phx day trip
By Lauren Wong

The first thought that comes to mind when you hear “Phoenix,” probably isn’t lakes surrounded by mountains or breathtaking views from mountain tops. You think of the city, the businesses, skyscrapers, and crowds. Something that I’ve come to love about Arizona, and this area in particular, is that you’re always a short drive away from everything. 

On one hand you get the whole city life experience; bars, restaurants, museums, and events, all within walking distance. But, on the other hand, you can take a 30 minute drive out, and be fully enveloped in nature. 

I wanted to check out some areas that are within driving distance and make a day out of exploring.

My first stop was Saguaro Lake Marina, located at 14011 N Bush Hwy, Mesa. 

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From Downtown Phoenix it’s about a 50 minute drive. My original plan was to spend the whole afternoon here and it was gorgeous to see, but if you’re not on a boat or fishing, there isn’t much else to do. There’s tons of picnic tables, but I couldn’t find many hikes, so after spending about an hour and a half there, I pulled out my phone to see what else I was near that I could check out.

Tonto National Forest was my pick. I put it in my GPS and headed out, all was great, except that it told me I arrived at my destination while I was in the middle of the highway. I already have absolutely no sense of direction so I eventually found a place to pull off of the highway. Just a background of just how clueless I am when it comes to direction, I grew up in the same town my entire life and there was still never a time I wouldn’t need my GPS (even to get to a job I worked at for years). Or, the fact that I got lost in my own apartment building for 30 minutes because I took a different set of stairs than I’m used to. I ended up having to go outside to regain my bearings (on one of the only times it’s rained, let alone poured, since I’ve been here in Arizona) to finally make it back to my room soaking wet. 

Anyways, I put Tonto National Forest back in my GPS and tried again, not realizing that I was once again going to “arrive at my destination” in the middle of the highway. I gave up. So pulling over once again, I choose a new destination, Lost Dutchman State Park

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The images on Google did not even come close to how absolutely magnificent this place is. Located at 6109 N Apache Trail, Apache Junction, it’s $7 per vehicle to get in every Friday-Sunday and on Holidays. It’s $10 from October through May. The attendant at the gate who collected our entrance fee recommended we do Treasure Loop Trail. 

This 2.4 mile long trail is rated moderate with an elevation change of 500 feet. It began out in the desert near the base of the mountain that we would eventually make our way to. The trail took us a bit up the mountain, and then wrapped around it until it descended us back to where we came from.

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What truly amazed me was how small this park made me feel. You could see people out in the distance hiking up the side of the mountain, looking like tiny specks against the massive, grand landscape. That’s one of the things I love about getting outdoors, being humbled by how small we truly are. We all go through times where it feels like our problems, anxieties, whatever we’re going through, can eat us whole. Sometimes our whole world seems to be run by these emotions, but when you get out, you realize that all those things you’re struggling with are truly so small in scale to our beautiful world. It brings you a breath of fresh air, a feeling of peace, even if just in that moment.

Another thing I loved about Lost Dutchman was there weren’t any crowds. I don’t know if it’s because of the time and day I went, but personally, getting outside is an escape to me, so I hate how all the top touristy spots are filled with crowds. The other day I was in Sedona hiking Devil’s Bridge, and while it was just as amazing as everything you read online, there was an hour wait just to step out onto the natural bridge. Sadly, I didn’t want to wait that long so I just took a few pictures from the line and made my way back. 

From Phoenix, Lost Dutchman is a 50 minute drive. I highly recommend the Treasure Loop Trail, the whole time hiking I was just in pure awe. So, as the sun set behind the mountains and I made my way back to the car (asking for directions from a stranger, of course, even though it’s just one big loop) I felt like it was a pretty spectacular day trip. I can’t wait to go back and hike all the other trails at this State Park!

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