Nov 16th, 2011 | By | Category: Senior Travel

The Apache Trail Intrigues Seniors

My wife and I enjoy visiting Arizona countryside.  One of the highlights of our several trips was taking one of America’s premiere scenic drives called the Apache Trail, said to be “one of the most spectacular best-worth-seeing sights in the world.” The Trail took us all way to Roosevelt Dam, to Globe and back to Phoenix.  It’s a famed road, not as well-known as Route 66, but in Arizona it is one of the most adventurous trips that seniors can make. It is a thoroughly classic drive that churns upwards through the Superstition Mountains.

In 1911 President Theodore Roosevelt compared the Apache Trail to the beauty of Yellowstone or Yosemite. The circular drive starts in Apache Junction. Somewhere in this region is the famed Lost Dutchman Mine as well as the Lost Dutchman State Park. Its name, Lost Dutchman, refers to the old prospector, Jacob Waltz, who died without revealing the location of his fabled gold mine, deep in the Superstition Mountains.

Seniors Find Adventure, Thrills and Scenic Views on the Trail

The Apache Trail twists and turns through contorted canyons and desert saguaro forests. It features twenty unpaved miles between Tortilla Flat and Roosevelt Dam, including the tortuous and thrilling drop down Fish Creek Hill. The route drops about 900 feet in a mile into Fish Creek Canyon. When you drive the entire trail taking Arizona Hwy 88 to the dam and back to Phoenix via Globe (AZ), plan on one full day.

Besides the towering Superstition Mountains, the first attraction on Hwy 88 is the Goldfield Ghost Town, about 4.5 miles north of Apache Junction. Then you will come across Superstition Mountain Museum that collects, preserves and displays the artifacts, history and folklore of the Superstition Mountains, Apache Junction and the surrounding region.  We enjoyed learning about the local lore and history of this area.  Perhaps nowhere in the entire United States is there an area as full of legend, history and intrigue as the rugged 160,000 acre Superstition Mountains.

You will want to stop at Tortilla Flat where a century ago mules pulling loads of construction material for the Roosevelt Dam were switched for fresh animals. Today you will find a museum, an old post office and  a famous restaurant and watering hole that has bills from all over the world plastered to the walls with visitor’s names on each one. The specialty there called Prickly-Pear Ice Cream is worth a try.

This historic road covers some of the most rugged terrain in Arizona. The land surrounding the road rises steeply to the north to form the Four Peaks Wilderness Area and to the south to form the Superstition Wilderness Area. Steep-sided canyons, rock outcroppings and magnificent geologic formations are all along the road.

On the way up to Roosevelt Dam you will come to three gorgeous lakes, Canyon Lake, Apache Lake and Roosevelt Lake. Once you arrive at the dam you will want to view it from the lower side… it is awesome.

Near the dam is the Tonto National Monument that was occupied by cliff dwellers, the Salido people during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. The monument is just 4 miles east of the dam on Arizona 188.  The two-story ruin originally had 19 rooms; these are quite well-preserved and it is permitted to walk around the inside.

Originally, the only access was by ladder leading to an entrance at the far left of the structure, which made the settlement easy to defend. The second (Upper) ruin is larger, with 40 rooms, but further away and visitors must be accompanied by a ranger. Conducted tours need to be booked in advance for the 3 mile round trip. This photo shows how the ruins were attached to the side of the rocky slope.

We took the drive in our car which is not a four wheel drive. If you take your time, no problem.  The first part of the drive is paved… then it is all gravel.  Nevertheless it can be made with caution, we did it easily and it will prove to be a very memorable trip. You first travel through the desert as you begin your climb.  Then it is turn left, turn right, climb up, climb down.  I asked my wife many times…”Isn’t this the same curve we just went around?”
Have a great day on the trail, we did!   jeb

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