by Leanne Matzenger
Campers, hikers, and horseback riders, eager to escape the congested streets of their hometowns, flock to the brilliant Superstition wilderness. Here, tiny lilac flower clusters dot the emerald hillside. Giant saguaro grow sky high, their ribbed branches bursting with white funnel-shaped flowers. And sporadic clumps of pale yellow grass grow haphazardly across rolling hills.
Forty-five miles outside of Phoenix, this lush mountain retreat rises high above the dust of the desert floor.
Superstition Mountain, part of a 160,000-acre preserve in the middle of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, is one of the wildflower wonders of the state. Home to a staggering array of desert flora, the mountain is a blaze of color all year round.
Visitors entering the park on the east side should make their way to the Treasure Loop Trail. The first leg of the 2.4-mile trek is a gentle climb, allowing hikers the chance to take in the scenery as they walk.
Palos Verdes line the path on either side, shining in coats of canary yellow blossoms. Ocotillo boast plumes of burnt umber, their branches slightly bent with the weight of their load.
Halfway up the trail is Green Boulder. It looks just as it sounds—a megalith of stone covered in moss with a spattering of electric yellow lichen. It’s flat enough to scramble up and high enough to afford expansive views of the valley below.
Look up, and you’ll see the scalloped edges of Superstition Mountain. These towering spires formed during a tectonic shift that created a seven-mile caldera. Magma trapped beneath cooled lava erupted, pushing the center of the caldera upward to form a massive mound of igneous rock. After millions of years of erosion, the rock became the jagged mountain it is today.
Treasure Loop Trail wraps around Green Boulder to form a parallel path back down the mountain.
Here, you can turn around or continue up one of the many pebble trails that dust the hillside.
These waterfalls of rock shard are easy to traverse and provide a plethora of alternate routes up the hillside.
Down at the trailhead is a selection of campsites if you wish to extend your stay. There’s a visitor’s center where you can pick up trail maps and some historical tidbits from the Park Rangers. Make sure to ask about the Lost Dutchman’s Mine and other folklore surrounding Superstition Mountain.
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