Apache Trail Historic Route – AZ 88 in Arizona

The Apache Trail Historic Road, also known as AZ 88, east of Phoenix boasts great historical, cultural, and scenic importance. It runs 116 kilometers from Apache Junction to Globe-Miami, where the 63-kilometer Gila-Pinal Scenic Road connects directly, which leads back to Phoenix.

Between Apache Junction and Tonto National Monument, the Apache Trail is one of the most scenic routes in the United States. The adventurous ride is an unforgettable western experience. Theodore Roosevelt said at the inauguration of the dam named after him: “The Apache Trail brings together the greatness of the Alps, the splendor of the Rocky Mountains and the splendor of the Grand Canyon.”

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The Apache Trail follows an old Apache path through the canyons of the Salt River, but leads higher up on the canyon side because the canyon is now partially drowned in the floods of the Salt River and the lakes that subsequently formed. Shortly after 1900 it was laid out as a supply route for the construction of the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. Today it runs along a number of attractive state parks and small towns and provides access to the beautiful Superstition Mountains.


After a short drive along the panorama route, Goldfield Ghost Town reached, a former gold rush town of the Wild West with a heyday in the 1890s, which was rebuilt as a backdrop. Visitors can tour a rattlesnake zoo, explore the abandoned houses, or take a loved one to the local prison and hang it up in public – just for fun, of course. The town had almost 5,000 residents between 1890 and 1915, until the gold boom ended almost overnight. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., longer on summer weekends.

Back in the car, the path continues to Lost Dutchman State Park with idyllic camping opportunities and hiking trails on the edge of the Superstition Mountains. Adventurers go in search of the legendary mine of the German gold prospector Jacob Waltz. Treasure hunters from all over the world are still trying to find the disappeared tunnels in the mountains. Jacob Waltz was thought to be a Dutchman, hence the name “Dutchman”. He is said to have found rich gold deposits here in the 1880s. The state park is located in the middle of a desert landscape at the foot of the Flatiron massif. Rewarding trails lead through the desert landscape out to the rocks:

  • Siphon Draw Trail
  • 6 miles one way; 110 meters ascent to the Palmer Mine, 845 meters to the summit of Flatiron; Time required about 2 – 3 hours. The trail begins at the Camping Area (path no.53) with a view of Goldfield and Phoenis. The last part to the rock summit is very steep and strenuous.
  • Treasure Loop Trail
  • 4 miles round trip; Slope about 150 meters; time needed 2 hours. Circular hike from one of the two picnic areas at the end of the Day Use Area on a clearly recognizable path uphill through a desert area with many Saguaro cacti to the Green Boulder, a rock at the foot of the Flatiron. Way back parallel to the ascent path.

The Scenic Byway continues into the wilderness of the Superstition Mountains to Tortilla Flat. Here, guests of the only small restaurant have given dollar bills their names and stuck them on the walls as a souvenir for the owner. In the meantime, over 15,000 US dollars are hanging in the room as wall decorations in this restaurant. The mini ghost town with its western facades could be the setting of a western film. Even the dilapidated motel is just a backdrop. It is the last outpost of civilization before the start of the dusty dirt road towards Apache Lake.

The Superstition Mountains (superstition = superstition) consist mostly of volcanic rock and were born 35 to 15 million years ago. Huge eruptions initially distributed almost a thousand cubic kilometers of ash and lava over the country and led to the collapse of five partially overlapping calderas, which are largely no longer preserved as a result of the eruption. Later a new lava dome rose at the same point, which in turn has been severely eroded to this day and forms the mountain range, which today is dominated by block pinnacles, peaks and domes. The most famous landmark is the 1,382 m high Weaver`s Needle.

The sand run of the Apache Trail (sand, gravel and rubble) begins about 5 miles / 8 km behind Tortilla Flat. About 1.5 miles / 2.4 km further begins the steep, breakneck ascent down Fish Creek Hill (about 2 miles / 3 km long). This section of the route should only be driven in dry conditions and with a vehicle with sufficient ground clearance! The path is extremely narrow and you can easily slip on the loose scree when trying to brake. At the time of the stagecoach, the passengers had to run down the path to Fish Creek, the mules were harnessed to the rear of the coach to act as a live brake to prevent an unintentional descent.

There’s a nice view of Fish Creek Canyon below. From here it goes to the leisure oases Apache Lake and Roosevelt Lake to just before Globe-Miami, where the Apache Trail Historic Road ends and the Gila-Pinal Scenic Road begins. The narrow, winding, and unpaved road follows Apache Lake, wedged between canyons, for about ten miles. However, only the passenger can enjoy the view of the lake. The first access to the lake is at Apache Lake Marina, a boat harbor with a restaurant and campsite.

The Roosevelt Lake is a lake formed by the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. The dam holds back the water from Salt River and Tonto Creek. It is the tallest brick dam on earth, around 87 m high and 213 m long, completed in 1911. The lake is popular with anglers and water sports enthusiasts due to the tarred access road from Globe. The marina operates all year round. This is where the Gila-Pinal Scenic Road begins, continue on AZ 88 to Clayton and possibly return on US 60 (AZ 88 leads to the northeast, due US 60 – also known as the Old West Highway – to the southeast).

The first attraction on this route is the Tonto National Monument. The next stop is at Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaeological Park at. Those interested can stroll through the well-preserved remains of this Salado Indian apartment, use ladders to access the upper rooms and marvel at the numerous exhibits such as clay work and other household utensils from the period between 1225 and 1400.

On the way to Miami, Bloody Tanks Wash is passed, where a peaceful military meeting with the Apaches was to take place in 1864. After the military unexpectedly opened fire, 19 Indians were killed. Their blood colored the water of the pool and gave it its current name (bloody water tanks). The path continues through Devils Canyon and past Apache Leap, where, according to legend, 75 Indians fell to their deaths from the cliff so as not to fall into the hands of American soldiers.

West of Superior, at the end of this scenic drive, is the Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum State Park. Visitors gain a comprehensive insight into the flora and fauna as they can be found in deserts around the world.

Apache Trail Historic Route