Apache Trail: Canyon Lake, Tortilla Flat and Beyond

“a feller could meet hisself comin’ round one of them bends”

An historic road and a National Scenic Byway, the Apache Trail winds through, around, up, and down the Superstition Mountains. The 120-mile scenic route takes travelers through deserts, mountains, canyons, by cliff dwellings, along lake shores, and through old mining towns.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The road winds its way from Apache Junction, passing Canyon lake, Apache Lake, and Roosevelt Lake. It goes from Roosevelt Dam to Globe-Miami and then becomes US-60 and heads west to Superior and back to Apache Junction.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The greatest scenery lies within the first 44 miles from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Dam. The road winds through a very wild region showcasing wildlife, volcanic debris, and huge, layered buttes. It’s a trip into outback Arizona and back in time. It’s not a modern road and is paved just past Tortilla Flat. From there it’s a narrow dirt road until near Roosevelt Dam.

Apache Trail near Canyon Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Apache Trail was built as a haul and service road for the construction and maintenance of Roosevelt Dam. For the most part, it is a single-lane road with occasional pull-outs. In 1919, several stations stood along the trail to supply travelers with their needs. There was Government Well, Mormon Flat, Fish Creek Lodge, and Snell’s Station between Mesa and the dam. The completion of the Phoenix-Globe Highway through Superior in May 1922 allowed drivers to circumvent the entire Superstition Wilderness area, an almost roadless region.

Apache Trail and the Superstitions © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once past Apache Junction, the Superstitions dominate the road.

Apache Trail and Superstition Mountain Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 12.5-acre Superstition Mountain Museum collects, preserves, and displays the artifacts and history of these Superstition Mountains and surrounding area. Nature trails crisscross the area surrounding the museum buildings that include a Wells Fargo office, stage coach stop, barber shop, assay office, and other displays of authentic relics of this era. Museums in their own right, the Elvis Memorial Chapel and the Audie Murphy Barn were moved to the site, piece by piece, nail by nail, and reconstructed. 

Apache Trail and Goldfield Ghost Town © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearby, the Goldfield Ghost Town with the Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Mine Museum offers train rides and an Old West atmosphere. Shops and restaurants line the quaint streets. It was once a booming community of 5,000 with three saloons and a hotel. Most of the residents earned a living in 50-odd mines around the area in the 1890s. Goldfield offers an interesting guided tour of a reconstructed section of the Old Mammoth Mine.

Apache Trail and Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next you’ll pass the Lost Dutchman State Park, which is the starting point for several hiking trails and has a great campground with electric and water utilities and several picnic areas.

Apache Trail and Canyon Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A popular stop along the Apache Trail, Canyon Lake, with a surface area of 950 acres, is the third and smallest of four lakes created along the Salt River. Two others, Apache Lake and Roosevelt Lake, are upstream. Canyon Lake lies approximately 15 miles up the Apache Trail. 

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A short distance further, Tortilla Flat now has a permanent population of six but once boasted a school, hotel, general store, and about 125 residents. The Tortilla Flat Stage Stop became a tourist attraction many years ago. Fire destroyed many of the buildings in 1987. Most have been restored, though not like they originally were.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Five miles up from Tortilla Flat, the road turns to dirt, but the scenery gets even more spectacular. The trail is filled with many twists and turns. Old-timers claim “a feller could meet hisself comin’ round one of them bends.” High cliff walls stand watch over both sides of the road as it goes through Fish Creek Canyon.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fish Creek Hill is an experience in itself. It is steep, narrow, and slow going, but anyone can make it who drives with caution. The canyon narrows and then suddenly opens up to show a spectacular view of Geronimo Head.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next is Apache Lake, surrounded by towering cliffs and majestic saguaros. There’s an excellent view of the Painted Cliffs and Goat Mountain across the water. Apache Lake has an marina, motel, and restaurant all in one spot.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The road runs alongside Apache Lake as it nears Roosevelt Dam. There is a good view of the dam from near water level.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Apache Trail has stopping points to view the lake from above and take a good look at the bridge over Roosevelt Lake. At this spot one can head to Payson or stay on the trail to Roosevelt and Roosevelt Visitors Center operated by the Forest Service. The Tonto National Monument is just a few miles off the highway up in the mountains.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.

—Mark Yost

Catch Cactus League Spring Training

10 stadiums. 15 MLB teams. 75-degree temperatures.

Follow your favorite baseball teams to Arizona for Cactus League Spring Training and catch all the big league action you can handle. While you’re here, spend some time playing the Arizona outfield with all the incredible dining, shopping, outdoor activities, and incredible sights within easy driving distance of the Phoenix Metro area.


Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tempe’s casual cool attracts those who enjoy the exciting feel of a college town. Stroll historic Mill Avenue in downtown to find great nightlife, shops, and restaurants. Explore aquariums and museums, paddleboard or kayak on Tempe Town Lake. “A” Mountain is just a few minutes away from the lake.

Desert Botanical Garden © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Or enjoy the sunshine with a hike around Papago Park, just north of “A” Mountain and Tempe Town Lake. A desert preserve Papago is home to hiking and biking trails and attractions such as Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo, Pueblo Grande Museum, and Arizona Heritage Center.

Scottsdale / Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For the see and be seen scene, Scottsdale is the place to be. You’ll find luxurious resorts, chic nightlife, eclectic shopping, and award-winning dining, all with a splash of Southwestern charm. Scottsdale also has wonderful hikes and a booming art scene, so there’s no lack of entertainment even if you’re not a baseball buff.


Usery Mountain Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mesa is quickly becoming a foodie destination with its innovative, local cuisine. And when you’re not watching a game or munching goodies, swing away at one of the area’s many golf courses or explore miles of desert mountain trails in nearby Usery Mountain Regional Park, one of 13 Maricopa County Regional Parks. The spectacular desert mountain scenery here is breathtaking.

Glendale / Goodyear

Sports fans may recognize Glendale as home to Arizona’s NFL and NHL teams. This sports mecca entertainment district is like a mini urban amusement park, with restaurants, wine bars, and outlet shops.

Apache Junction

Apache Junction and the Superstition Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Apache Junction is a suburban desert community nestled in the shadows of the Superstition Mountains, It is the easternmost community in the Phoenix Metro area.  Each winter the city welcomes an estimated 35,000 snowbirds.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert, a few miles east of Apache Junction. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Starting in Apache Junction, the Apache Trail offers magnificent views of the Superstition Mountains with forests of saguaro and several blue lakes.Visit the old-west style settlement of Tortilla Flat.


Phoenix is a hotspot of urban action and family fun. Head downtown to discover hip restaurants and eateries, concerts with the biggest artists and up-and-coming bands, family-friendly museums, and so much more. Or tackle an urban hike-with sweeping city views-on Camelback Mountain or South Mountain.


Lake Pleasant Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Peoria is only about a half-hour northwest of Phoenix yet it’s flown under the radar until recently. Relaxed and family friendly, the Northwest Valley offers plenty of shopping, growing arts scene, and natural beauty. The cool blue Lake Pleasant is located in a Maricopa County regional park. The recreation area has campsites, hiking trails, boat ramps, and a Discovery Center where you can learn more about the area’s plants and wildlife.

Surprise / Litchfield Park

White Tank Mountains Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If you’re up for a little adventure, trek through trails in the nearby White Tank Mountains. Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park has Arizona’s largest collection of exotic and endangered animals, with more than 600 separate species, rides, a petting zoo, and daily shows.

Wildlife World Zoo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.
—George Will

Find Comfort and Warmth in these Snowbird Roosts

Expect a warm winter season at these popular snowbird destinations

Stop wishing winter away; ditch your wool socks, grab your sunglasses, and get ready to see a whole different side of winter in these destinations.

Suffering through a long winter season is optional. The endless summer is far more appealing—and doable in these popular winter RV destinations.

Laughlin, Nevada

Average high in February: 69 F

If your idea of a winter wonderland includes shorts weather and desert backdrops, then flap your snowbird wings and head to Laughlin. Sitting along the Colorado River, this Nevada hot spot has game rooms galore for those who get a thrill on the craps table, and endless nature for those who like to cast for striped bass and rainbow trout. No matter if you’re eyeing the buffet spreads or boating on nearby Lake Mohave, one thing is certain: Laughlin’s weather sure beats the frigid temperatures back home.

Snowbirds love to: Hike around the petroglyphs at Grapevine Canyon, and then chow down at one of the eateries in a riverside casino.

Harlingen, Texas

Average high in February: 73 F

Snowbirds are so prominent in this region that there’s a name for them: Winter Texans. Discover why they flock to the very southern tip of Texas with a visit to Harlingen, a southern city in the Rio Grande Valley. Just like people, birds migrate to this warm spot. Even in the height of winter, the mild weather affords you the opportunity to explore the Arroyo Colorado, where you can search for green jays and great kiskadees and 500 other species of birds that have been spotted in the area.

Snowbirds love to: Marvel at the masterpieces painted on the walls of downtown businesses, which are a part of the city’s beautifying Mural Project.

Phoenix, Arizona

Average high in February: 71 F

Snowbirds favor Phoenix. It’s not hard to figure out why. During the winter when the snow and rain flies up north, the Valley of the Sun offers up some of the greatest winter weather anywhere. Phoenix offers a variety of attractions that should satisfy some of the most discriminating tastes and leave some great life long memories.

One of the finest botanical gardens anywhere is in Papago Park. Home to one of the world’s largest cactus gardens, the variety of plants come from all over the world.

Snowbirds love to: Use their home base in the Phoenix area for day trips to Sedona, Prescott, the Grand Canyon, and to drive the Apache Trail.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Average high in February: 65 F

From dancing to shopping to exploring nature, Breaux Bridge offers a variety of activities for your enjoyment. It’s where food is almost a religion. Wander the quaint downtown streets of Breaux Bridge and you’ll find yourself transported back to a time before life became hectic. Breaux Bridge is the gateway to authentic Cajun culture in south Louisiana with traditional Cajun and funky Zydeco music, world-famous cuisine, and a rich history filled with interesting stories.

Snowbirds love to: Get up close and personal with ancient mossy cypress trees, majestic bodies of water, and of course, the alligators on an airboat tour of the Atchafalaya Basin.

Apache Junction, Arizona

Average high in February: 70 F

Apache Junction is a suburban desert community nestled in the shadows of the Superstition Mountains, 1,750 feet above sea level and 35 miles directly east of Phoenix.  It is the easternmost community in the Phoenix Metropolitan area.  Each winter the city welcomes an estimated 35,000 snowbirds. Starting in Apache Junction, the Apache Trail offers magnificent views of the Superstition Mountains with forests of saguaro and several blue lakes.

Snowbirds love to: Visit the old-west style settlement of Tortilla Flat.

Worth Pondering…

Recently I ran across a few lines by Pierre de Ronsard, a 16th-century poet: “Live now, believe me wait not till tomorrow. Gather the roses of life today.” Maybe it’s time to stop dreaming about that trip you’ve always wanted to make—and just do it!