Who among us wouldn't like to strike it rich? While the idea of stumbling upon a trove of gold might seem like something out of an Old West movie, it's not as unrealistic as you might think. One of the most sought-after buried treasures in American history, the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine, is still out there, allegedly hidden among the Superstition Mountains right outside Phoenix. But, before you go out hunting for the booty, check out this guide to uncovering clues and exploring the Superstition Mountains!
The details in each version of the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine tale vary-- usually it involves a German immigrant named Jacob Waltz, who discovers a treasure "where no other gold miner can go". In some versions, the location of the bounty is revealed by Apaches, and in other versions, the treasure is found on accident. Sometimes the treasure is a vein of pure gold, or the abandoned mine of the Peralta family, or Apache treasure, or a cache of goods stolen from Mexican miners. The location of the treasure always remains consistent-- it's somewhere deep in the Superstition Mountains. In most versions of the tale, Jacob Waltz makes a deathbed confession about the treasure, and attempts to give directions to its location, but to this day, the cache of treasure remains a mystery.
Before you just head for the hills in search of the long-lost treasure, you'll want to investigate some of the clues to help guide you on your journey. Head to the Superstition Mountain Museum to check out their exhibit on the Lost Dutchman's Mine, and get a really extensive history on the various legends of the treasure-- they have an exhibit on the treasure that confirms that Jacob Waltz was a real person who lived in the area, and the institution has done a ton of work compiling every bit of evidence and information that exists on the alleged gold cache. They also have the Peralta Stones on display, which are said to be engraved with cryptic clues that point toward the location of the mine.
Beyond their exhibit on the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine, the museum has displays on Native American and geological history, a stamp mill, a boot hill cemetery, a barn, and even an Elvis Chapel (filled with movie memorabilia, including props from Elvis Presley's film "Charro") onsite as well... and yes, you can schedule a wedding in it!
Lost Dutchman State Park is a great place to start your journey, set up home base, and get the lay of the land. Named for the mythical mine, serious gold prospecting isn't allowed here, but the park's Discovery Trail features plaques that provide more valuable information on the area's natural history. The campground has water and well-maintained restroom facilities, as well as full hook-ups for RVs, and its location right at the edge of the mountains makes it the perfect central location for treasure-hunting excursions around the region. If you're looking for a rugged hike that will give you a taste of the Superstition Mountains' beauty, the Siphon Draw Trail up to Flatiron is an excellent choice— it's not for beginners, but the view from the top is breathtaking.
For the best route through the mountains (and possibly to treasure), you'll want to take the Apache Trail. Formerly a stagecoach trail that was also used by Apaches to cross the Superstition Mountains, it starts at the edge of Apache Junction and ends at Roosevelt Lake. Its official name is State Route 88, but even though its paved most of the way, it's still an uncrowded and incredibly scenic route to take, winding through mountains, into Tonto National Forest, and past lush lakes. Towards the end, it's not paved, and the drop-offs are pretty steep, but if you keep your wits about you, you'll be fine.
To see what Apache Junction looked like back when legends about the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine were beginning to make rounds, make a trip to Goldfield Ghost Town. Founded shortly after a vein of high-grade gold ore was discovered nearby, Goldfield's population began to grow even more as the legend of the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine began to circulate. For five years, the town thrived, but it wasn't long before the gold ore was tapped out, and people began to leave the town in droves, searching for new mines to work.
The mine was purchased and the buildings were rebuilt in the late 1960s as a way to preserve the unique history of Goldfield, and today you can ride the narrow gauge railroad, see gunfight reenactments, eat at the saloon, visit the museum, go for a horseback ride, and more. Those serious about searching for the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine will want to take the Goldfield Mine Tour and try their hand panning for gold here.
All of that treasure hunting will probably have you working up an appetite. The Mining Camp Restaurant serves up hearty portions of mouth-watering barbecued ribs, roast chicken dinners, baked ham, roasted potatoes, green beans, rolls, and more. It all comes served family style, so you can eat your fill. They'll also start hosting dinner shows soon, so you can enjoy some down-home fun while you dine.
Even if you don't strike gold on your adventure through the Superstition Mountains, a stay at Gold Canyon Golf Resort is a great reward. Featuring ultra-luxurious accommodations in a distinctly Arizona-inspired atmosphere, the resort is a great place to spend a relaxing weekend. Whether you stay in a room or rent a casita, you'll want to check out the two championship golf courses, the full-service spa, the patio restaurant, and, of course, the absolutely stunning pool.
Okay, so it's not guaranteed that you'll strike it rich on your adventure through the Superstition Mountains, but along the way, you'll find plenty of fun and excitement. You might even find yourself so busy panning for gold, golfing, and hiking that you forget about the buried treasure altogether.
Southwest character and urban adventure meld perfectly in Phoenix, where real cowboys, rugged mountains and the kind of cactus most people only see in cartoons share a sunny landscape with up-and-coming craft breweries, desert trails, scenic roadways and colorful art districts.