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