Having been living in Norway for 25 years we were pretty much accustomed to mountain road driving. In fact Mountain roads are the most common in Norway. There isn’t much else than that.
So going on to the Apache Trail was not connected to any fears for falling of the cliff. And the description says it all, it’s even good for passenger cars. That is if no rain has made the road impassable. And I wouldn’t recommend to try it with a vehicle in anything less than perfect mechanical order. You can’t afford a break-down up there. You simply can’t.
We made it from Roosevelt over to Apache Junction. That made us hug the outside of the road. Outside = steep gorges and weak shoulders. I’m sure you understand where this is going.
Well, it went up and up and farther up. I did not count the switchbacks. I always knew the number of switchbacks on the infamous TROLLSTIGEN in Norway. That road had 11 hairpins and the grade was 10-12% which I thought is steep. But the TROLLSTIGEN is paved. The Apache Trail has 22 miles or so unpaved.
Not only is there no pavement but it’s rutted, potholed and washboard and NARROW. And to make it all worse there’s oncoming traffic. Luckily most of the would-be explorers from Mesa, Phoenix or Apache Junction won’t make it across. They stop – where the pavement stops or they have already stopped at Tortilla Flats where they enjoy beer, ice cream and fastfood. Tortilla Flats appears to have a major problem. If you get there after 12 noon you can’t park your vehicle. There is simply no room left. The number of polished chrome and steel units was simply a bit overwhelming for us. The place doesn’t appeal to us. TOURIST TRAP!
But back to the adventure part. Most vehicles are commandeered by responsible drivers. Though some are not. What about this guy with a Dually Pickup and a large speedboat on a trailer? Or what about these screaming and leering youngsters (Springbreakers?) racing down the trail? Or, worse, the three guys in a beaten-up pickup which first bypassed us at a hell of a speed for so afterwards come to a full stop right in front of us, blocking the road in a blind curve. Bastards!
The most amazing while captivating part of the trail is the climb up Fish Creek Hill. “Hill” is a stark understatement. It’s the TROLLSTIGEN ten times over!
Of course we met other vehicles there. But we didn’t get the van scratched.
The description says it is a two-lane road. Well, it is “Two-Lane” at a few places. There are many of the other kind.
Of course, the trail offers magnificent views. Views which we connect with the real west. Rugged mountains, deep deep valleys and dark-blue lakes, and even water falls after periods of rain.
We picked a bright and sunny day for the trip.
Depending on how much time is spent at the various view points 2 - 2 1/2hrs are needed to do the trail.
The original “Apache Trail” had its beginnings many centauries ago as an aboriginal highway through the rugged Superstition Mountains. By the late 1800s, the “Tonto Trail” (as it was called) became a horse trail for settlers and Indians alike.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation financed the present road so that supplies could be hauled from Phoenix area to the site of Roosevelt Dam (which was begun in 1905). The State of Arizona took over responsibilities, and it was made to Highway 88.
The scenic byway was designated in 1998, and is approximately 39 miles long.
Thanks for being along!