The old Apache Trail is a fantastic day trip just outside the metro Phoenix area in Apache Junction. This scenic drive cuts through the Superstitions is a great spot to start your old west journey with plenty of fun stops along the way.
Sights along Apache Trail include:
- Lost Dutchman Museum
- Goldfield Ghost Town
- Lost Dutchman Park
- Canyon Lake
- Tortilla Flat
- Apache Lake
- Roosevelt Lake
- Roosevelt Dam
- Tonto National Monument
Apache Trail : An Arizona Scenic Drive
Lost Dutchman Museum
Once you make your way down US 60 and North onto AZ 88 (AKA Apache Trail) the first thing you’ll notice to your right will be a small museum at the base of the impressive Superstition mountains
This is a good spot to start your old west journey, you can learn about the history of the area and take some snapshots while you’re there.
Apache Trail is a 48-mile slow going winding road. You will be traveling alongside cliffs, canyons and lakes. The first half of the trail is paved, the second half is not.
Goldfield Ghost Town
Soon after seeing the museum you will notice on your left is Goldfield Ghost Town, which is a reconstructed old mining town. In the gold strike of 1892 Goldfield was a thriving town of about 400 residents with saloons, a general store,boarding houses, brewery, meat market, blacksmith shop and a schoolhouse. It became a ghost town after the gold ran out.
Today it is a bustling tourist stop with mock shoot-outs in the street, tourist shops, horseback riding, train rides and panning for gold all set with an incredible backdrop of the Superstition Mountains. Kids will love this spot.
Lost Dutchman Park
Soon after passing the ghost town you will come to the Lost Dutchman Park located on your right. This is a great spot to explore the Superstition Mountains. Legend has it there’s gold in those hills. But the Lost Dutchman Mine has never been rediscovered. Many adventurers have sought the lost gold.
Driving along the scenic route of Apache Trail, which was built on the original dusty wagon trails of the early 1900’s, you can see Four Peaks in the distance. Soon you will come a cross the first glimpse of Canyon Lake. On your right you will be able to pull over and see the lake and the boats below.
The views are beautiful from here, but they get better as you get closer to the lake. Winding your way through the canyon’s a glimpse of the dark blue water against the tall canyons is really quite striking, making Canyon Lake one of the prettiest lakes in the state of Arizona.
If you make reservations ahead of time, you can float along Canyon Lake on a steamboat ride in Dolly’s Steamboat.
You’ll see why some call the canyons along Apache Trail a smaller version of the Grand Canyon when you slowly snake your way along all the tight curves and sheer cliffs on this road.
Next to Goldfield Ghost Town, our kids’ favorite stop was Tortilla Flat. Two miles from Canyon Lake you will arrive in the town of Tortilla Flat. This was an original stagecoach stop on the Apache Trail in the early 1900’s. The town burned to the ground in the late 1980’s and was subsequently rebuilt.
The old west town, of Tortilla Flat, is home to a restaurant, saloon and general store connected by a wooden boardwalk. There is also a very tiny museum at the end.
About five miles after Tortilla Flat the pavement will end and then the real adventure begins. The unpaved road is maintained, but it is like a washboard in some areas. Regular passenger cars should not have a problem driving on them, however a higher clearance vehicle would be better.
Apache Trail After the Pavement Ends
The unpaved portion of the Apache Trail has thousands of saguaros, deep canyons and incredible views.
This scenic drive is popular and there are quite a bit of cars on the winding roads. There is no way I would want to drive a boat on this road, but plenty of people do. Apache Lake is about 16 miles from Tortilla Flat and takes about an hour to drive there. It is the halfway point to Roosevelt Lake.
Continuing on the Apache trail for another 16 miles or about an hour drive you will arrive at Roosevelt Lake. The road will become paved at this point. There is a scenic vista to take photos of the lake, bridge and dam. The dam was created in the early 1900’s and it created Roosevelt Lake.
The Roosevelt Bridge allows traffic from Apache Trail an alternative paved route to travel towards Payson or to Globe.
Tonto National Monument
A short 3-mile drive will take you the parking lot of the Tonto National Monument. This national monument is a well-preserved Native American ruin once inhabited by the Salado culture. A half mile uphill hike leads you to the lower cliff dwelling. The upper cliff dwelling is by reservation only and is taken with a tour guide.
Allow a full day to travel the entire trail. The route is 48 miles, however you are not driving at a high speed and you need time to stop along the way. Fill up your tank before you hit the Lost Dutchman State Park because there are no service stations after this point. It took us a little over two hours of drive time to get to Tortilla Flat, the halfway point. The rest of the drive will be on unpaved curvy roads with low speed limits. If you plan to stop and stay over night there is a motel and campground at Apache Lake.