In the 1800s, Arizona was once in the region referred to as the wild wild west. Thanks to the untamed deserts and Rocky Mountains, it became a pinnacle place for the lawless to hide their treasures and the indigenous people to fight the colonizers. What about the treasures?
We’ve compiled some spots in the great state of Arizona that could hold some treasure, thanks to their historical relevance. Let’s get started.
The 15 Best Places to Find Lost Treasure in Arizona
We will list the spots closest to some of the main cities and move on to other off-the-grid sites for organization purposes. Hopefully, you can find a location nearest to you and get treasure hunting.
1. Estrella Mountain Regional Park – Phoenix, Arizona
First on our list is Estrella Mountain Regional Park. It’s a park close to the heart of Phoenix, making it a convenient location for treasure hunters in the area. Furthermore, the Gila River runs through the park.
Between 600 and 1450 AD, indigenous people like the Hohokam created civilizations along the Gila River. Not only that but before its purchase in 1953, the state leased the land to homeowners and farmers.
Lastly, the park offers several recreational amenities to visitors. There are several trails, camping sites, and programs for visitors to enjoy.
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2. South Mountain Park and Preserve – Phoenix, Arizona
South Mountain Park and Preserve is the largest park in Phoenix, Arizona, and interestingly enough, it sits right next to Estrella Mountain Range. Between 600 and 1450 AD, a civilization of indigenous people settled between the Gila River and the Salt River.
The area where these two parks might be within the area of that civilization, making it an excellent spot for treasure hunting. The best part about the South Mountain Park is the view of the South Mountains. There are several other recreational activities you can enjoy at the park. It would be a good adventure and treasure hunt.
3. Phoenix Mountain Preserve – Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix Mountain Preserve is on this list because of its convenience. The park sits close to the heart of Phoenix and is the most accessible park on this list. Not only that, but the park offers several recreational amenities like hiking trails, horse stables, and other activities.
The acquisition of Phoenix Mountain Preserve was a challenge in the 1980s; however, thanks to the public, the city of Phoenix was able to acquire the land and build a park.
4. Papago Park – Phoenix, Arizona
Next on this list is Papago Park, a decently-sized park located south of Phoenix. Papago Park was and is still known for the large red rock buttes. In 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes included the Papago Buttes area as a reservation for the Salt River Prima Maricopa Indians.
A year later, President Hayes moved the reservation boundary again, making the area accessible to the public. During the 1900s, the park was especially popular with the early residents of Phoenix. It was known as the Hole-In-The-Rock excursions.
Today, Papago Park offers scenic views, the red rock buttes, zoos, and other recreational activities for the public and treasure hunters.
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5. Lake Pleasant Regional Park – Morristown, Arizona
Lake Pleasant Regional Park sits on the edge of Lake Pleasant and surrounds the Phoenix Metropolitan area. One rule of thumb for any treasure hunter is to prospect along beaches or water bodies; they yield the best results because of the ever-moving water.
The Agua Fria River flows into Lake Peasant, and one of its stops before it reaches Lake Pleasant is the Black Canyon (but more on that later). Initially, a Native American tribe known as the Hohokam settled in the Lake Pleasant Regional Park during the prehistoric era.
Archeological evidence shows that this tribe lived in the area that we know as Lake Pleasant Regional Park. Archeologists believe that more sites exist that show proof of the Hohokam people, but they remain buried in the bottom of the lake. –link
We also recommend Lake Pleasant Regional Park because of its proximity to Black Canyon City and its access to Lake Pleasant and its shores.
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6. Tucson Mountain Park – Tucson, Arizona
Tucson Mountain Park was a mix of county-owned and county leased federal lands. Tucson Mountain Park sits close to the heart of Tucson, making it convenient for local treasure hunters. Tucson (the city) is the oldest city in Arizona.
If you compare a map from 1893 and present-day Tucson, there was a mine in the park. And closer to what is the Tucson Estates today were three passes:
- Gates Pass
- Starrs Pass
- Robles Pass
The accuracy may be off, but it is within the same local. In the late 1800s, these passes acted as shortcuts through the Tucson Mountains. You can still find these passes today. They offer great scenic views and the possibility of treasure following their original purpose. – link
7. Saguaro National Park – Tucson, Arizona
Initially, Saguaro National Park was a national monument, until in 1994, the government designated it as a National Park. You can find most of the Tucson Mountains in Saguaro National Park.
In 2015 the Tucson Mountain District designated 24,818 acres of land in Saguaro National Park as wilderness. So, there’s a lot of untapped land in Saguaro National Park.
The park offers several other recreational amenities to visitors. You can experience hiking, driving, trails, and many more amenities.
8. Coronado National Forest – Prima County, Tucson, Arizona
The last spot in Tucson would be the Coronado National Forest. Still following the map from 1893, you can see various establishments in the area we assume to be Coronado National Forest. – link These establishments are on the outskirts of the National Forest, but we have yet to confirm it. Fortunately, the forest offers several recreational activities for visitors. Some of these activities include hiking and camping.
9. Usery Mountain Regional Park – Mesa, Arizona
First on the list is Usery Mountain Regional Park, it’s located east of Mesa, and it offers access to the great Arizona wilderness. On January 5, 1892, two highwaymen held up the Globe-Florence stage. Two bars of silver bullion, valued at $2,000, were stolen. The driver identified the highwaymen as King Usery and Henry Blevins.
The focal point of Usery Mountain Regional Park is Pass Mountain, aka Scarface by the locals. The mountain was named after King Usery (he wasn’t a king, but it was his first name). According to reports, Usery buried something along Salt River. Authorities recovered only one bar from the crime.
Apart from the 1892 robbery, Usery Mountain Regional Park remains a highlight for treasure hunters. Furthermore, it offers incredible recreational amenities for visitors. You can look forward to camping, trails, and several other activities in this park.
10. Red Mountain District Park – Mesa, Arizona
Red Mountain District Park is a small park located at the heart of Mesa city. Its convenient location makes it a great starting point for beginner treasure hunters to familiarize themselves with tools and techniques.
The park offers trails, camping grounds, a community fishing lake, and several other activities within the area.
11. Superstition Springs Golf Club – Mesa, Arizona
The Superstition Springs Golf Club is an intriguing location because of all the ponds located within the club. One rule of thumb for treasure hunters is prospecting along the edge of water bodies might yield the best results. It’s why beach hunters have a high level of success.
The golf club may be the answer you’re looking for, but you may need to call beforehand to grasp their metal detecting rules and regulations. It would be in your best interest to confirm the club rules for non-members.
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12. Black Canyon City – Yavapai County, Arizona
Black Canyon City is an unincorporated community located north of Phoenix. The Native American tribe of Yavapai settled in the area around Black Canyon City, but in the 1870s, Anglo-Europeans settled in the city.
One highlight of Black Canyon City is the Maggy Mines were found there. Black Canyon City served various purposes over the years; in 1872, Wells Fargo established a stagecoach stop for cattle and horses.
Today, Black Canyon City is a small community; if you’re looking to treasure hunt in the area, we recommend checking out the Black Canyon Heritage Park.
13. Superstition Mountain – Gila County, Arizona
Superstition Mountain is on this list because of the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s gold mine hidden somewhere within the 160,000 acres of the mountain. To this day, the $200 million treasure sits untapped on Superstition Mountain, and treasure hunters are still searching for it.
14. Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona
It wouldn’t be a list without mentioning the pride of Arizona, the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon has a lot of history. From a National Monument in 1919 to a National Park, the Grand Canyon has been a box containing much history.
It is one of the best spots to visit, we highly recommend it for its scenic views.
15. Hualapai Peak – Kingman, Arizona
Lastly is Hualapai Peak, a decently-sized mountain rage that was once a candidate as a National Monument. Now, Hualapai Mountain Park protects Hualapai Peak and its natural fauna and flora.
The park offers several amenities like camping grounds and hiking trails. You also get to enjoy the view of the numerous peaks on the Hualapai Mountain Range.
Treasure in Arizona
One of the most exciting treasure stories would be that of the Tumacacori Mission treasure. According to local legend, Spaniards arrived at Tumacacori, Arizona, in 1861. The legend states that the Spaniards sealed off a mine that the Native Americans used as a shrine to offer sacrifices. The legend states that the Spaniards sealed the mine with treasure inside. – link
Is It Legal to Metal Detect in Arizona?
Metal detecting in Arizona is legal; however, different counties implement their laws regarding metal detecting. Some counties require detectorists to have a permit, while others do not allow metal detecting.
It would be in your best interest to check with your local authority to ascertain the rules and regulations behind metal detection.
Can I Keep Treasure Found in Arizona?
Arizona, like most states, follows the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979. This federal law states that any “archaeological resources” found on the state’s land belong to the government. This law extends to just about anything over 100 years old.
If you find treasure on private land, it does not belong to the state, and you are free to keep it. Ensure that you request permission from the landowner if you want to prospect on private property. It’s best to stay on the right side of the law.
Read all about this ACT here -> Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979
Arizona Treasure in the News
Here are some interesting new stories showcasing treasure hunting discoveries in Arizona.
- A Tucson archaeologist found artifacts linking to the 16th-century Spanish expedition in Santa Cruz County. – source
- In 1941, an African American Pvt. Robert Jones found a hoard of gold after falling into a hole. – source
- Metal detectorist Yassa Rashi found a 1921 street sign and a ring with a three-diamond setting. – source
Stories Of Treasure in Arizona
Here are some local stories and legends of lost treasure in Arizona.
- On January 5, 1892, two highwaymen held up the Globe-Florence stage. Two bars of silver bullion, valued at $2,000, were stolen. Authorities were able to recover one of the silver bars; the other bar is still at large.
- The Legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine that’s worth $200 million, sitting somewhere on Superstition Mountain. This legend has shown up on TV shows like History’s Legend of the Superstition Mountains. It has six episodes.
- In 1873, two men robbed a stagecoach near Canyon Station, Arizona. They stole a strong box of gold coins worth $72,000. According to the locals, the men cached that strongbox in the foothills of the Cerbat Mountains.
Books About Treasure in Arizona
Our most recommended books are here if you’re in Arizona and are looking for books to start treasure hunting. I’ve also got a list of my favorite metal detecting books. You can read about those here -> Best Metal Detecting Book
1. Phoenix Area’s Parks And Preserves by George Hartz
This 2007 book is excellent for treasure hunters that focus on the historical significance of parks and preserves. It only specializes in the parks in Phoenix, Arizona, but it’s a great resource material for treasure hunters if you look at it from another angle. We highly recommend this book to anyone prospecting in the Phoenix area.
2. How to Research for Treasure Hunting and Metal Detecting: From Lead Generation to Vetting by Otto von Helsing
This book is ideal for anyone interested in utilizing all the essential treasure hunting skills. This book will inform you on the research aspect of treasure hunting, how to use old maps from the 1800s, and what to do with this information.
3. A Guide Book of United States Coins 2021 by Jeff Garrett
One of the main treasures you may find will be coins. This book will help you identify the coins, year, and value. This book is also great because it contains pictures of the coins to assist in the evaluation process. Most treasure hunters will have the latest version of this book, and the next one will be coming out in 2023.
4. Permission Impossible: Metal Detecting Search Permission Made Easy by David Villanueva
This book will teach you how to acquire permission from private landowners. Treasure hunting can take you into the wildest of places that may be personal property, and you may need permission to go prospecting on their land. If you need that extra push to learn how to do it, check out this book.
Check out my article on getting permission on private land – Get Permission to Metal Detect on Private Property (Cool Tips included)
If you’d like more articles about metal detecting check out the links below.
- Metal Detecting Digging Tools – Tells you all about shovels, scoops and how to dig a plug.
- Where are the Best Places for a Beginner to Metal Detect? – Just like the title says, this article points the beginner to the highest probability places.
- Can You Metal Detect on BLM Land? – So many people have asked me about BLM detecting I had to write this article.
David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.