Add variety to your outdoor activities and steer clear from canyoneering in pink slot canyons or hiking in wilderness areas for a moment. Sometimes, the best adventures require no extra physical effort, but a simple appreciation for the beauty around you. Take your car out for a ride along the Apache Trail Scenic Drive and be in awe of nature’s beautiful work.
You Need to Experience a Whole Day Along the Apache Trail Scenic Drive
The Apache Trail Scenic Drive, or simply the “Apache Trail,” or “Arizona State Route 88” is a 40-mile circular route right through the Superstition Mountains. It was designated as an aid for the construction of the Theodore Roosevelt Dam back in 1905, with the Apache Junction at one end, and Theodore Roosevelt Lake at the other. If you drive along this route, you will be treated to many amazing sights and scenes. The first half of the trail will be paved, so you will have no trouble cruising down the path. But the second half will be made of dirt roads, and you need to anticipate narrow and rugged routes. With that said, you need to pay close attention to the road and avoid getting distracted by the endlessly unique views, no matter how gorgeous. If you can’t help it, you should stop at a designated stop and pause to take in the beautiful scenery in front of you, or just take a photo to capture the moment.
The Apache Trail Scenic Drive is the best adventure on the road. What are you waiting for? Buckle up!
There Are Multiple Interesting Stops Along the Apache Trail Scenic Drive
Note that this road is actually very winding. There are many switchbacks and sharp hairpin turns that amateur drivers should be careful of. But don’t let that discourage you from driving here because there are multiple scenic stops along the way!
Goldfield Ghost Town
Goldfield Ghost Town is the gateway to the legendary Superstition Mountains. It was once a promising place that literally struck gold back in the 1890s. The place even saw the boom of mining activities, and eventually, all the essential amenities any resident needs were built such as a boarding house, school and more. Unfortunately, just when Goldfield Ghost Town looked like it would outgrow Mesa, things just went downhill. Gold became scarce, and the quality of the gold found here significantly dropped. Today, this ghost town is a hit with many tourists because it promises the grandeur and excitement of Arizona’s wild west. You can do a lot of fun activities here such as mine walks, train rides, and even ziplining. Once you’re done exploring the town, you can just hit back the Apache Trail Scenic Drive and proceed to your next destination.
Superstition Mountain Museum
You will find the Superstition Mountain Museum at the southwest end of the foothills of the mountains. Its visitors will learn more about the rich history of Arizona, starting with the story of the Apaches. This is a big museum. It’s actually a 12-acre spot with lots of exhibits that contain regional artifacts & folklore, plus an Elvis chapel on site. Check out their Jacob Waltz “Lost Dutchman” Exhibit if you want to know if the Dutchman’s Lost Mine really exists. You can examine different documents about the region closely. The Geological Exhibit also provides interesting rock samples and geological history of the Superstition Mountains. Lastly, you might be interested in learning about the human occupation of the Superstition Mountains traced back 10,000 to 12,000 years at the Native American Exhibit.
Many visitors will say this museum is tastefully done. It is due to the fact that this is a very interesting place where you can learn about history and enjoy fantastic views.
Canyon Lake may be the smallest among the Salt River Project lakes, but it’s still a great destination. If you’re traveling along the Apache Trail Scenic Drive, you need to at least stop here. The place features many great fishing areas, a beach area, as well as secluded areas where you can enjoy some peace and quiet. There are also steep cliffs that frame the lake, overseeing all the lake water activities done by some visitors. Canyon Lake is definitely inviting, and you will be tempted to boat, ski, fish, or just take it all in.
Since you’re only there for a quick stop or a day trip, you can proceed to the lake’s two boat launches or designated swimming areas. There are also three recreation sites that are open to fun water play activities. Just choose from the Boulder Creek Recreation Site, Acacia Picnic Site, or the Palo Verde Recreation Site.
That’s Not All… The Apache Trail Scenic Drive Stopovers Also Include…
Come on down! There is plenty to see and do at Tortilla Flat. This place was originally a small freight camp that became home to a small community for many years. To this day, only a small part of the original town remains, but the remaining part is distinctly authentic Old West. This charming little town may not have a lot to offer, but it gives the road trippers a chance to enjoy a break and stretch their legs.
If you visit Tortilla Flat, you can check out their restaurant and saloon, BBQ Patio, or check out the Mercantile & Gift Shop. You also shouldn’t miss the Country Store where you can indulge in a scoop of the famous Prickly Pear Gelato. Aside from the ice cream, some of their signature menu items include the Prickly Pear BBQ Sauce and Tortilla Flat “Killer Chili” packets.
Tonto National Monument
You might be used to seeing caves that are around to below ground level. But have you ever seen a cave up high? If you’re a history buff, you will surely appreciate seeing the cliff dwellings of the Salado communities dating back from 1250–1450. The well-preserved ancient ruins can be found within well-protected natural caves overlooking the Tonto Basin. There are two cliff dwellings here, with the lower dwelling open to the public (half a mile up a steep path), and the upper cliff open via guided tours only. If you think about it, the Tonto National Monument is a great stop off the Apache Trail Scenic Drive.
Arizona Museum of Natural History
The Arizona Museum of Natural History exhibits the natural and cultural history of the Southwestern United States. On top of that, it is the only natural history museum you can find in the Phoenix area. With that said, don’t be surprised to find some really amazing artifacts. There are many preserved amazing creatures, and you’ll also enjoy the native American section. You can even find cool history about this area of the country as well.
The place is generally ideal if you’re looking to spend an unforgettable family bonding time. Enjoy looking at the flash flood cascading down a three-story mountain inside a museum. It truly is an amazing sight. You will also see Tom the soft-shelled turtle, including a live Gila monster. Pan for gold in the History Courtyard, or be in awe of the hands-on adventure for all ages in the Exploration Station. You will always find something new to discover here.
There are 60,000 objects of natural history, anthropology, history & art here, as well as 10,000 historic photographs here. There’s surely a lot to learn.
The Wilderness Views Will Along The Way Will Be a Complete Delight
Don’t think that just because you failed to stop at any of the destinations listed above means your trip will be a waste. You will still have a good time! In fact, the wilderness views will amaze you and make you wish you can “get out there” in nature. Imagine driving solo and seeing a beautiful view such as this, won’t that make you stop and relax?
Just look at the shot of the road as it continues down. The lush greenery will comfort you even if you’re tired from driving all day.
The roads may be unpaved, but the views are still stunning. In fact, you couldn’t ask for anything more. Everything looks perfect. You just need to stop and appreciate the moment.
If you want more picturesque views, you should take a look at these Arizona wedding venues with stunning mountain backdrops. You will also be in awe of this mansion that is considered a signature piece of desert architecture.
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