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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Superstition Mountains wildflower hike

Tonto National Forest
Brittlebush: March 9, 2013

Blessed with a beveled topography leaning into sun-drenched exposure, the open rangeland of the western Superstition Wilderness is choice property for spring wildflowers. In addition to its fortuitous floral fortitude, the Crosscut Trail is very easy to get to, making it one of the most popular hikes for viewing annual blooms. A backdrop of abrupt volcanic escarpments that have been photographed and filmed to death (think, Jerry Maguire) add to the allure of this Apache Junction tourist magnet. 
Wild hyacinth & cholla cactus
Crosscut trail, which wanders 4.5 miles from First Water Road to Broadway in Mesa, also connects with a bevy of routes just outside the boundary of Lost Dutchman State Park.  The Treasure Loop is a favorite because it gets nice and high, brushing the base of geologic landmarks like the "Green Rock" and the "Praying Hands".  For flower lovers, the 500 feet of elevation gain and entry into damp drainage gullies, produces a variety of moisture-loving plants (Dainty Desert Hideseed) as well as those that thrive in more open and arid micro climates (Mexican Gold Poppies).   March and April are the best months for to see the blossoms before impending heat takes them out for another year. 
view from the trail
Follow Crosscut Trail (aka Jacob's Trail #58 and Jacob's Crosscut) 1 mile to the junction with Treasure Loop #56 and follow the signs.

LENGTH:  3.5 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2580'- 2060'
From Phoenix, travel east on US60 to exit 196 (Idaho Rd/AZ88).  Go left at the off ramp and follow AZ88 7 miles to First Water Road (FR78) near milepost 201 on the right. Go 1 mile on FR78 to the signed Crosscut trailhead on the right. There is NO fee to park here.
Alternate access:  For access with restrooms, maps and picnic tables enter via Lost Dutchman State Park and use the maps posted at the trailheads. The park charges a $7 daily fee per vehicle.
INFO: Tonto National Forest, Mesa Ranger District, 480-610-3300
MAPS: Lost Dutchman State Park

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