Driving the Apache Trail

The Apache Trail The Apache Trail, (named after the Apaches who first used it to traverse the Superstition mountains), became a Stagecoach Trail, that later became one of the first Arizona Highways. (Hwy 88) By combining the Apache Trail itself, (which runs from Apache Junction just east of metro Phoenix to the Roosevelt Lake Dam), […]

IMG_92971
The Apache Trail
The Apache Trail, (named after the
Apaches who first used it to traverse the Superstition mountains),
became a Stagecoach Trail, that later became one of the first Arizona
Highways. (Hwy 88)
By combining the Apache Trail
itself, (which runs from Apache Junction just east of metro Phoenix
to the Roosevelt Lake Dam), with Highway 188, Hwy 60 and Hwy 79, you
can make a loop that is about 150 miles in length,  runs through
Arizona mountains and desert, and is very scenic.  
We chose to make the loop in a
clockwise direction starting at Apache Junction. Tortilla Flat comes
first, then it’s on through the Superstition mountains, past Canyon
Lake, Apache Lake, to Lake Theodore Roosevelt. 
The stretch from
Apache Junction to Tortilla Flat is a paved road. From just past
Tortilla Flat to Lake Theodore Roosevelt, the road is a dirt road.
Although the dirt portion is narrow with lots of up and down mountain
driving, the road is well graded, and has plenty of turnouts to meet
oncoming cars. Some “flatlanders” might find it a little
intimidating, but if you just simply pay attention to your driving,
it will be an easy drive with scenery that is well worth the small
effort. There are lots of places to stop, so the driver can also
enjoy the views. No special vehicle is needed. Cars drive it all
the time. (Just leave your RV at your base camp, due to the narrow
tight turns.)
The first part of the drive winds
through desert settings, climbing through the superstition mountains
to Tortilla Flat, an old west remnant with a restaurant/saloon,
merchantile / gift store, and an old country store. Walk down the
boardwalk to the Superstition saloon where you can sit on a real
saddle for a bar stool, and have your favorite brew or a sarsaparilla.

The road turns to dirt shortly past
Tortilla Flat, and offers abundant views of canyons, mountains, and
cactus. 
Canyon Lake appears as you descend one of the downgrades, surrounded by large jagged rocks. 
This area is, as is most
of the drive, part of the Tonto National Forest. A nice recreation
area along the shore of the lake offers picnic facilities, boat
launches, and shelters. (subject to US passes and fees.)
The road from Canyon Lake to Apache
Lake is the most scenic portion, with the road winding deep into a
canyon. Sharp turns between the rocky escarpments open into
incredible vistas, revealing the steep sidewalls of the canyon, and
the winding road on which you are traveling below. There are
several turnouts where you can stop for pictures.
A little further along, the road
ascends again and passes Apache Lake, a long narrow lake formed by
canyons between the mountains. There are also recreation areas,
campgrounds, etc along here.
Apache Lake runs for miles along
this stretch giving many spectacular views and opportunities for
photos.
Rappellers Descending the Cliff
Eventually the road makes a turn
revealing Theodore Roosevelt Dam. As the road climbs to the top of
the dam, you get your first view of the Lake Roosevelt, a large
sprawling lake with mountains surrounding.
A right turn onto Highway 188 takes
you into rolling hills and a lot faster driving. A short distance
from the dam, a right turn takes you on a nice short side trip to an
area where you find cliff dwellings.
       
Back on the road your route takes
you across mountain passes and through miles and miles of desert cactus.  A right turn near Globe onto Highway 60, then further
along,  another right turn onto Hwy 79 brings you back to finish your loop at
Apache Junction.

We both were fascinated with this great drive. We expect
to go back again before we leave here. The Arizona mountain scenery with it’s tall Saguaro (Suh wah ro) Cactus is a delight to pass through.  It makes the mountains of Arizona like no others.

You may also like

Sign In

Reset Your Password