Apache Trail – visit it and imagine riding a horse or walking through the rugged, arid, desolate, mountainous Arizona terrain. There’s nothing in sight except foreboding mountains for 160,000 acres; yet so much is hidden here. Looking out over the terrain for as far as the eye can see, only steep rocky hills with skin-ripping cactus growing in the rocks are visible. Pretend you are hunting for the gold treasure hidden in these mountains, the Superstition Mountains. Or simply take a DETOURS American West 1-day tour of Apache Trail where Geronimo once roamed.
Apache Trail – See the History
Much history and folklore, all related to the gold, is associated with the Apache Trail. Years ago, the Pima Indians discovered gold in these mountains; after the Pimas were defeated by the Apaches, the Apaches hid the gold in the Superstition Mountains. While the Spanish Conquistadors came in the 1500s looking for the ‘City of Gold’ (Cibola), neither they nor many treasure seekers after them found the hidden gold. Only Jacob Waltz, the ‘Lost Dutchman,’ supposedly found it. Although many have searched for the Lost Dutchman Mine, to date nobody has found it. The area is called Superstition Mountains due these stories of the lost gold, coupled with the pinnacles of the Superstitions being a Sacred Indian burial ground.
Apache Trail offers up beautiful western scenery that delights the senses. Visualize yourself riding up the Apache Trail deeper into the rugged dry, Superstition Mountains. Lo and behold a mountain lake appears. Suddenly you realize there may be life out here near the water. Continue climbing up the mountain road in search of life and the hidden gold, in today’s Tonto National Park.
DISCLAIMER: Many thanks to DETOURS American West – for hosting us on this tour. While we were hosted at no charge, we received no payment for this post, and this post is our honest opinion of DETOURS and their Apache Trail Tour.
The Apache Trail Tour
When joining a tour with DETOURS American West to see the Apache Trail, no horse is needed; instead, be picked up at a hotel in the Phoenix, Scottsdale, or Mesa and explore in a small van. A DETOURS driver/guide, who knows the history and lore of the area, regales visitors with the stories of the area – current day, history, folk and Indian lore. Visitors experience the beauty of the Sonoran Desert while relaxing in air-conditioned comfort, taking in the sights.
If we hadn’t been invited by DETOURS to see the Apache Trail, we would have missed the Apache Trail, Tonto National Park, Canyon Lake, and this fascinating slice of history. The original Apache Trail was a footpath through the Superstition Mountains and now is one of the most scenic drives and best ways to experience the Sonoran Desert.
Tortilla Flat on the Apache Trail
Our first stop after an hour’s scenic drive with commentary, stories, and local history is Tortilla Flat, just past Canyon Lake and recreation area. Here it’s time to check out the scenery, overlooks, and a western town consisting of just 6 buildings with the requisite saloon. This is the best opportunity for purchasing lunch. Or buy snacks at the General Store; although, I highly recommend real sustenance since there is little time at other stops for ordering food in a restaurant. At Tortilla Flats, you’ll see buildings, murals and relics reminiscent of a small western town. Don’t miss the artwork in the bathrooms and the walls papered with dollar bills, both in the saloon!
After refreshments in Tortilla Flats, DETOURS takes the group to the Dolly Steamboat for a 1.5 hour 6-mile cruise on calm and scenic Canyon Lake, part of the Apache Trail.
Glide over the smooth waters while enjoying the scenic natural landscape.
Watch the rocky cliffs for wildlife. Spot the bald eagles on the mountain tops and nesting too – very exciting! Keep eyes peeled for the majestic big horn sheep families grazing amongst the mountain cactus. Coots and ducts are often visible near the shorelines, and an occasional coyote – what a terrific way to see the indigenous fauna!
In addition to the noontime cruise, the Dolly Steamboat also offers Twilight Dinner Cruises and evening Astronomy Dinner Cruises.
On your way down the mountain, visit the gun-fighting western town of Goldfield; DETOURS transports visitors to the last stop in the Ghost Town of Goldfield. Goldfield was once a miners’ dream. After the gold rush ended, Goldfield became a ghost town. Walk down the main street to see shops, attractions and historic buildings. Watch a street gunfight; visit the Mammoth Gold Mine or museum. Pan for gold and check out the bordello.
Goldfield draws lots of visitors so it can be quite busy. If you are lucky, it may be possible to get a table and food at the saloon here before the tour leaves; it was too busy when we visited on a Sunday in February. Instead of a hearty lunch, we ate scrumptious baked goods at the local bakery – an excellent splurge!
For a fabulous day in the Wild West, contact DETOURS American West, and take an all-day Apache Trail Tour. Let them do the driving while you imagine yourself on a horse in an earlier era. Best of all, the informative narration by the guide makes the trip extremely worthwhile! We highly recommend DETOURS American West for your tour guide to the American Southwest. See some of our other American West excursions at Arizona Attractions.