The lore of the Lost Dutchman’s gold mine runs deep in Arizona. Hundreds of books have been written on the subject; some speculate as to the mine’s whereabouts, others dispute the geological verity of the whole thing, and still others delve into the historical record surrounding the legend. It’s rumored to be cursed, and maybe that’s true — people are still searching for the lost gold, and many have perished along the way. Whether you believe in the superstition of the Superstition Mountains or not, one thing is certain: the tale of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is contagiously romantic. After all, it’s been 125 years, and we’re still talking about the darn thing.
But what are we even talking about? Most of the research boils down to this: there was a man named Jacob Waltz, who may or may not have discovered a gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. He was German by birth - not Dutch. He died in 1891 in Phoenix with a bunch of gold under his bed (which his friends very thoughtfully took off his hands, then fought over for years.) And, while on his deathbed, he might have tried to give someone directions to the Mine. These directions were clearly were not very good, because the mine is still lost.
That much of the story is pretty well supported by historical records. But there are little parallels that pop up in other places - for example, in the 1870s a skeleton in possession of bags full of gold was found near Wickenburg.
Maybe it exists, maybe it doesn’t, but it can’t hurt to look, right? Here are five local trails that will help you live out your own Lost Dutchman fantasies. Of course, you should be careful in your searching. It’s super-hot right now, and we really can’t guarantee the whole situation isn’t cursed.
Treasure Loop Trail
Great name, right? It’s also a great place to start your search. The Treasure Loop Trail in the Superstition Mountains is a pretty easy hike, so even amateur treasure hunters can enjoy it. It starts out from the Lost Dutchman Trailhead near Apache Junction. This route alone is about 2.5 miles of desert views, but you can easily tack on the Prospector’s View trail for a slightly longer, moderately strenuous hike.
This trail was named after the “Dutchman” himself, so it’s gotta be a good start if you’re looking for his treasure mine. Jacob’s trail is also a fairly easy hike, but at 6.5 miles, it’s also a nice length. This trail has great views of Sonoran wildlife, but as it gains in elevation it also offers some closer looks at caves, peaks, and other intriguing rock formations in the Superstition Mountains.
At just over six miles, the Peralta Trail is easy enough to do in a few hours, but also can offer a varied experience when it comes to difficulty and scenery. This route intersects with many other trails, which can extend the hike by quite a bit. The Peralta trail offers a great view of the Weaver’s Needle, which Waltz apparently listed as a point of reference for where his gold mine might be. This trail also offers plenty of shade cover — we can’t complain about that.
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Vulture Peak Trail
Since apparently there is a possibility that someone else lost a gold mine in Wickenburg, why not check out some local hiking options up thataways? The Vulture Peak Trail is a good place to start. Creepy name? Check. Rich history? Yes, the discovery of gold in Vulture Mine put Wickenburg on the map. The Vulture Peak trail is a fairly strenuous hike; be prepared to do a little scrambling. But the view from the saddle will make it all worth it.
Another Wickenburg site rich with history, Sophie’s Flat trail was named for Sophie Burden. Burden was an innkeeper at Remuda Ranch (a dude ranch that operated from the mid-1920s until the 1980s.) There are loads of trails in the area, but Sophie’s Flat seems to be the sweetheart of the Wickenburg hiking world. The city has gone through exhaustive efforts over the last decade to restore and conserve the trail. The results of their labor have produced a looping trail through the legendary Wickenburg wilderness, with access to Dinosaur Wash (best name for a wash? Best name for a wash), the Hassayampa River, and Box Canyon.