While we were staying in Gold Canyon Arizona in March we were only fifteen minutes from the Apache Trail. This designated scenic route is a great day trip and offers a variety of things to do. You can the entire route in one day, but it would be aggressive if you wanted to see/do everything. We did one full day and several half days.
UPDATE: Since a washout of the road in December 2019, Apache Road north of Tortilla Flat is now closed due to the collapse, but the road from the south by Canyon Lake (where you can access the Dolly Streamer) is open and fun to drive!
I recommend the following route, for reasons that I’ll explain in a minute.
Goldfield Ghost Town
Start out in this is a cute little ghost town. It is fun for kids (and adults too). I think of it as a mini-Tombstone. It’s fun to walk around and explore an old cowboy haunt. There is a great guided walking tour where you learn the history of the mines surrounding the town.
(Side note: I was completely unaware of how much mining takes place in Arizona. It is one of their 5 “C’s” citrus (which I learned about from Jim Seley): climate, cotton, cattle, and copper. When we hit the end of the Apache Trail and drove back to Gold Canyon we drove through several active mining towns.)
Back to Goldfield. There is also a train tour and several shops and a steakhouse. The best part is the cowboys who put on a little show a couple of times a day.
It is a carefree start to your day on the Apache Trail.
The next stop is Canyon Lake. You can check it out from a lookout on your way there. Once you get there, you can camp, boat, picnic, etc. But one of the best things to do is take the Dolly Steamboat tour. This 90-minute boat trip is a great way to see native animals in the area. Of course, they don’t guarantee you will, but if you go on the 10 a.m. or 4 p.m. cruise you have a greater chance. They do 12:00 and 2:00 as well as sunset dinner cruises.
We saw 5 eagles and a whole herd of Bighorn Sheep. From babies to big guys it was pretty exciting to see them jump from cliff to cliff above us.
You can buy your tickets online (which I recommend) or at the ticket office, either way, you’ll want to get there early because you exchange your tickets for a boarding pass and they board in groups. So to get a table or the best spot for wildlife viewing you’ll want to be in the first group of 25.
P.S. The staff is extremely kind and courteous, the captain personally greeted every single person and shook their hand goodbye at the end.
Last call for food, drink, or ice cream! Tortilla Flat is a tiny 6 person town with a restaurant and store. They serve one mean hamburger which you can enjoy along with tunes from the in-house band.
The first time we hit the Apache Trail it had just rained and Tortilla Flat was the end of the road as access for the remaining trail was cut off by water.
Tortilla Flat is where the paved road ends and the dirt road begins.
The Apache Trail
Okay. So the reason I told you to start from the Goldfield side is once you leave Tortilla Flat and you begin the dirt trail for the next 30 something miles you will be on the side of the road that hugs the cliff. Trust me, you want to be hugging the cliff.
If you start from the Roosevelt Dam side, you will be on the outside of the road with little or no protection looking down onto sheer drops at gut-wrenching heights. Mr. Misadventures drove that direction by himself one day and he was spooked by it, so I cannot imagine what it would have been like to be in the passenger seat!
Already this part of the route is not for the faint of heart. It is not wide enough for two cars to pass. We saw people with regular cars and even trailers and I pretty much think they’re nuts!
Partway through is a great picnic spot at Apache Lake Resort on Apache Lake. The resort has an area open to the public with picnic tables right on the water. It’s a nice place for a break, to restore your nerves (the worst of the trail is over) and enjoy the beautiful lake.
Roosevelt Dam and Bridge
The last stop on the Apache Trail is the Roosevelt Dam. It’s not open to the public but there is an overlook where you can check it out. If you walk down the hill from the parking lot there is an older cliff overhang that is perfect for capturing the Roosevelt bridge.
The trail ends there and for us, we continued down Highway 60 through the mining towns of Globe and Superior heading back to Gold Canyon in the direction of Phoenix.
The Apache Trail has got a great mixture of thrills, entertainment, and beautiful scenery and if you are in the Phoenix area I recommend it for a nice day trip or scenic drive.
How about you? Have you been on the Apache Trail in Arizona? What did you do? Did we miss something? If not do you have a trail like this near where you live? Do tell!
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