Arizona Road Trip: INTO THE WILD(ERNESS)
• Queen Creek to Apache Junction:
On the east side of Queen Creek, take N Ironwood Road north. In 11 or so miles, make a right onto Apache Trail before making a quick left for breakfast into the parking lot of Mickey D’s Café, open at 6:00 a.m. each morning. If you are, by chance, rolling through later in the day, consider Dino’s Italian Deli (located next door) for real-deal Italian sandwiches, and Crazy Horse Saddle Shop (on the other side of Dino’s), should you need any gear before you hit the trail.
• Apache Junction to Dutchman’s Trailhead:
Turn right out of the parking lot and make another right to continue north on Ironwood Road. In a half mile, turn east onto Superstition Boulevard and go 1.2 miles until the traffic circle. Take the third exit onto AZ-88E / N Apache Trail and drive five miles to N First Water Road. There’s a designated horse lot just two miles in, and the Dutchman’s Trailhead is another half mile.
[Read more: South Phoenix: The Hotspots of Queen Creek, Arizona]
It’s a brief half mile on the trail to the Superstition Wilderness border—a space comprised of 160,000 acres and a well-established trail system where no motorized or mechanical transport is allowed (including bicycles). Horse-friendly trails in the area are many, but there are some exceptions—like the Boulder Canyon Trail, which the Forest Service recommends against use for horses—so take a moment to call the ranger station or consult the Tonto National Forest website for more information.
For an enjoyable (albeit rocky) 10-mile loop, consider linking the Dutchman’s Trail #104 with the Black Mesa Trail #241 and the Second Water Trail #236. The loop features decent elevation gains and superb scenery, but remember to carry enough water for the day. While there, keep an eye out for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, but don’t look too hard—many have given their lives trying to find the secreted mine since the Dutchman’s disappearance in 1891.
• First Water Trailhead to Goldfield:
Chances are good you’ve worked up an appetite and, luckily, just 3.5 miles back toward the way home, the Mammoth Steakhouse & Saloon, located within the historic boundaries of the Goldfield Ghost Town, is open daily until 9 p.m. and serves namesake burgers, cowboy steaks and cold drinks in this authentically restored remnant of the Old West. Or, if you prefer to cover your miles before grabbing an end-of-day meal, treat yourself to local agricultural cuisine at the Queen Creek Olive Mill, which stays open until 9:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, giving you plenty of time to make the 23-mile trek back to Queen Creek.
[Read more: Arizona Guide: The Team Roping Journal’s Winter 2019/2020 Complete Guide to Arizona]
Tonto National Forest
• Mesa Ranger Station
(480) 610-3300, fs.usda.gov/tonto
5140 E. Ingram St.
Mesa, AZ 85205
8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., Mon.–Fri. (closed 12:00-12:30 p.m. daily)
More ways to enjoy the Superstitions
Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum
• Goldfield Ghost Town and Mine Tour
• Apache Trail Tours
• The Dolly
on Canyon Lake
• Tortilla Flat