by Blake Herzog
The improbable route has been used for centuries by the tribe it’s named after, among others. It was developed for vehicles to get supplies to Roosevelt Dam while it was being built in the early 1900s.
Sadly, the unpaved portion of the Apache Trail has been closed to traffic for nearly two years, since fires and flooding triggered landslides that blocked access to Apache and Roosevelt lakes. But there’s still a day’s worth of things to do along the first 18 miles. From west to east, the highlights are:
Superstition Mountain-Lost Dutchman Museum
This is the home of the Elvis Memorial Chapel and several other sets rescued from a nearby Western movie studio that burned down. Its 15 acres also have an in-depth exhibit on the Lost Dutchman legend, gold ore mills ranging from mule-drawn equipment on a simple circular track to a massive 20-stamp mill, a nature walk, Native American artifacts, and much more. www.superstitionmountainmuseum.org
Goldfield Ghost Town
Developed on the site of an 1890s mining town, today this ghost town is a collection of attractions and shops building off the legacy of the region including a mine tour by day and a ghost walk tour by night, a live reptile exhibit, a bordello tour, soaring zip line and, oh yes, a museum as well! Two of its crowd-pleasers, the 8-gauge railroad, and staged gunfights, are available during the winter season.
Lost Dutchman State Park
The sprawling park at the base of the mountains has a visitor center with natural exhibits and a gift shop, 10 hiking trails, a mountain biking trail and lots of wildlife found living in a wide variety of native vegetation. There are 138 campsites and five cabins, many catering to hikers and horseback riders who use the park’s trails to access the rugged Superstition Wilderness. These include a few intrepid mining enthusiasts, drawn by the secret stashes those imposing cliffs and canyons might still hold.
The reservoir sits 9 crooked miles north of the state park as you drive deeper into the foothills. One of the four reservoirs on the Salt River, this is probably the most picturesque, meeting the canyon walls after which it’s named. It has a year-round marina and campground and is popular with powerboat users, jet skiers, wind sailors, and others who make full use of its 950 or so acres of watery surface. The Dolly Steamboat continues to offer scenic tours as well.
The last surviving stage stop on the Apache Trail has a saloon and restaurant featuring its world-famous spicy chili, a country store with similarly beloved prickly pear gelato, and a mercantile showcasing locally made pottery, jewelry, and gifts. Just a couple of miles past Canyon Lake, it’s the perfect midpoint to sit at and relax before taking in even more spectacular vistas on the way back out!