Apache Trail - Best Arizona Scenic Drive
The scenic drive along the old Apache Trail is a fantastic day trip just outside of Phoenix in Apache Junction.
It is one of the best scenic drives in Arizona and the close proximity to Phoenix makes it a popular day trip.
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.
Sights along the way include:
- Goldfield Ghost Town
- Lost Dutchman Park
- Canyon Lake
- Tortilla Flat
- Apache Lake
- Roosevelt Lake
- Roosevelt Dam
- Tonto National Monument
- Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaeological park
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 will 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.
The water that runs through the big boulders was a great attraction. Just about everyone was out there climbing on the rocks.
Don't forget to get an ice cream cone! Tortilla Flat is the only place I am aware of that sells Prickly Pear Ice Cream. If you're all the way out here, you have to try it. It is pink and has a berry flavor. If you like the jelly you'll like the ice cream too.
Not too far after Tortilla Flat the pavement will end and you will notice a lot of century plants with huge flower stalks. The unpaved road is well maintained. Regular passenger cars should not have a problem driving on them.
It took us a little over two hours of drive time to get to Tortilla Flat, the halfway point. This scenic drive is popular and there are quite a bit of cars on the winding roads. Continuing on the Apache Trail your final destination, of this 48 mile long road, is Globe.
Suggestions: Allow a full day to travel the entire trail, fill your tank up before you hit the Lost Dutchman State Park, if you plan to stop and stay over night there is a motel at Apache Lake.