WHEN TO GO:
The best time to hike the trails of the lower Superstitions is during the cooler months from October through April. Fall generally brings dry weather. In winter, trails become more crowded with folks who are seeking to escape the cold. Spring showers offer blossoming wildflowers and cactus. In the triple digits of summer, only masochists venture into the desert.
The Superstition Mountains lie near Apache Junction on the eastern rim of the Valley of the Sun. The town lies 35 miles east of Phoenix off the Superstition Freeway (Arizona 360); 56 miles west of Globe on U.S. 60, and 99 miles north of Tucson on U.S. 89.
To reach the Peralta Trailhead, drive 8 1/2 miles east of Apache Junction on U.S. 60. Turn at the highway sign and head 7 1/2 miles north on the access road. Parking costs $4 per vehicle per day, and an on-site permit machine accepts cash and credit cards.
WHERE TO STAY:
Lodging in Apache Junction includes the Express Inn (1101 West Apache Trail; 1-480-982-9200), Best Western Gold Canyon Suites (8333 E. Sunrise Sky Drive; 1-480-671-6000; www.bestwestern.com) and the Superstition Grand Hotel (201 W. Apache Trail; 1-480-982-3500). For duffers, nearby Gold Canyon Golf Resort combines links and luxury casitas (6100 S. Kings Ranch Road; 1-480-982-9090; www.gcgr.com).
The Mesa-Apache Junction KOA (1540 S. Tomahawk Road; 1-480-982-4015; www.koa.com) offers full services. Lost Dutchman State Park, five miles northeast of town on Arizona 88, provides year-round sites but no hookups (1-480-982-4485; www.pr.state.az.us). The Tonto National Forest maintains a 77-unit winter campground at Tortilla Creek, 18 miles northeast of Apache Junction on Arizona 88.
The rustic Mining Camp Restaurant (6100 E. Mining Camp Road; 1-480-982-3181; www.miningcamprestaurant.com) features all-you-can-eat, family-style meals ideal for hungry hikers. The Barleen Arizona Opry (2275 East Highway 88; 1-480-982-7991) combines dinner with a country music show. Both places close during the summer.
For more elegant meals year-round, check out Kokopelli's or Greenwood's Sports Bar and Grill at the Gold Canyon Golf Resort (6100 S. Kings Ranch Road; 1-480-982-9090; www.gcgr.com).
MAPS AND GUIDEBOOKS:
The U.S. Forest Service (26 N. MacDonald St., Box 5800, Mesa, AZ 85211; 1-480-610-3300) sells a topographic trail map of the Superstitions. Pro-Mack South, a mining supply store in Apache Junction, (940 W. Apache Trail, 1-480-983-3484, www.promackminingsupsouth.com) offers a complete line of books and maps of the area. The best hiking guide is the "Hiker's Guide to the Superstition Wilderness" by Carlson and Stewart (Clear Creek Publishing, Tempe, Ariz., 1995).
SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN MUSEUM:
Located in Goldfield, four miles north of Apache Junction on Arizona 88, the museum (1-480-983-4888; www.superstitionmountainmuseum.org) exhibits an extensive collection of Dutchman paraphernalia, including maps once used by fortune seekers.
For information about the area, contact the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce (1-800-252-3141; www.apachejunctioncoc.com) or the Arizona Office of Tourism (1-866-275-5816; www.arizonaguide.com).
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