When we first started as full-time RVers, we were very fortunate to have friends that had been living in their rig for 18 years as guides to what they loved in the West. One of the gems that they told us about was Tortilla Flat Campground just East of Phoenix. This campground has become one of our all time favorite place to camp whenever we are in the area.
Tortilla Flat Campground is located in Tortilla Flat, AZ, which is the last surviving stagecoach stop along the Apache Trail. Tortilla Flat is presumed to be Arizona’s smallest official “community” having a U.S. Post Office and voter’s precinct. The town has a population of 6.
Tortilla Flat can be reached by vehicles on State Route 88, via Apache Junction.
There is disagreement about how it started and when or how it was named, but it became a larger community in 1904 when the construction of the Roosevelt Dam was started, and a stagecoach stop was needed for the construction workers. Following the construction of the road, Roosevelt Dam became a big tourist attraction. At that point, Tortilla Flat was a stage stop for tourists and mail carriers through the 1930s. At one point there was even a school with 14 students.
A flood in 1942 badly damaged the town, and many residents moved away. Today Tortilla Flat has a small store, museum and restaurant, which were constructed in the late 1980s after a fire consumed the existing store and restaurant on the same site. The rebuilt schoolhouse is now the museum.
A visit to Tortilla Flat isn’t complete without a stop in the Superstition Restaurant & Saloon. The decor will send you back in time. It has saddles for bar stools (fun to see, but not the most comfortable bar stools in the world) and walls of dollar bills from around the world. The food is great, too. The Saloon may be small but it attracts over 1 million visitors a year and is worth visiting. Next door to the saloon is a small market that sells firewood, water, and ice.
Tortilla Flat Campground
Tortilla Flat Campground is nestled in a valley between soaring cliffs of igneous rock. These cliffs reflect the sunlight, allowing brilliant sunrises and sunsets.
Tortilla Flat Campground is located in Tonto National Forest about 18 miles northeast of Apache Junction on State Route 88 (known as Apache Trail to the locals). Tortilla Campground is fairly easily accessed and makes a great spring or late fall camping get away from the Phoenix.
Tortilla campground does not offer much in the way of privacy, but the scenery is great. It is set in a desert canyon with access to plenty of hiking and nearby lakes. Canyon Lake and Marina is located two miles west and includes public boat launches and picnic/fishing sites, a restaurant, excursion boats and boat rentals.
The entrance to Tortilla Campground is located across from the famous Superstition Restaurant & Saloon, which is only a short walk from all of the campsites, should you get a craving for a meal that you don’t have to cook.
Tortilla Campground has been a winter campground. Recently, however, it has been closed during the winter because of financial stresses. We hope that will change soon so that we can once again enjoy winter camping here. Meanwhile, it continues to be a delightful place in the Spring and Fall. Be sure to call them for current camping schedules. 1-877-444-6777
We placed our bird feeder in the Palo Verde tree next to our rig and immediately attracted a multitude of desert birds.
The campground is large yet compact, with campsites close to each other. However, every campsite has a view of the surrounding desert, some with views of mountain peaks and cliffs.
There are 77 campsites, each offering picnic tables, fire rings with grills, and access to bathrooms. The latest website info from 2014 states that toilets and water are available only from April 30 to September 30. Check with the Tonto National Forest for the latest information. The cost is $12.00 per vehicle. 10 sites are reservable/67 sites are first-come-first-serve. The stated maximum length is 30 feet, but our 35 foot rig fit just fine. Maximum stay is 14 days.
To make reservations for this campground or request information, contact www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.
Open Season: April 30 – September 30
Closed annually from October 1 – April 30 During this time the reduction in services includes no vehicle access, trash pick-up, no available toilets, and no drinking water where water was previously provided. This is new as of 2014, so check to see if this applies in 2016.
There is no telephone or cell phone reception at this facility, but there is a public cellular credit card phone (emergency 911) at Tortilla Flat located outside the entrance road; the closest alternate public telephone is 18 miles away in Apache Junction
The 327-ft. Theodore Roosevelt Dam and Lake are 25 miles beyond Tortilla Flat along the scenic byway. Tonto National Monument, which has well-preserved Puebloan cliff dwellings from the 13th to 15th centuries, is about 8 miles south of the dam.
How to get there
Tortilla Flat is located 18 miles northeast of Apache Junction on Arizona State Hwy. 88 which is the historic Apache Trail. From Mesa, take US 60 to the Idaho Road exit. Go north to State Hwy. 88 and turn right. Continue past Canyon Lake for almost 2 miles. Turn left into the campground at Tortilla Flat.
The entire route is paved from Apache Junction to Tortilla Flat. However, it is narrow and has sharp curves, so take your time. We drove it with our 35 foot Pace Arrow towing a toad and had no problems. Traffic can be heavy at times. The drive to the campground provides beautiful views of the Superstition Wilderness.