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Monday, December 2, 2019


Snow-covered Superstition Mtns seen from Bulldog Canyon

Brittlebush bloom along the roads
 Tucked into a rumpled space at the fringe of suburbia, the Goldfield Mountains north of Apache Junction are rife with exploratory hiking opportunities. 
Destination (center on ridge) visible from the trailhead
This rugged slice of the Tonto National Forest located south of Saguaro Lake and the Salt River is hemmed in by State Route 88, the Superstition Wilderness, Four Peaks Wilderness, Usery Mountain Recreation Area and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Reservation.  It’s a strangely beautiful place of mostly volcanic origins.
Magnificent rock formations in Bulldog Canyon
Wildly contorted buffs, welded ash pillars, eroded hills and natural arches hover over jumbled washes and acres of gorgeous Sonoran Desert vegetation.
Although there are few designated hiking trails in the area, old roads cut by defunct mining operations and ranches serve just as well.  Venturing within the Goldfields is not for inexperienced or directionally-challenged visitors.  But within the heavily-used Bulldog Canyon section, finding your way around isn’t too difficult.
Snow on Four Peaks and Sierra Ancha Mountains 11-30-19
One simple starter hike in the Bulldog Canyon area leads to a small peak at the end of a ridge with panoramic vistas that provide a tempting  overview of the lay of the land. The tour begins at the Dome Mountain Trailhead where a gate marks the entrance to the Bulldog Canyon OHV recreation area. The destination, marked by FAA communication towers, teeters on a high crest the to the west.  Start hiking north on the dirt road (Forest Road 10) which is open to motorized traffic, equestrians, bikers and hikers. Follow the cholla-lined track to the 0.3-mile point where Forest Road 1356 head off to the right. For this trip, veer left and stay on FR 10. Ahead, magnificent views of Dome Mountain (3,381 feet), the highest point in the Goldfields soars above the hilly terrain while the hulking form of the Flatiron and Superstition Ridgeline loom to the southeast.  At just under a mile, where two sign posts mark where FR 10 swerves east (right), make note of an unsigned road heading downhill on the left. This is the optional return route. As the road makes a gradual ascent, views of the Four Peaks and Sierra Ancha Mountains begin to peek out over ridges and mesas to the east.
A short, steep climb leads to high point vistas
Flatiron is a commanding presence on the hike
To reach the peak, continue another 0.1-mile straight ahead, veer left at a 3-way junction and pass a white road gate. Here’s where the route begins a moderate climb on long switchbacks. Soon, gaps in the volcanic terrain frame views of the Salt River Valley and distant Mount Ord to the north.  After few more bends in the road, the peaks of the Superstition Wilderness can be seen to the east.
Horses and ATVs climb the summit ridge
 At the top of the road, an FAA station built into the base the ridgeline’s southern promontory, marks the beginning a short, steep climb to a highpoint with wind-sculpted shallow caves and 360-degree views of the Valley and beyond. On clear days, you can see as far away as the mountains near Tucson and the Mogollon Rim. 

Rich Sonoran Desert plants grow in Bulldog Canyon
North views extend to Mt Ord and the Mogollon Rim
When done ogling the landscape, head back down the hill to the double-signed FR 10 junction. For an optional, more difficult return route, take the road going downhill to the right which roughly follows the overhead powerlines. This option has more ups-and-downs and is steeper than FR 10. Otherwise, just retrace your steps on FR 10 back to the trailhead. Both options are nearly the same length.

An FAA site sits below the hike high point.
LENGTH:  3.6 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2,011 – 2,490 feet       
Dome Mountain Trailhead
From U.S. 60 in Apache Junction, take the Idaho Road exit 196 and go 4.4 miles north to McKellips Road.
Turn right (east) on McKellips and continue 0.4-mile to Wolverine Pass Road, turn left (north) and go 0.8 miles to Tonto Street  where the pavement ends.  Turn right and go 0.2-mile to Cactus Road, turn left and continue 0.2-mile to the parking area. 
Arizona Geological Survey

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