Originally built as a copper trade route, the Apache Trail now guides travelers past steep desert mountains, cliff dwellings, lake shores, eroded canyons, and old mining towns. This scenic road winds 120 miles (193 kilometers) through Arizona’s Superstition Mountains, from the outskirts of Phoenix to the vast Theodore Roosevelt Lake.
With activities for all types of travelers, the Apache Trail makes for a perfect day trip destination from Phoenix. Most Apache Trail tours last a full day and include vehicle transportation plus hiking, a cruise through Canyon Lake on a vessel like the old-fashioned Dolly Steamboat, and visits to historic sites. Travel along the road’s panoramic Sonoran Desert to find the eerie Tortilla Flat and Goldfield ghost towns, once-bustling mining outposts that are now 19th-century artifacts and attractions; Lost Dutchman State Park, where a legendary gold mine is said to be hidden among the red-rock hills; and the towering Roosevelt Dam. For more outdoor adventure, camp at Canyon Lake and Tonto National Forest or board a jeep for a guided desert tour of the area’s stunning geology, history, and wildlife.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Apache Trail Circle Route takes a full day to complete, although visitors can choose to stay overnight to spend more time hiking, camping, and exploring the desert.
Take extra caution when driving, as portions of the road are unpaved and the desert’s terrain is rough and includes steep cliffs.
Wear comfortable shoes and sun protection, and bring plenty of water.
How to Get There
Most guided tours provide transportation to and from hotels in downtown Phoenix. But, if you’re driving, start at Apache Junction, a city roughly 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix by road, where the 80-mile (129-kilometer) Apache Trail Circle Route begins. Then loop past Roosevelt Lake and head south to Globe and Miami, before turning back toward Apache Junction.
When to Get There
November through April is the best time to visit, when the weather is sunny and mild. In springtime, visitors to the Apache Trail can see wildflowers blooming throughout the desert landscape. Traffic is common during summer, when temperatures average above 100°F (38°C).
Exploring Goldfield Ghost Town
In this Old West outpost, try your luck at gold panning, explore historic shops and buildings, tour Mammoth Gold Mine, and peruse the Goldfield Museum. Satisfy your hunger with burgers and cold brews inside the saloon.