We had heard from fellow travelers that Lost Dutchman State Park was pretty amazing, so when we swung through Phoenix last winter we decided to give it a try. Not really knowing the layout of the park beforehand, we managed to snag a pretty sweet spot with an epic view of the Superstition Mountains.
After a brief, but dramatic, total freak out by me (read all about that here) we settled into the park and really loved it. A lot. The Superstition Mountains are ragged, majestic, and beautiful and are quite the prominent feature of the area.
We had friends staying in the overflow area at the same time (@livinginthemomentum) so the kids had some great play time with them in addition to earning their state park Jr. Ranger Badge. Our site was water and electric only, but the showers were great and we managed to go all 6 days without needing to dump the tanks. Hooray!
My two favorite activities, however were: introducing my kids to mountain biking, and hiking to the top of Flat Iron with Sam.
Introducing Our Kids to Mountain Biking
Around the outer edge of the park is a 4 mile mountain bike loop. While that may not seem like a long ride to some, it was perfect for introducing our kids to mountain biking. The trail was pretty smooth and flowy in some places, but also had some good ups and down through the various washes. The kids were all pretty tentative at first, but soon I couldn’t keep up with them as I hung back and made sure Cara did okay on her strider bike.
Our biggest success was just taking it slow and letting the kids learn at their own pace. Riding on dirt is definitely different than pavement and just takes some getting used to. We taught the kids to stand up on their pedals and get behind their seats on the downhill, and to keep their pedals level so they don’t whack them on rocks. Those were the two big lessons of the week.
Sam and I were also able to ride the loop a few times (it took us about 30 minutes), and it was great to get back into the saddle. I don’t think either one of us had really mountain biked in years.
Right up against the the boundaries of the state park is the Tonto National Forest with the ragged Superstition Mountains. One of the more popular trails is Flatiron which tops out at 4861 feet elevation with some serious gain over the last mile or so.
Since we knew the hike would be too much for the kids, Sam and I decided to wake up at 5am one morning and tackle it. Rachel is getting old enough that we feel comfortable leaving her in charge of the other two (really it’s probably Andrew’s and Cara’s ages that matter more – they are quite independent). She can manage pulling out cereal in the morning and we just told them to stay in the trailer to play and we’d call from the top to see how things were going. We also knew we had friends nearby in case anything went seriously wrong, and she knows the phone number for grandma if she has non-emergency questions.
The hike was brutal. Up to the Basin it was a pretty even uphill, and then after that it was some serious rock scrambling. The trail was marked on rocks with blue/white dots since there wasn’t actually anywhere to make a trail, and in some places we had to guess where it went but overall I felt we did pretty well.
We made it to the top, had a small snack, enjoyed the view and then started back down the trail.
Holy people. I’m so glad we left as early as we did because the trail was CROWDED on the way back down. Especially after the Basin. So, my advice if you want to hike this trail during Spring Break: get out of bed and get yourself up the mountain early. It’ll be way better.
Overall, I’m super happy we tackled it, and the kids did great on their own and were a little disappointed when we got back (heaven help us when they are teenagers).
We absolutely loved staying at this park, but since there are a few others in the area (McDowell Mountain being top on our list) we’ll probably wait awhile before staying here again. Definitely recommend it though!