Apache Trail

Apache Trail is located in central Arizona, east of Phoenix. The byway begins in Apache Junction off US 60 and follows AZ 88 northeast to the community of Roosevelt on Theodore Roosevelt Lake. Apache Trail is 46 miles long and is usually open year-round. Portions are subject to closure due to heavy rain. The byway travels over dirt and paved roads with many sharp curves and an occasional narrow stretch. Vehicles pulling trailers are discouraged from traveling the section from Tortilla Flat to Roosevelt, especially over Fish Creek Hill.

The Apache Trail winds through some of the most awe-inspiring country in Arizona as it crosses Tonto National Forest. The scenic drive is bordered on the north by Canyon, Apache, and Roosevelt Lakes, and on the south by the rugged Superstition Mountains. At Fish Creek Hill, perhaps the most impressive part of Apache Trail, the road is primarily one-way and drops 1,000 feet in elevation over a 15 to 17 percent grade. Views of the Walls of Fish Creek Gorge are simply fantastic from this area.

Tonto National Forest covers nearly three million acres of rugged, scenic landscape ranging from cactus-studded desert to pine-covered mountains. Seven wilderness areas encompassing 589,000 acres are found within the national forest. Two wilderness areas are located next to the byway: Four Peaks Wilderness and Superstition Wilderness. Hiking trails can be accessed along the drive that lure you into the Superstition Wilderness.

There are several Forest Service recreation areas along or near the byway. Acacia and Boulder offer picnic facilities; a swimming beach is in Acacia. Tortilla Flat Campground has 77 RV and tent sites; all have water and sewage hookups but no electricity. Near the byway’s eastern end is the Burnt Corral Campground. It has 79 RV and tent campsites and is open all year. There is a 22-foot RV length limit at both campgrounds.

Lost Dutchman State Park is five miles northeast of Apache Junction. The nearly 300-acre park offers a 35-site campground with restrooms, showers, and sanitary disposal station. There are many desert interpretive trails here. It is also a good place to access the Superstition Wilderness.

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White Mountain Scenic Highway

White Mountain Scenic Highway is in east-central Arizona, approximately 170 miles east of Phoenix. The southwest access is in Whiteriver in Fort Apache Indian Reservation. From Whiteriver, the byway travels north to McNary and then east to the junction of US 180/191, north of Alpine.

The 123-mile scenic drive follows Arizona Highways 73, 260, 261, 273, and 373 and Forest Service Roads 87 and 249. This series of connecting roads follow a combination of two-lane paved and gravel-surfaced roads that are suitable for all vehicles. Arizona Highways 73 and 260 are usually open year-round. The remaining roads are subject to closure in the winter.

White Mountain Scenic Highway crosses the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and Fort Apache Indian Reservation. It travels through forests of pinyon, juniper, and ponderosa pine. Recreation activities within the reservation require a tribal permit. Permits are available in Whiteriver at the Game and Fish Office.

Several lakes and streams offer excellent opportunities for catching trout. Some lakes are too shallow for fish survival, but are deep enough for canoes or rowboats. Because of their small size, most lakes have restrictions on horsepower for boat motors.

Hiking opportunities range from short nature walks to longer back country hikes. Over 800 miles of trail exist within the national forests. Two trails form a 28-mile loop between Greer and Mount Baldy. Each trail is 14 miles long. Portions of both pass through 7,000-acre Mount Baldy Wilderness and are heavily used. Mount Baldy lies within the Indian reservation and should not be entered without first contacting tribal headquarter.

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Black Hills Back Country Byway

The Black Hills Back Country Byway is in southeast Arizona, east of Safford near the New Mexico border. Eastern access is south of Clifton off US 191 (milepost 160). The byway travels southwest back to US 191 (milepost 139) near US 70 and Safford.

Black Hills is a 21-mile drive along the Old Safford-Clifton Road, an unpaved, narrow, and winding road. The byway is generally open year-round although sections may become impassable during and after heavy rain. Travelers should not attempt to drive the byway if pulling a trailer or in an RV longer than 20 feet. Motorhomes and trailers can be left at parking areas located on each end of the byway.

The Black Hills Back Country Byway passes through the historical territory of the Chiricahua and Western Apache, who arrived in southeast Arizona around 1600. Some Apaches used the area as a local travel route and hideout prior to the surrender of Geronimo in 1886. In 1540, Coronado passed through the area as he led Spanish conquistadors in search of gold and the Seven Cities of Cibola.

Each end of the byway begins in a desert shrub plant community and travels up through bands of desert grassland and then higher into stands of juniper, pinyon pine, and oaks. The Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area preserves 21,000 acres of scenic desert canyons surrounding perennial rivers and creeks. The byway crosses the conservation area near the Old Safford Bridge.

Near the byway’s western end are rock piles marking prisoner grave sites. This road was originally built by prisoners between 1914 and 1920. In 1916, a prisoner was killed by a guard while attempting to escape.

Near the east end of the byway is the Old Safford Bridge. Originally designed to be made of steel, it was constructed of concrete due to limits on the use of steel during World War I. The bridge was completed in 1918 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Picnic areas at each end of the bridge serve as launch points for those interested in floating the Gila River.

Recreation along the byway is diverse and plentiful. Many primitive side roads invite off-road-vehicle users and challenges the experienced mountain biker. Rock collectors will want to visit the Black Hills Rockhound Area near the byway’s western end. Anglers may wish to spend some time fishing in the Gila River. In early spring, snowmelt enables rafts, kayaks, and canoes to float through the Gila Box to Bonita Creek, 19 miles downstream.

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Coronado Trail Scenic Byway

Coronado Trail is in east-central Arizona, northeast of Safford. The southern access is in Morenci. The byway parallels the Arizona-New Mexico border as it travels north to Springerville.

The 123-mile route follows US 180 and US 191, which are two-lane paved roads. Sharp curves and steep drop-offs exist along several sections of narrow road with no guardrails. The byway is not recommended for vehicles towing a trailer or RVs over 20 feet long. Temporary closure is possible during winter, otherwise the route is open year-round.

Coronado Trail travels through steep canyons and across high rolling mountains with beautiful views of lakes and meadows. The byway crosses the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, which have the largest stand of ponderosa pine in the nation. Two wilderness areas are adjacent to the byway: 5,200-acre Escudilla Wilderness and 11,080-acre Bear Wallow Wilderness. Numerous trails along the byway provide access to these pristine wilderness areas.

Several Forest Sevice campgrounds are located along the byway. Luna Lake Campground, located east of Alpine off US 180, has 50 RV and tent campsites. Other campgrounds along the byway are smaller, offering a more secluded setting. A three-mile hiking trail at K.P. Cienege Campground leads to a scenic waterfall on K.P. Creek.

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Historic Route 66

Historic Route 66 is located in western Arizona, just south of Kingman. The byway begins in McConnico off I-40 and travels southwest to Topock, returning to I-40.

The 48-mile drive follows a paved, two-lane road suitable for most vehicles. There are sharp curves along this route; it is not recommended for vehicles over 40 feet. The byway is usually passable all year.

The Black Mountains region of the original Route 66 is preserved here along this scenic drive. There are famous sites to be discovered or revisited, including the Sitgreaves Pass tri-state overlook, which provides a spectacular view into the states of California, Nevada, and Arizona. Also along this back country byway is the vintage Cool Springs Gas Station, which has been rebuilt and contains old photos and artist renderings.

Building foundations, rock formations, and mine shafts are all that remain of the once bustling gold mining community of Gold Road Townsite. In its heyday, thousands of people inhabited the area. The former townsite is privately owned, please respect the property owner’s rights!

Located midway along the scenic drive is the town of Oatman. Oatman was first settled in the late 1880s and once claimed a bustling population of 8,000. It is famous for the Oatman Hotel, the honeymoon hideaway of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. The hotel is now a museum. Among the town’s other attractions are wild burros, which freely wander through the streets.

Mount Nutt Wilderness lies to the north of the byway and Warm Springs Wilderness to the south. These wilderness areas are an invitation for hiking, backpacking, and horseback riding. Back country camping is permitted nearly anywhere within the wilderness. A number of rough, unmarked side roads along the byway serve as access points to the areas. There are no maintained trails; travel is cross-country.

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