This summer, we went to the Lost Dutchman State Park in Phoenix. Have you ever been to Phoenix in the summer? It’s hot.
I mean, it’s beyond hot. Like, sear the bottom of your feet to the ground, melt your face on the surface of the sun hot. It’s dumb.
So, we decided to torture ourselves!
We headed down in August, which is basically the hottest month of the year, aside from Scortchuary. Wait, that’s not a real month. It should be. But only in Phoenix.
Anyway, that’s not really my point.
We stayed a few places on the way and had a few not so fun adventures. But we made it, and we spent our two weeks at the Lost Dutchman State Park. When we weren’t sightseeing or spending time with Grandma and Grandpa, we hiked, learned about the dessert, and enjoyed the scenery.
State parks are great places to stay, because they’re relatively affordable, they have clean amenities, and the community of people around you is like-minded.
We arrived after-hours, so we used a map to make our own way to the campsite. Even if we had arrived while the ranger station was still open, check-in would have been relatively easy. Give your name, get a window tag, drive on in. Easy peasy.
Now, if you hadn’t already noticed, we kind of have a big rig. At 45 feet long, we tend to choose pull-through sites when we can.
However, the pull-through site at The Lost Dutchman was a U shape. Not a huge deal for something small enough to make a tight turn. Kind of a huge deal for us. So…we ended up backing in anyway, and we still didn’t really fit.
It’s not The Lost Dutchman’s fault. Since this was our first big trip, we didn’t really know any better. We learned our lesson. Now we ask everywhere we go. How big are your pull-through sites and what shape are they?
The Lost Dutchman also has back-in sites and tent camping sites, if that’s more your speed.
First things first: internets. Who can live without them? So, we crawled up on the roof to put the antenna up, and boy was the view spectacular. I absolutely love Phoenix when it’s not 350 degrees, but even when it is, the mountains are still gorgeous.
I snapped a few pictures and endured my melted brain sloshing around in my scalding skull for a few extra minutes so I could soak in the beauty with two eyeballs that had, surprisingly, not popped out of my face yet.
The Lost Dutchman is positioned just perfectly in the Tonto National Forest at the base of the Superstition mountains.
Yeah, yeah. Hiking when it’s 427 degrees outside is stupid. That’s why we got up early in the morning. The hiking trails were calling to us, and there was too much to see not to at least try.
We weren’t disappointed by how beautiful it was, but we were a little disappointed by how the trails were maintained. They weren’t very well marked, and we got off track at one point or another, even with a map.
We ended up on a service road and Justin had to walk along the highway (with no shoulder) for about a quarter of a mile back to the entrance of the state park to get the truck and pick us up.
If the trails had been marked more clearly, we wouldn’t have mistaken the path we took for a trail, and we wouldn’t have gotten lost. Luckily, we hadn’t strayed too far from the park and it wasn’t too hot yet, but it could have been much, much worse in the heat of the day with four little kids.
I was pleasantly surprised at how clean the facilities were. Since we have two full bathrooms in our RV, we never needto use the facilities in a park, but we always check them out anyway. It’s a good testament to how much pride a park takes in keeping their entire operation clean.
Our campsite was situated right next to the bathroom, which is always another good test. Does it smell? Is it noisy? Are wild animals attracted to the area?
The answer to all of these was no. However, we were visiting at a time when there weren’t very many other patrons in the park, so I’m not sure if this was typical or not.
What I can verify is that I saw a park ranger entering and exiting with cleaning supplies twice a day, every day. I used the bathroom multiple times and I used the shower twice during our two-week stay. It smelled nice, it was spotless, and there was never a lack of soap or toilet paper.
State parks are great places to stay for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is cost. They aren’t very expensive, and they have all the hookups you need. While most only have electricity and water at the site, they have a shared dump station you can use, and it’s included in the cost.
The Lost Dutchman’s dump station was big enough for us to get in and out of with no problem (which is quite a feat, as I’m sure you can imagine), and they offered a hose for additional tank cleanouts, too.
At less than $30 a day, it was well worth it for us to be close to Grandma and Grandpa’s house while still being able to live in our home and have all of the comforts we’re used to.
You’ll pay a lot less for tent camping in a state park, because you don’t need the hookups, so state parks are insanely affordable ways to camp. Needless to say, we saw literally zero tent campers during our stay.
Tent camping. In August. In Phoenix. Nope.
There are plenty of cheaper places to stay if you don’t need or want hookups. Boondocking affords you more flexibility and wiggle room in your budget, but we’re just not there yet.
Because we homeschool our kids, we’re all about the extra learning opportunities. It doesn’t matter what time it is. School is always in session!
Almost every state park offers opportunities for learning, and the Lost Dutchman was no different. The Arizona State Park system offers a Junior Ranger Program, and we encouraged all four of our kids to do it.
At the beginning of our stay, I visited the office to pick up a workbook and a field guide for each of them, tailored to their age. They spent the next few days carrying it everywhere with them.
They read, researched, explored, and gathered all of the information they needed to answer the questions, complete the activities, and color the pictures.
When they were done, we went back to the office, and they were sworn in as Junior Rangers of The Lost Dutchman State Park. There was a ceremony, they passed an oral quiz, they took an oath, and they were awarded with badges. They also got some ‘gold’ and a poster.
You can watch the full video of them being sworn in here.
The office also had other materials available for purchase, like coloring books, reading guides, and souvenirs for kids to learn more and remember their stay.
The park rangers were more than accommodating. We even decided to extend our stay for another three days, and they took care of it without us having to move our RV to a new campsite.
Look, we’d already backed it up twice. Once when we got there and once after we took it to the dump station. Wereally didn’t want to have to do it again.
As I said, The Lost Dutchman is in the perfect spot. If you venture out of the park, there’s plenty to do for everyone.
Unfortunately, we were there during monsoon season, so the forest fires were ranging in full force almost everywhere. However, if you can, you need to take a scenic drive up Arizona State Highway 88 to Canyon Lake.
You can ride The Dolly Steamboat or swim at the beach.
Continue on to Tortilla Flat and eat at the restaurant or visit the country store for some fudge, candy, jalapeno jelly, and souvenirs.
You can even take a day trip all the way up to Roosevelt Lake and eat at the marina while overlooking the lake. Rent some paddle boats and visit the cliff dwellings. Just don’t do it when it’s 613 degrees.
There are also campsites at both Canyon Lake and Roosevelt Lake, if you feel brave enough to take your camper on all of those switchbacks. Many people do. No thanks.
Directly across the street from The Lost Dutchman is the Goldfield Ghost Town. The offer mine tours, wild west shootouts, panning for gold, horseback riding, and more.
You can also visit the Superstition Mountain Museum down the street for a history lesson on Jacob Waltz, the “Lost Dutchman”, native Americans, and local geology. There’s also a nature trail, exhibits, and an Elvis chapel. Admission is free, and they even offer classes.
And, don’t forget to visit Grandma and Grandpa! They’re only 20 minutes away!! Wait, that’s our grandma and grandpa. Not yours.
If you ever decide to RV in Phoenix, The Lost Dutchman State Park is definitely worth a visit, even if it’s just for a cheap place to stay while you sight see. There’s plenty to do, and you won’t beat the view.