If you enjoy scenic mountain vistas, riparian (river) adventures or off road mountain driving the Historic Apache Trail loop is a must do when visiting the Phoenix area. Make the short trip to Apache Junction and stop at Blimpies in the Chevron station, and ask for the “map”. The people will be glad to oblige and send you on your way with all of the details of the trip including must see stops and information. Most people head north to 88 and go clockwise. Taste Like Travel never does anything like the masses so we headed down 60 and did the loop counter clockwise. It’s hot and flat as a pancake, but before you know it you are climbing into the foothills headed toward top of the world.
Top of the world has some pretty neat rock formations and the town is apparently in turmoil over a road destined to cut their world in half. Apparently ADOT is the enemy. Once you get to Top Of The World start looking for the largest copper mines ever seen. This country is full of copper and is the main economy of the area. Look for the cows grazing on the mine tailing’s.
Next head to Miami toward Globe but be prepared to hang a left and go into the Tonto national Forrest. Once you turn left you see more massive copper mines and Water, yes water. Head toward Roosevelt. On the right is the Salt River. This is the giver of life for this region as well as much of Arizona. The Salado Indians inhabited this area and soon you will see the cliff dwellings. If you pull into the National Parks Service you can actually hike to 2 different dwellings. The short trip is one hour with the long hike taking about 4 hours round trip. Go early…it just too damn hot to do it midsummer and mid day, but it is worth the hike, so I am told.
Lake Roosevelt is a beautiful spot with a large lake and various camping and boating opportunities. Make sure you cross the bridge and then view the dam. At his point you are on 88 and are following the river below the damn. In a few short miles the pavement ends but the real adventure begins. For the next 25 miles you are on a dirt road. In the early 1900’s this road was designated as a must drive for motor enthusiast. Originally this was a stagecoach route but with the advent of the automobile became the road to drive in the West.
To say this part of the trip is Scenic is an understatement. The vistas are spectacular with numerous picture taking opportunities. Take turns driving because if you’re driving you have your hands full watching the road. Often a little over 1 lane wide you must pay attention to the road ahead and who is coming toward you. There are more hairpins in this road than your granny has ever had in her hair at one time. The good news it there are plenty of overlooks and rest stops to take advantage of. The views are breathtaking and you can even throw and echo or two for fun.
If you are a Boater or Camper this is a great area for you. Apache Lake runs down from the Roosevelt Dam and is a great place to fish, ski, or just hang out and get relief from the Arizona heat. There are numerous places to launch your boat and camp. Don’t forget to get your Tonto Pass before you go. In 1996, the Tonto National Forest began charging use fees at many of the forest’s water based recreation areas under the Recreation Fee Demonstration Act. The program continued under the Recreation Enhancement Act passed in 2004.
As you start to descend to the desert floor you will want to stop in Tortilla Flats. There is a general store, a restaurant and bar and a Gift Shop. Make sure you go into the general store and try the Prickly Pear ice cream and gaze at over 10,000 dollar bills attached to the walls and rafters over the years. Apparently it is a custom to write your name on a dollar bill and staple it to the building. This area has several camp sites as well as trail heads.
The last stop you should make is the Goldfield Ghost Town in the shadows of the Superstition Mountains. This is a fun place to have some fun, shop, and quench your thirst. We had so much fun here we wrote a complete article on it.
The Apache Trail is a must see and is one of those “Things To Do in Arizona”. You can spend as little as 4 hours or a couple of days exploring this trail. If you are in the Phoenix area you must plan to do this excursion. Highly recommended by Tastes Like Travel, this trip is one that will fill your camera and have you telling your friends and neighbors about the vacation adventure of a lifetime. Don’t pass up this chance to see what wild Arizona has to offer.