This Hike Near Phoenix Is Not For Amateurs

An endless labyrinth of cactus-studded hills, colorful canyons, and otherworldly rock formations, the Superstitions Mountains of central Arizona live up to their reputation. Adding an aura of mystery to their otherworldly presence, the mountains are steeped in legends and folklore. For thousands of years, Apache and Yavapai Native People inhabited the area, considering it a sacred place to commune with spirits and receive divine guidance. In addition, tales of a lost mine filled with gold somewhere in the Superstition Wilderness have long intrigued fortune seekers, who have so far been unable to locate the missing mine. 

One of the most well-known rock formations in the Superstition Mountains is the Flatiron, which rises up from the desert floor 40 miles east of Phoenix. Towering over the landscape like an eerie spaceship, it beckons climbers and hikers from all over the state of Arizona. Some folks climb the Flatiron just to say they've done it. Others do it to prepare for tougher Arizona hikes, like the rim-to-rim hike in the Grand Canyon. Whatever your motivation, getting to the top of this behemoth is no an easy task. The formidable Siphon Draw Trail that takes you to the Flatiron's summit is kind of like a vertical jungle gym in the middle of the harsh, hot desert. 

Conquering the Siphon Draw Trail

The Siphon Draw Trail begins near the town of Apache Junction in the Lost Dutchman State Park, which is located at the western edge of the 160,200-acre Superstition Wilderness. The six-mile journey to the summit of the Flatiron and back takes around 4 to 6 hours. This is truly a butt-kicker of a hike, with 2,681 feet of elevation gain. From the trailhead, the path meanders through a rolling desert landscape dotted with cacti and in spring, glorious golden poppies and other colorful wildflowers. As you ascend the trail and enter the canyon — Siphon Draw — the terrain becomes increasingly treacherous. Some areas of the trail require boulder hopping, crawling up sections of smooth stone on all fours, and hand-over-hand scrambles up rock walls. 

It's highly unadvisable to do this hike during Arizona's searing summer heat, and even in the cooler months, get an early start to avoid sunburn and overheating. Bring more water than you think you'll need and adequate sun protection, and wear hiking shoes with some support and traction. To help you navigate, the trail is market with dots spray painted on boulders. For your own safety and to preserve fragile desert ecosystems, stay on the marked trail at all times. A final tip: bring snacks or a small lunch to enjoy at the top of the Flatiron, where you'll want to stretch out for a while and savor one of the best views in all of Arizona.

Descent and recovery

Now it's time to get back down safely, which can be tricky when your legs are all rubbery from the uphill climbing. In addition, traveling in the same direction as gravity makes slipping on loose gravel more likely. This is when you'll be extremely happy you decided to wear your hiking shoes with good traction instead of those worn-out tennies. Right? Proceed carefully and take breaks as needed. 

After your epic hike, an excellent place to refuel is the Mammoth Steakhouse & Saloon, which is a mile down the road at the historic Goldfield Ghost Town. The western-style saloon is open from 11 am to 8 pm (9 pm on Friday and Saturday) and serves hearty dishes like burgers and steaks along with an endless supply of cold drinks, which will be worth their weight in lost gold after your hot and dusty adventure. After filling up, be sure to check out the rest of the quirky little ghost town, which was established in 1893. The town includes attractions such as a gold mine, a narrow-gauge railroad, shops, a really cool zip line, and a museum where you can learn more about the spooky legends of the Superstitions.