5.85 Miles Roundtrip

I haven’t done many hikes in the Superstitions, but Flatiron was by far one of the toughest hikes I’ve done, ever. And it was the most fun.

I did this hike almost three months ago in the first week of April when my good friend, Eric, was visiting from Seattle. I’m finally writing about it because there is a short window of opportunity to appreciate the outdoors in Arizona and I had to get in as many hikes as I could during March and April. So I have some catching up to do on the writing part.

Eric arrived to Phoenix late the night before, and by the time we got home and to bed, it was pretty late. We only got a few hours of sleep that night since we had to get up early to make the drive from north Peoria to the Superstitions to get a good early start in the hike. Even in early April, the temperatures can get very high very quickly. When hiking, it’s always good to get an early start.

We met up with his dad and sister on the way, then met Chris at Lost Dutchman State Park near the trailhead. For a local hike, the drive is long, and as you get closer to the state park you pass old ghost towns that look like movie sets and tourist traps. There is a park entrance fee of $7 once you get to the parking area to the trailheads. Not a bad price for what you’re going to experience.

Not sure what time we hit the trail, but it was still pretty early. The sun was just over the jagged crest of the Mountain. We found the Siphon Draw trailhead towards the south end of the parking area. The trail starts out pretty flat and meanders through the park past camping and RV spots, then it turns and gradually inclines towards the mountains heading southeast from the park boundaries into the Superstition Wilderness.

In the short distance of 2.92 miles to the top, there is a drastic elevation gain of 2,638 ft. A little over 1.5 miles in is when you really notice the incline. That’s when the trail really starts to climb to the top and you find yourself climbing hand over hand and throwing your legs over rocks and scrambling up. This is after the slide rock area. A large surface area of rock at a sharp incline. It hadn’t rained when we went, which made it a lot easier to climb because of the traction we were able to get. If it had rained, this would have been a slippery, dangerous mess and made for some hard climbing.

After that large, open bowl area, we climbed up and over large rocks at a steep incline. We came to a wall about seven feet tall that took some skill and effort getting over. After that, the trail evens out a little and winds around to safer steps towards the top. At that point, the trail switches back towards the Flatiron, aptly named because it literally looks like the bottom side of an iron if you turned it over.

Instead of taking the switchback towards the point of the iron, Chris, Eric, and I went off in the northerly direction to summit the peak of this mountain. To get to the top, we hiked through, climbed over, and squeezed between a series of hoodoo rock formations until we made it to the peak, and from there we explored a little. There were clusters of hoodoos crowning each point in the spiderweb of dips and hills that stretched out through the Superstitions. We could see glimpses of the Salt River and Canyon Lake to the north of us.

After that, we climbed back down through the hoodoos, back to the trail, and made our way up the flat open ground of the Flatiron. There’s an unobstructed, spectacular view from there. You can stand on the edge and look down at the trail that just kicked your ass on the way up. We hung out at the point for a bit, ate some trail mix and drank water until we decided to head back.

Can you see the trail down there?

You would think the hike down would be easier because all you have to do is follow the trail back. Well, gravity is a bitch. You have to put on the breaks so as not to tumble down. Step down from those rocks a little more carefully. The climb up was almost easier, but each direction provided it’s own challenges.

Chris was the first one down and back to the parking lot. I arrived shortly after him. We were waiting for Eric and his family for a while and we kept seeing other hikers we passed on the way down come out before them. We waited a while longer and then debated if one of us should go back to see if they were in trouble. Then we saw a woman with Eric coming towards the parking lot in a hurry off the trail and they started refilling empty water bottles at the spigot as Eric told us what happened.

There was a father and his daughter whom Eric’s father and sister had made friends with on the way up, and on the way down the man was suffering from heat exhaustion. So they all stayed behind with him while Eric ran back to get more water. Chris and the woman (a total stranger) drove back to the ranger station to get help while Eric refilled bottles and loaded them into my daypack.

Interesting thing we learned from all this: The State Park Rangers won’t send rescue to a person in danger unless that person requests it. They won’t send it just on the word of a Good Samaritan. It makes sense, because the person in need of help has to pay the bill. Why should he have to pay for a helicopter evac just because other people thought he should have one?

Anyway, we then tried to find a way to get a hold of them up there so that this guy could request help if he indeed needed it. Eric didn’t have his phone to call his dad who was with the guy. He didn’t know his dad’s number, or his sister’s so that Chris or I could call them. So we were at a stalemate. Eric went back with the water as we were just wasting time trying to play telephone. I waited at the trailhead for Chris to come back from the ranger station. Once Chris was back, I decided to go after Eric once I refilled my camelbak. On the way back up the trail, once I got to the gate that separates the park from the Superstitions, I noticed everybody walking back. There was a park ranger in a UTV who had drove up the track as far as she could, and on her way back she told us that everything was ok and they were all headed down. Apparently other hikers told her what was going on.

Made me feel better about humanity to see so many strangers jumping in to help out a guy in trouble. Desert heat is no joke, and so many people don’t take it seriously. It was late in the day at this point, probably about 4 or 5 o’clock, and we had been out in the sun this whole time. Anyway, in the end, everyone was ok. The guy just needed a rest. Eric’s dad had gave him a wet cloth to put over his head and that helped him recover fairly quickly.

In the end, we all went to Arizona Wilderness for some eats and hipster beer, and the guy and his little girl joined us. It all turned out to be quite the adventure.

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