Apache Junction, AZ – The Flatiron
Arizona is full of amazing hikes. You can drive in any direction and can find a hike to enjoy. When you drive towards Apache Junction, there is no missing the Flatiron within the Superstition Mountain range. With an elevation gain of 2,641′ this 5.5 mile round trip climb will leave you exhausted, but exhilarated. Breathless. Humbled. And most of all, a renewed sense of appreciation for what your body can do and the beauty that you’ve been surrounded in.
We have been hiking in Arizona for over 20 years and are fortunate to experience many of these hikes and/or climbs. Without doubt, one of our favorite climbs is located in the Superstition Mountain Range. This climb is called “The Flatiron” as it resembles a large iron carved in the rock face. We have reached the summit of this beauty four times. We usually climb this in December or January when the temperatures are mild.
When you Arrive
I recommend parking in the Lost Dutchman State Park parking area to access the Flatiron. There is also an amazing campground, restrooms and a gift shop. Once you reach the parking lot for the climb, you will need to pay a state park fee if you do not have a pass. Once parked, you have an easy hike via Siphon Draw Trail to the “basin” which is kind of a V shape smooth area made of beautiful rock. For this section alone, I would recommend good quality hiking shoes that have excellent grip on smooth surfaces. Arizona is full of amazing hikes and good hiking shoes is no place to skimp on. Once you reach this section, you will awe in the beauty of the ruggedness of this natural wonder. It was about this point when we realized we have a lot of elevation to gain
What to Bring
To start, WATER and lots of it! People often underestimate how much water they will need for the Flatiron. My husband and I each bring a 2-liter water pack and a couple of 16 oz. water bottles tucked away. We are both experienced hikers and in good shape. How much water to bring will depend on your fitness level, experience level and weight. Also note, the Flatiron is NOT a hike for an inexperienced hiker as it involves much more than hiking. It involves a lot of climbing, rock scrambling and the trail is not clearly marked (another good reason to have plenty of water).
Lunchtime! When we climb this beauty (or beast however you see it), we love to pack a lunch to have at the top. A typical Flatiron lunch for us consists of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread, healthy energy bites/granola/trailmix/nuts, veggie straws or whole wheat crackers, cheese sticks and an apple. There is nothing better (or more appreciated) than a good PB&J at the top of the iron. It also provides the energy our bodies need to recuperate from the climb up and to give us the nutrition to make the decent back down. I love to make healthy energy bites and have a great recipe for these that can be found at Healthy Cookie Balls. Sometimes we will add some mini snickers or something sweet if we think it will make it to our destination without melting. One other thing we always have with us is some sort of electrolyte gum. This is also great to share with others who are huffing and puffing alongside of you.
How to Dress
Layers. I cannot emphasize this enough. There are many temperature changes during the climb up the Flatiron. Even when it is sunny out, depending on where you are at in the climb, you may be in a very shady spot, which could cause some chills. Chills and sweating do not go well together and when you have layers, you can add/remove layers as you see fit. I will typically have leggings, a short-sleeved base layer, a long sleeve shirt plus a pullover. As I start to warm up, the layers can be removed and tied around my pack.
Poles or No Poles
I love using poles when hiking. They have saved me from falls over loose rocks numerous times. For this hike though, I go pole-less. There is so much scrambling that I do not want one additional item to carry. Instead of poles, I recommend some good climbing gloves that protect your hands when scrambling up or scurrying down.
Many sites out there will recommend various items to bring. We always have a whistle attached to a carabineer. Not only is this a great tool if we are lost, but it can be helpful if others are injured and medical personal may be looking for them. Some first aid care, small sunscreen, lip balm with SPF, a signaling mirror and a paracord bracelet are also very easy to carry and do not take up much room. If you plan to hike alone, always make sure someone knows your plan prior to leaving.
I hope you enjoy the Flatiron as much as we do. Know your limits and do not feel that you must make the summit. You can turn around at any point and still have an amazing hike. Enjoy the beauty of this land, breath in the fresh air and you will receive so much more than just a good work out. You will also receive an inner feeling of peace while recharging of your body and your mind.
NOTE: Prior to visiting this park, I recommend going online to check out park conditions and pre-purchasing a pass at AZ State Parks