Apache Trail Scenic Drive
Apache Trail one of the most scenic drives in the country. Winding on the edges of Superstition Mountain Wilderness, this was the original path of Apache Indians that became a stage coach route during the wild west. It is now a scenic drive with an aura of days past. Take this beautiful drive and you will not only discover unique beauty, but experiencing history.
The Apache Trail is particularly gorgeous during springtime when the cacti is in full bloom and wildflowers paint the desert landscape. But it is not a drive for those afraid of heights. It can be scary. There are parts of the trail where dirt road hugs cliff side walls or guard rails along sharp drop-offs.
Apache Trail is not for nervous drivers. Definitely not for passengers who are likely to curl-up on the floor board and scream for you to turnaround and go back. There are few places to do that along the Apache Trail. But if you can handle a few harrowing spots, nature's visuals will reward.
Apache Trail Loop Map
What You'll Experience
You can go part way or make an entire loop that will make for a great one day adventure. Begin the trail in Apache Junction, Arizona which is east of Phoenix AZ. There many attractions lookout points along the way. One of the highlights will be the unpaved section at Fish Creek Hill a tight winding portion with magnificent views of mountains, dense forests of Saguaro cactus with glimpses of Apache Lake down below.
Goldfield Mining Ghost Town. Built in 1892, it was a thriving gold mining town. Today, it is a tourist attraction with remnants of the wild west. Tour the old mine. Witness old west gun fights. Ride the narrow guage train. Shop on main street. Enjoy a steak and the saloon. Don't drink if you are going the length of the trail. There some dangerous parts that require complete sobriety. More about Goldfield Ghost Town.
Lost Dutchman State Park. Named after the Lost Dutchman and the lore of his lost gold mine that lies somewhere in the Superstition Mountains. Many people have mysteriously died looking for the riches. The state park features hiking trails, picnic facilities and camping sites.
Canyon Lake. One of the most beautiful lakes in Arizona. Sky blue waters against towering canyon walls. Pull-off the trail and enjoy the views. The lake features boating, a marina where you can rent a boat, dining and the Dolly Steamboat Cruises that tour the lake. More about Canyon Lake.
Tortilla Flat. You will enjoy this old-west settlement that was once a stage coach stop. Today Tortilla Flat a relica of the past and the perfect place to stop for lunch and enjoy its gigantic hamburgers and curio store. If you are afraid of heights and harrowing hairpin turns along edges cliff drop-offs, it's time to turnaround and go back. Fish Creek Hill is next.
Fish Creek Hill. The pavement ends a few miles past Tortilla Flat and turns to narrow dirt road with a drive toward Fish Creek Hill. It can get a bit scary but features magnificent views around hairpin turns. It's important to note that RV vehicles are not permitted at this point and is not wise to enter during rain storms. At milepost 222 there is a parking lot featuring great view, walking paths and restrooms. At this point, you will be quickly driving down a 1,500 foot drop in elevation. Be very careful. Drivers need to keep a close-eye on the road. There are many rusted relics of cars that lie at the bottom.
Apache Lake. As you start downhill you'll catch glimpses of Apache Lake as you get closer and closer to this long narrow lake. The Apache Lake Marina is one mile from the road and features a motel, gas station, a coffee shop and picnic supplies. Apache is a beautiful lake with great fishing and power boating. Watch for surrounding wildlife.
Roosevelt Dam and Roosevelt Lake Continuing along Apache Lake you'll come to Roosevelt Dam which forms Roosevelt Lake. It is a very large lake famous for an abundance of Large Mouth Bass. At this point, you can turnaround and trace-back through Apache Trail for a different perspective or continue the loop returning to the Phoenix area on the opposite side of the Superstition Wilderness on wide paved highway. Catch great views canyon walls on stands of balancing granite boulders and the stately Saguaro cactus.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum. As you approach back to Apache Junction, stop at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. It is Arizona's largest botanical garden covering 323 acres among sheer mountain cliffs, towering trees, a stream-side forest, hiking trails, a desert lake and hidden garden.
Summary Of Apache Trail Scenic Drive
People can "bite-off" as much of the Apache Trail Scenic Drive as time and interest permits. The first half of the drive after Tortilla Flat is rather slow- going on winding dirt road. From Apache Junction, it is about 48 miles to reach Roosevelt Lake. Continuing the loop is about another 42 miles back to Apache Junction, AZ on paved highway making the total loop about 90 miles. Depending upon number of stops, it could take an entire day.
Springtime is the best time. It is wise to avoid the drive during rainstorms which will make the dirt road portions muddy and slippery making for dangerous conditions on the narrow hairpin turns. During the summer months it can get rather warm and the traffic to the lakes can become quite heavy. The trail is not recommended for RV vehicles and trailers. Make sure you vehicle is in good working order. This is not a place where you want to chance having auto trouble. Carry plenty of water.
Apache Trail Photos