“The Apache Trail combines the grandeur of the Alps, the glory of the Rockies, the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and then adds an indefinable something that none of the others have. To me, it is the most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful panorama nature has ever created.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
We headed for Apache Junction to pick up the start of the Apache Trail. Long used by the Apache Indians, the trail became a stagecoach route through the Superstition Mountains in the 1800’s. Today, the route from Apache Junction is officially known as State Route 88.
The first stop on the trail is the old Ghost Town of Goldfield. In 1890, Goldfield was booming, with three saloons, a brewery, blacksmith, general store, meat market and a boarding house. Once thought to overtake the town of Mesa in population, the mine’s vein suddenly faulted, and the ore quality dropped. From there, the town withered in the desert.
Today, you can tour the played out Mammoth Mine, ride the narrow gauge train, eat outside the cafe, or have a cold beer and meal in the saloon. I will say that the ice cream cones are damn good, especially when the waffle cones are fresh out of the oven.
The first reservoir on the Salt River is Canyon Lake, which was formed after the building of the Mormon Flat Dam in 1925. Steamboat rides are offered on the lake, and hiking trails abound.
Tortilla Flat: Population 6
We stopped in Tortilla Flat, for what I hoped would be lunch, but it turned out that I was the only one hungry, so we only looked around. I heard the food in the saloon was the best in town, but even that did not convince the relatives.
The saloon boasted one dollar bills as wallpaper, and bar stools that were actual saddles.
The trail gets interesting
The trail turns to gravel once you travel past Tortilla Flat. Gravel may be a generous term, silt may be more accurate. Either way, I had a blast. The road is a switch-backing, sandy, twisting bundle of pure overland fun.
Apache Lake is the next reservoir. The lake is formed by the Horse Mesa Dam, which was completed in 1927. It’s a lake I’d like to come back and explore. The fishing is suppose to be great, and the access restricting. Perfect.
The 357′ Roosevelt Dam was built between 1905-1911, and raised 77′ in 1989. The addition increased the storage capacity of Roosevelt Lake by 20%. 42 lives were lost building the dam.
Highway 188 used to cross the river over the dam. With the ambitious remodel, the highway was realigned over the newly built Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.
From the bridge, the Apache Trail officially ends. To complete the loop back to Apache Junction, head towards the town of Globe.
Tonto National Monument
The Tonto National Monument is on the opposite side of the highway from Roosevelt Lake. The cliff dwellings of the Salado people are the main attraction. More on these in a future post.
I had heard that the Burger House in Miami was well worth the stop, but I also heard that it was incredibly popular, and I was starving and didn’t want to risk a line. We swung into Globe instead and ate at Nurdberger. The small cafe did not disappoint. Worth the stop, after a day on the trail.