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Apache Trail Scenic Byway

Superstition Mountains Area, Arizona

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Apache Trail Scenic Byway

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  • The Apache Trail winding across the desert with Superstition Mountain (5,059') in the distance. This is a southern view from a high point off of one of the many roadside scrambles.- Apache Trail Scenic Byway
  • Looking north from the same point.- Apache Trail Scenic Byway
  • The approach into Canyon Lake.- Apache Trail Scenic Byway
  • Canyon Lake.- Apache Trail Scenic Byway
  • Another roadside scramble. The tallest mountain in the region, Four Peaks (7,659'), can be seen in the distance.- Apache Trail Scenic Byway
  • - Apache Trail Scenic Byway
  • - Apache Trail Scenic Byway
  • Countless cacti along the Apache Trail.- Apache Trail Scenic Byway
  • - Apache Trail Scenic Byway
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Roadside parking. Numerous short scrambles.
Cons: 
Very few defined trails off of the road. Many power lines.
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Region:
Superstition Mountains Area, AZ
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Contributor

The Apache Trail is a 40-mile scenic byway section of Arizona Highway 88 that weaves through the Superstition Mountains between Lost Dutchman State Park and Theodore Roosevelt Lake to the east of Phoenix. A little more than half of this road is an unpaved, dirt road; however, just the 15-mile drive from Lost Dutchman to the Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flat area will offer dozens of opportunities for short scrambles that offer impressive views of the pristine old-growth desert and the Superstition Mountains, as well as the road that traverses them. Note that this adventure does not include the more remote and unpaved sections that continue from Tortilla Flat to Theodore Roosevelt Lake.

From the sprawling Phoenix metropolitan area one can head east on US-60 (or Loop 202 for North Phoenix/Scottsdale residents) toward Apache Junction, where the Superstition Mountains tower above the area. Follow signs for Lost Dutchman State Park all the way until the entrance, which you will pass. This is the entrance to the Four Peaks Wilderness, where the scenic byway officially begins winding through dozens of hairpin corners and single lane segments. It is about 10 miles from here to Canyon Lake, the first of the three major reservoirs one will pass on this road. Canyon Lake offers grassy lakefront campgrounds for RVs and tents alike, as well as a boat launch and a marina where one can rent boats for the day to cool off from the Arizona heat.

On the way to Canyon Lake, look for numerous gravel pull-outs on both sides of the road. There are unmarked but moderately traversed short scrambles with mild elevation gain that offer some visibility of the road and your vehicle for most of the way. If you have more time, there are trailheads that offer hikes around the region in addition to an interpretive trail with a viewpoint of Weavers Needle, a 1000-foot tall volcanic column.

If you drive Apache Pass all the way through to Theodore Roosevelt Lake, it is about twice the distance to return back to Phoenix on either of the two alternate routes; both are paved and nowhere near as windy, however. Taking AZ-188 south to Globe from the town of Roosevelt is the best option for most, although taking it north to the junction with AZ-87 near Rye will be the best route for those in Scottsdale and the other northern Phoenix suburbs.

As with any activity in the wilderness in southern Arizona, be very informed about the weather as you plan you trip. There is no water anywhere in the region, and the desert can be incredibly hot all year. Travel with your own water. Also, rainstorms during the monsoon season can be a hazard. The desert does not absorb these downpours, and flash floods and unnavigable roads can result.

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