Superstition Mountains cougar shadow appears only a few days a year

A few days each year, for just a few minutes, the sun projects a larger-than-life shadow of a cougar chasing its prey on the Superstition Mountains east of Mesa. Timing is critical. This phenomenon only happens when the sun sets at just the right latitude on the western horizon.

In this post, you’ll learn when and where to experience the Superstition Mountains cougar shadow for yourself.

Image of cougar shadow on mountain in background with people in foreground
Photographers gather at 4th Ave & Goldfield Road in Apache Junction, AZ to get pics of the Superstition Mountains Cougar. Photo credit: Paul Fiarkoski for AZ Wonders
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Where and when to view the Superstition Mountains cougar shadow

  1. If you want to see this phenomenon in person, head to the vicinity of Superstition Blvd and Goldfield Road in Apache Junction for a relatively unobstructed view.
  2. Timing is critical. The cougar only appears during the third week of March and September.
  3. The last 30 minutes before official sunset is prime time for viewing.

#1 rule of enjoying nature: Leave only footprints, take only pictures.

Viewing tips:

  • There is a wide shoulder on the east side of Goldfield Rd (opposite the homes) where you can pull off to view the cougar and take pictures.
  • Check the forecast before you go. The cougar shadow is usually only visible if the western sky (where the sun sets) is free of clouds.
  • Be respectful of people who live in the area by keeping music and voices at a low volume. And of course, leave no trace that you were there.
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Time-lapse image of the cougar taking shape then disappearing as daylight fades:

time lapse of cougar shadow appearing and disappearing on a mountain
Time lapse image of the Superstition Mountains Cougar photographed from 4th Ave & Goldfield Rd in Apache Junction

The picture of the Superstition Mountains Cougar above was taken from the open space access point at 4th Ave & Goldfield Road in Apache Junction, AZ on September 17, 2018.

Video: Where to catch the Superstition Mountains Cougar

Come along to see how, where and when to view the Superstition Mountains cougar shadow in this YouTube video I filmed in 2018:


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Want to see the Superstitions Mountain Cougar?

Tap the map below for a good spot to view the Superstition Mountains cougar shadow

 

21 Comments

    1. I was just there the other day actually … First time in Flag. Love the area but they get winter… NO WAY!!!

      1. The cougar shadow is usually visible for the last few minutes before official sunset time. My suggestion is to be there about 30 minutes ahead of time so you can find a good vantage point and have your camera ready.

  1. It’s September 11, 2021. I have the weekend off and have been dying to catch this cougar. However I’m down in Tucson. No promises, but in your opinion, what are the odds I would be able to see it, this early in the month???

    1. Hi Vanessa, sorry I was out of town when your message came through. It’s definitely still pretty early for the shadow. You might be able to make it out with some imagination. It will probably look a lot more “digitized” than it will closer to fall equinox.The weekend of September 18 will definitely be a lot better.

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