Dome Mountain is the highest point of the Goldfield Mountains, which are known for their abundant cliffs and rock outcroppings. The range is located in eastern Maricopa County, just north of the city of Apache Junction, hemmed in on the south by Apache Junction and Mesa, on the west by Usery Pass Road, on the north by the Salt River, and the east by State Route AZ-87. The Goldfield Mountains are essentially a foothill range to the bigger Superstition Mountains immediately to the east. However, peaks in this range are challenging and quite interesting. Most Phoenix-area hikers are familiar with Wind Cave and Pass Mountain, the westernmost peak in the range. Dome Mountain rises about three miles east. The ghost town of Goldfield is located not far off AZ-87, and is open to the public. On the one hand, it features actors in period dress, mock gun fights, and ice cream. However, it's a real actual old town, and apparently haunted, being featured on one of the many ghost-oriented television shows of late.
Dome Mountain's summit rises to 3,381 feet, with slightly over 1,200 feet of prominence. The summit is notable for its saddle shape, the northern lobe being highest. Relatively few hikers bother to visit the top, given its proximity to the metro Phoenix area. A combination of good roads and bad roads, easy cross country, some bushwhacking, and about 400 vertical feet of ball-bearing scree, combine to make the summit a worthy half-day effort. The views are excellent, with Weaver's Needle and the Superstition massif immediately east, and the Four Peaks to the northeast.
In Apache Junction, about 35 miles east of Phoenix, exit US-60 at Idaho Road. Here is a more detailed set of directions, courtesy of stender:
The last road will bend left and cross the Tonto National Forest boundary, coming to a large gate and parking area. If you have a permit, you can drive beyond the gate. Otherwise, park here. Elevation here is about 2,060 feet.
Past the gate, hike north on Tonto Road 10. When it starts to bend west, look for FR-1356, which continues north. It follows a sandy wash for awhile, then rises up and over a saddle between two small hills, descending into Bulldog Canyon. Here, you have unobstructed views of the Dome Mountain summits.
When FR-1356 bends east, go left onto a road not shown on the map (it is visible on satellite shots). A few yards later, turn right onto a lesser road (marked with ribbon on our visit). Walk this rocky road north past an earthen tank. The road angles a little left to gain a ridge, then stays high on this ridge a little southwest of Peak 3134. Then it drops about 100 feet into a gully, and simply ends. From the gate to here is about two miles.
(If you opt to drive some of these roads, FR 10 and 1356 are good, but the roads past FR-1356 are very rocky and rough, and that last 100-foot drop is nasty. It ends on a steep slope with little room to turn around.)
Descend into the ravine, then ascend the other side. Aim generally for the slopes right of the south summit, and ascend a gently-sloped ridge that borders a lesser gully on your right. Farther above to your right, there are massive cliffs with overhangs. Looking ahead, look for a yellow-colored cliff band. If you follow the path of least (scratchy) resistance, you'll naturally come to this cliff band. Cross some rocks to gain the slopes above this cliff band, and looking up at the saddle above, you'll see a rock fin, your next destination.
Angle up the slope trending right, intending to pass below this fin on your right as you face it. This section is the slidiest of the whole hike. The slopes are steep and sections feature very loose scree and gravel. Just take it slow and carefully.
Once at the ridge below the rock fin, you should see some cairns that lead through a weakness that allows you to gain onto the higher ridge. After this, the climbing is very straightforward. You aim for the north summit, angle left for friendlier slopes, and soon, arrive on top. One way mileage is about 3.3, with about 1,500 feet of gain if counting some drops along the way.
Wear long pants, sleeves, hat, gloves and good shoes. You will get scratched, but thankfully, there isn't that much cholla on this hike.
If you are planning to hike the roads, no permits are necessary. If you plan to drive the roads north past the gate, you'll need a permit from the Tonto Ranger Station in Mesa. Here is their contact information:
Mesa Ranger District 5140 E. Ingram St. Mesa, Arizona 85205 (480) 610-3300
Normally I would supply a URL, but USFS webpages change so often, any link goes out of date by next week. Just google or bing it. It comes right up.
The cooler months, November through March, are best. It's a brushy hike, and doing this in the heat of summer would be very unpleasant.
If coming from the south, there is no camping. However, you may be able to find an out-of-the-way road somewhere north or east of the range to car-camp for the night. You'll be close to civilization. It may be best to get a cheap hotel nearby if you have nowhere to stay.