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Arizona's Apache Trail Drive

Apache Junction to Globe and Return

Not for the fainthearted, this circle drive takes up only 85 miles of driving but is an experience you will never forget. A handy day-trip from the Phoenix area, the drive is launched from Apache Junction about 25 miles east of downtown Phoenix (17 miles east of Tempe) and begins with Arizona Route 88 (Idaho Road), heading northeast. The Apache Trail ends in Globe, an historic mining community. From there, the return drive to Apache Junction and Phoenix is through the desert passing a fascinating southwestern arboretum.

Along the Drive

The 46 miles between Apache Junction and Roosevelt Lake provides not only the most scenic part of the trip but also the most thrilling (some say heart-pounding) driving. The route is paved and relatively easy until just past Tortilla Flat -- at the 18-mile mark -- passing several points of interest including Lost Dutchman State Park and Goldfield, a commercial ghost town across the road from the park. You pass by Saguaro Lake (part of the Salt River system) and drive through the Canyon Lake Recreation Area, with camping and picnicking available.

Apache Junction to Globe, AZAfter arriving at the Theodore Roosevelt Dam site, the rest of the drive is easy. Paved highway greets you and you drive eastward near the lake, past the entrance to the Tonto National Monument (picnicking and a trail to the cliff dwellings). Twenty nine miles past the dam and you're in Globe, the center of mining in the state.

The return drive to Apache Junction is along U.S. Highway 60, through the Tonto National Forest with mountains to the north and south. and finally to Phoenix across bare desert.

Drive Highlights

Lost Dutchman State Park
East of Apache Junction, on Arizona Route 88, this park has 35 campsites, water and a dump station. A good place to stay before and after "doing" the Apache Trail.

Goldfield Ghost Town
A commercial attraction -- a minuscule theme park -- with saloons, cafes, and mining displays.

Needle Vista Point
Views of the valleys and the cactus-dominated landscape.

Canyon Lake Recreation Area
There are several recreation sites with boat ramps, marinas, viewpoints, and camping. Tortilla Flat is a funky little village with false-fronted buildings set beside the lake.

Apache Lake
The highway is set high above this reservoir. The road makes its way down to the bottom before ascending again to Lake Roosevelt. Apache Lake Marina is reached by taking Forest Road 79.

Roosevelt Lake & Dam
The Theodore Roosevelt Dam is an impressive work of construction that seems to be continually upgraded, with periodic holdups on the road before you join the main highway (Route 88). Arizona Route 188 leads north along the lake with access to five Forest Service campsites.

Tonto National Monument
The Sinagua Indian cliff dwelling looks down on Lake Roosevelt. There is a visitor center and picnic area with lake views. A trail leads to the ruins. It's along Arizona Route 88.

Picket Post Mountain
On U.S. Highway 60, A landmark and lookout point during Indian wars, The Highway site of the Camp Pinal Outpost at the end of Stoneman Grade to the east. Soldiers protected Pinal City and the Silver King Mine from Apache Raiders. It was the home of Col. William Boyce Thompson, a mining magnate who founded the Southwestern Arboretum at the foot of the mountain.

Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum
This outstanding garden is a state park, on U.S. Highway 60. In addition to southwestern American trees, shrubs, and flowers, the park features collections of cacti and other plants from around the world. There is a plant shop at the arboretum entrance, with many varieties of palms, cacti, and other desert plants available for purchase. Plant lovers should not miss this attraction, and a full day can be well spent picnicking and walking the paths of this impressive park.

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