creekbeds are turned into beautiful streams — if only for a short time.
Goldfield Ghost Town
While the hiking and recreation activities on the Superstitions are enough to keep visitors entertained, a day trip to Goldfield Ghost Town on the North edge of the Mountains is a journey back into the Arizona of the late 1800s. With mine tours, carriage rides, horseback riding, gunfights, shows and a multitude of other attractions, Goldfield Ghost Town is a MUST to visit if you are are in the area. It is also a perfect stop after hiking the Superstitions, where you can recharge with cold drinks, homemade ice cream (including prickly pear ice cream), and the best chili cheese dogs we have had, ANYWHERE.
Visit Goldfield Ghost Town For Yourself:
Goldfield Ghost Town
4650 N. Mammoth Mine Rd
Apache Junction, AZ 85119