Blazing the Apache Trail
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!
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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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And the WASA Sourdough is so good!
Wow, what a shot of that bridge! I’m with you on the cliff-hugging roads though — definitely not for me.
Those sheep are awesome! I would love to see big animals out in the wild like that. The rock formations are very cool looking and we the ghost town looks fun. We have a place similar to that a few hours from home and I have fond memories of visiting when I was a kid.
That looks like it was an amazing experience. I love exploring new places and will be adding this to my travel bucket list. Your pictures of the area are beautiful.
The photos are like picture postcards- what amazing scenery! We have never been out west… well, not exactly. We flew to California and went to Disneyland, but never got to see any landscapes like this. Someday we will go!
How gorgeous is that place?! I have always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon with my kids, but we haven’t made it yet. I have never seen it myself either. What a fun trip that would be!
Wow, the Apache Trail looks amazingly beautiful. The landscape is stunning! I would love to get the chance to visit one day and explore the trail.
That Ghost Town looks like an adorable and fun place to explore. Our kids recently went to a Ghost Town with their Grandparents in Phoenix, and loved it. Looks like a fun trip!
I’ve been to Arizona several times and have never heard of the Apache trail. Now I’m intrigued to check it out. That ghost town looks cute, and the scenery in your photos is breathtaking.
Hey I am planning a trip to the Grand Canyon and the Antelope Wave— this Apache trail seems interesting too so I would give it a try. I love how you took a picture of the bridge with the reflection on the water. Nice shot.
Very beautiful photos! Would love to experience the apache trails!
I love hiking and this trail looks fantastic. I would love to see the ghost town and also have that burger in the tiny 6 people village too. The ghost town looks like one of those western movies that I used to watch on TV when I was little.
I have not been to the apache trail but definitely want to go some day. I will take note of your hint to leave the Roosevelt dam at the end of the tour so as not to be driving on the outside part of the road.
I love the landscape out west. You captured some amazing photos of it. I’ve always wanted to visit and old west ghost town. I’ll have to add that to my list.
We love Arizona!! This sounds and looks like an amazing trail! It’s now on our to do list. Hiking and a ghost town will be the perfect combination for my little guy!
These photos remind my of the old westerns I used to watch with my dad. The red outback of the USA is very different to the Aussie version. I have only seen Red Rock Canyon so far but I really hope I get to see more.
I would love to visit here. I just love the ghost town and would love to take the boat ride and see the wild life. The food and show also sounds like fun. Thank you so much for sharing