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Superstition Wilderness Area, Arizona
Fast Facts
Horseback Riding
Tourist Attractions
Family-Friendly Tours
Points of Interest Nearby
Family Travel Tips



Photo by USDA Forest Service

Superstition Wilderness Area, located east of Phoenix, is revered by gold diggers, hikers and horseback riders. Whether your family outing in this section of the Tonto National Forest takes you on a search for the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine, Hohokam rock art or stunning desert landscapes, the well-developed trail system covering roughly 160,000 acres (64,750 hectares) ensures something for everyone. Yet this starkly beautiful and often rugged wilderness area can be inhospitable to those unprepared. Select a trail that matches the ability of the least skilled member of your group and plan your outing with the weather in mind.
How Desert Plants Survive
Prickley Pear Cactus

Prickley Pear Cactus

National Park Service


Life in the desert is challenging. There is very little water and it can be extremely hot during the day. To survive, desert plants have had to adapt. They use water more efficiently than plants that grow in other climates and they have developed ways to keep themselves cool. Did you know that:

  • Many desert plants have thick, waxy leaves and stems. This is the plant's sunblock. It helps keep them cool and reduces water loss through evaporation.
  • Desert plants have either extremely long roots that grow straight down to reach deep water sources or they have shallow, spreading roots that can quickly absorb rain, and even dew, before it disappears.
  • When plants take in carbon dioxide through tiny holes in their leaves called stomata they release oxygen into the air. During this process called photosynthesis the plants also lose water or transpire. To reduce the amount of water lost through transpiration some desert plants conduct photosynthesis at night when it is cooler. Others, such as cacti, conduct photosynthesis through their thick, waxy stems.
  • Needles protect cacti from more than thirsty animals. They provide shade and collect mist and dew. What's more, needles keep the cactus cool in much the same way as the fins on a radiator.
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