Apache Trail – Explore the Best of Eastern Arizona

Superstition Mountains Apache Trail, Goldfield, AZApache 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

Saguaro and mountain, Apache Trail, Tortilla Flat, AZMuch 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.

Canyon Lake, AZ, on the Apache TrailApache 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

DeTours American West guided tour of the Apache TrailWhen 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!

Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake, AZ, on the Apache TrailAfter 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.

Goldfield

Shootout re-enactment in Goldfield Ghost Town on the Apache TrailOn 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 Ghost Town on the Apache TrailGoldfield 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!

Conclusion

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.

45 thoughts on “Apache Trail – Explore the Best of Eastern Arizona

  1. Glad I came across your blog. This is such a detailed and informative post. Thank you for writing such a beautiful blog post. The information given here are very useful to all. Your photos are absolutely STUNNING! and each of these places sound unique and stunning in their own way. Once again thank you very much.
    Keep up the good work and enjoy 🙂

    • If you are going to AZ soon, check out my 2 previous posts on the top 11 things to do in and around Flagstaff. So many interesting things to do and see in northern AZ, all within a drive of Flagstaff.

  2. Thank you Wendy for sharing details of your experience about Apache Trail Tour. Choosing the right operator is never easy as you don’t know how the experience will be! Love it when you say “Let them do the driving while you imagine yourself on a horse in an earlier era” :). Looking forward to this tour.

  3. The Trail has a fascinating history with its connections to the First Nations People of the area not to mention the Roosevelt dam. Interesting stuff to say the least about US history.

  4. This reminds me of the old western movies of when I was a kid with John Wayne or Clint Eastwood in Rawhide. I always saw myself as some kind of Lone Ranger riding those trails.

    • It does remind us of the same. When we visited Monument Valley in Northeastern Arizona on the Navajo Reservation, that was even more of a reminder of the old westerns.

  5. This is perfect!! As of right now I will be heading to Arizona in March 2019, and it would be amazing to take a day trip here! T

    • Contact DETOURS American West to get the most out of your day trip. Also pack you food/snacks in case the restaurants are too crowded.

    • I read about it and had a vague idea of the Apache Trail. We were interested in spending lots of time exploring the Native American history so this was a fun way to learn about the early years. We did another 3 weeks of travel to many of the Native American ruins and active Pueblos in Arizona and New Mexico. Check back in August and September when I write about them.

      This isn’t one of the places heavily promoted in Arizona travel, but it should be.

  6. Apache Trail looks extremely fascinating and more like a time travel to explore the lost gold mines in Superstition Mountains. I like the history associated with it. Tortilla Flat sounds fun with all those impressive artworks. Watching the rich Fauna on the rocky cliffs must be an elating experience. Sounds like a great tour!

  7. There’s so much history to surround yourself with here and imagine what it must have been like back before Wyatt Earp was here and had his bath! Just being in this beautiful place is enough. I’ve heard of the Superstitions before and never knew the history behind them or their name. I definitely need to get out to Arizona soon!

    • Yes – and check out my previous posts and my upcoming when you plan your Arizona trip. We had so many rich experiences!

  8. Oh, those Big Horn sheep look so pleased with themselves up there on top of the cliffs! Fascination trip into a part of the US I really don’t know much about other than what I’ve seen in the movies!

    • I live in the US and knew little until this 4-month trip to the American Southwest. So much more of it to come in future posts!

  9. Arizona continues to be on our travel wish list. I would definitely like to ride a horse through the rugged terrain. But hubby would definitely be happier in a small tour bus. Would love to visit the recreation of an old saloon town. But Canyon Lake would draw me more. A good day trip in Arizona!

  10. Totally a great place to visit for those of us who used to watch the Westerns of old, though yes I appreciate the historical inaccuracy they conveyed, not least in reference to the native peoples. Still, I’d love to see the landscapes and the historical sites as well.

    • Yes, the movies did not recount history accurately. It’s so interesting to learn what actually occurred on these tours.

  11. You sure had an amazing experience! And that canyon looks gorgeous. I really hope my husband and I can one day explore properly the Apache Trail. Thanks for sharing this

  12. I’m not normally a huge fan of organized tours, but I think in cases like this they make a lot of sense. I’ve been to the southwest with it’s giant, expansive landscapes, and it can be almost overwhelming when you don’t know what to do there. I imagine it would be nice to be driven to points of interest, especially when those include a Steamboat cruise. Canyon Lake looks beautiful!

  13. The landscape is magnificent and so dramatic. I like listening to legends and I am interested in knowing more about the Dutchman Mine. The Wild West is so full of unexplored beauties.

  14. This is such a great experience. Thanks for sharing this post, so informative. I really love how majestic the views are they leave me so stunned. I really enjoyed reading your post. Someday I will visit there.

    • So much of the American Southwest is starkly beautiful! If you plan to visit, plan time to see many of the areas. I will be writing about other areas, and hope to do a set of itineraries – stay tuned.

  15. What a fun idea to explore this part of Arizona by van. And it never occurred to me that there’d be an opportunity for a boat ride in Arizona. The subtle colors of the desert landscape are so beautiful. And I love mountain goats!

    • Yes, it’s amazing to visit the mountain lakes in the desert! And the wildlife in the mountains is wonderful to witness.

  16. The twilight dinner cruise sounds nice. I like boat rides. The tour seems great. I love see different Native areas

  17. The Apache Trail is a great one! We didn’t get to hike the whole thing, but the parts we did hike were amazing. My kids loved the sundial next to the trail. I want to go back to hike it again, now that our kids are older.

  18. Having been brought up on generous doses of books and Hollywood classics about the Wild West, this post makes fascinating reading for me. I can imagine myself riding on a horse with a cowboy hat perched in a rakish angle on my head. The wild beauty of the trail is really so thrilling. The piece de resistance is, of course, the western town of Goldfield.

  19. The bit about Superstition mountain is so intriguing. I would love to go in search of that treasure. Not so much for the riches but for the trail and the mystery behind it. This place definitely appeals to my internal Indiana Jones. Thanks for the same.

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