The Apache Trail had its beginnings centuries ago as an aboriginal highway through the Superstition Mountains. It is Arizona’s oldest and most ancient highway. It was named the Apache Trail after the Apache Indians who later used this trail. It then became a stagecoach trail for western travelers. Tortilla Flat was a stage stop for tourists and mail carriers through the 1930s.
The Trail is a total of 78 miles and follows the course of the Salt River as it zigzags through a volcanic landscape of agaves and cacti. The narrow, winding road passes deep reservoir lakes like Canyon Lake and Apache Lake.
The “modern” The Apache Trail (State Rt. 88) was completed in 1905 to accommodate construction of Theodore Roosevelt Dam. It is paved from Apache Junction to Tortilla Flat and graded gravel from Tortilla Flat to the Roosevelt Dam.
The best part of the drive is the 27 miles of gravel road between the Flats and the Dam. There are hairpin turns, magnificent vistas, and steep grades along Fish Creek Hill to the dam and Theodore Roosevelt Lake. It is easily managed by a car, but should not be attempted by an RV past the paved section.
It is an excellent one-day trip. Take a picnic lunch or consider stopping at the Superstition Restaurant & Saloon in Tortilla Flat for a bite to eat and a visit to the store and museum.
The pictures speak for themselves. If you are in the area, don’t miss this spectacular day trip. Or make it a longer vacation by staying in the Tortilla Flat Campground.
The Roosevelt Dam was one of the original five federal projects authorized on March 14, 1903, under the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902, It was the first major project to be completed under the new federal reclamation program. Construction on Roosevelt Dam began in 1903 just below the confluence of Tonto Creek and the Salt River. The primary purpose of the project was to provide water storage for the Salt River Project and flood control through the Salt River Valley.
How to get there
The Apache Trail starts in Apache Junction as Arizona State Hwy. 88 and continues to State Rd 188 at the Roosevelt Dam. From Mesa, AZ take US 60 to the Idaho Road exit. Go north to State Hwy. 88 and turn right and begin your adventure.