Introducing the Goldfield Mountains
The real treasure of the Goldfields.
    Arizona tourists driving east from Phoenix to Canyon Lake are awe-struck by the majesty of the Superstition Mountains on the right side of state highway 88, and fascinated by the legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine.

Occasionally they glance to the left and notice that there are mountains on the other side of the road. These are the Goldfield Mountains.

The southern part of the Goldfields was once a mining district. The mines are quiet now. What’s left is the real treasure of the Goldfields, which is the mountains themselves!

The Goldfield Mountains are one of Arizona’s least known scenic treasures. Born of the fires of ancient volcanoes, they are a rugged and colorful Sonoran Desert wilderness, offering advanced hiking opportunities to challenge and reward the outdoor enthusiast.

Volcanic buttes rise from Bulldog Ridge.
    Hiking in the Goldfields is a uniquely satisfying experience. Though not very high as mountains go, they are quite rugged. Though not far from civilization, the back country of the Goldfields is primitive, giving hikers a feeling of remoteness and intimacy with the wilderness that is unusual on day hikes.

If you are seeking a mountaintop experience, you will find it here.

A guidebook, Goldfield Mountain Hikes by Ted Tenny, describes day hikes in Arizona’s Goldfield Mountains. The hikes range in length from 4 to 13 miles, on trail and off trail, from the easiest to the most challenging. My hope is that readers will go hiking in the Goldfields, fall in love with them, and help to preserve this magnificent mountain wilderness for future generations.

Gonzales Needle, by the dawn’s early light.
What to Expect in the Goldfields

    The high country of the Goldfields offers the most advanced hiking. There are no trails in the high country, although some peripheral dirt roads were built for mining and ranching and a few of the off-trail routes are marked with cairns. If park trails represent hiking at the high school level, then the Superstitions are college, and exploratory hiking in the Goldfields is graduate school.

From Cottonwood Spring westward there are hiking trails. They offer easy hikes, with fine views of the high country and the local vegetation and wildlife.

Razorback Pass is a gateway to the high country.
    The Goldfields are a fairly compact mountain range. Their boundaries make it easy to find your way out.

If you think you are lost in the Goldfield Mountains, go south. You will be heading toward the Apache Trail Highway (Arizona 88) or a road leading to it.

If you are near the river, go north, in which case you are heading for Saguaro Lake or the Salt River. The route may be rough, but you’ll get out.

Navigation is by landmarks. Streams are usually dry. The desert vegetation is sparse, so you can see your route in relation to the mountains. Directions are given in terms of major points of the compass, so you should carry a compass and know how to read directions from the sun.

A pair of roguish eyes peer over the crevice.
    South of the river, water is scarce and not pure. Carry more water than you think you will need on hikes, and remember to drink all you need.

The Goldfield Mountains are in the Tonto National Forest. Sonoran desert vegetation is native. The mountains are home to trees including palo verde, mesquite, ironwood, desert willow, and catclaw. Shrubs include ocotillo, saltbush, creosote bush, jojoba, agave, and hackberry. Cacti range from the mighty saguaro to the delicate pencil cholla.

Lichens abound in many brilliant colors. Lichens thrive only where the air is pure, and they love the Goldfields.

Saguaros mark the way to Canyon Lake.
    This vegetation zone is the Arizona Upland subdivision of the Sonoran Desert, also called the saguaro-palo verde forest. The Arizona Upland and the Plains of Sonora in Mexico may be reclassified as thornscrub, a designation which hikers would understand.

Wildlife in the Goldfields is typical of the upper Sonoran ecosystem. On recent hikes we’ve seen deer, javelina, foxes, coyotes, roadrunners, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, desert tortoises, Gila monsters and many smaller lizards, rattlesnakes and many smaller snakes, ground squirrels, tarantulas, centipedes, and horned toads. These species are protected, so give them the right of way.

Day Hikes in the Goldfields Trailheads Goldfield Mountains Home Page

updated November 27, 2016 © Copyright 2016 by Ted Tenny.  All rights reserved.