Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The Scenic Apache Trail, AZ


The Apache Trail is an approximately 40 mile drive beginning in Apache Junction and ending at the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. This road is winding, with many switchbacks and sharp turns, so it’s advisable to take it slowly. The best time of year to drive the Apache Trail is in the spring when wildflowers are blooming. 



The historic trail gets its name from the Apache Indians, who originally used the trail to navigate through the Superstition Mountains. It then became a stagecoach route in the early 1900s and now winds its way through both the Superstition Mountains and Tonto National Forest.


We set off on this scenic drive in the hope of seeing carpets of color beneath the grandiose Saguaro cacti. This drive took us along the edge of the Superstition Mountains between Lost Dutchman State Park and Theodore Roosevelt Lake just east of Phoenix.


We weren’t sure if we could drive the entire loop because of the possibility of some spring rains which often results in some road closures along this trail. A little more than half of this road is unpaved once you go just past Tortilla Flats. And sure enough there was a road closure forcing us to turn around but the drive to Tortilla Flats was still a very scenic drive.


We were treated to splashes of color all along the roadside. Some of the wildflowers we saw were Desert Globemallow, California Gold Poppies, Desert Lupine, Cape Marigolds and Chuparosa. We even came across one huge field of the Cape Marigolds and even though they are actually native to South Africa they provided some stunning colors.


One highlight along this drive, besides the wildflowers in bloom, was the beautiful Canyon Lake, one of several reservoirs one will pass on this road. Canyon Lake offers lakefront campgrounds for RVs however, it is mostly dry camping.


There were several gravel pull-outs on both sides of the road so we stopped at many for views of the lake. It also afforded us the opportunity to do a little bird watching and take some photos of the lake and its surrounding scenery. We also took the short hike on an interpretive trail to the viewpoint of Weavers Needle.


A neat fact about this drive is that it goes through the Tonto National Forest. And surprisingly this Arizona national forest is the 7th largest  in the USA. Through most of this drive visitors will not see any forest of trees, merely desert vegetation with towering saguaros.


Just some notes to remind visitors that anytime you are parked either a Tonto National Forest pass or the America the Beautiful pass is required. .Also make sure to check for road conditions before taking the drive. Had we done this before our drive we would have learned ahead of time that “SR 88 is currently CLOSED between Fish Point and the Apache Lake.” We really enjoyed this drive and will likely take it again before leaving Mesa.


Saturday, March 18, 2023

Red Mountain Park AZ


Another really nice place to visit located in Mesa close to our resort is Red Mountain Park.  It is a decent sized park at 1,146 acres in size and has a little bit of fun for everyone. The park has a playground with lots of play equipment for the kiddos, a lighted basketball court, a fishing lake, walking trails, as well as a nice disc golf course..


Red Mountain Park offers several of our favorite activities including hiking, bird watching, and disc golf.


Our first trip there was to do a little birdwatching on the trail surrounding the fishing lake. The trail is fairly popular with walkers but you can venture off the main trail down to the edge of the water as fishermen have created a dirt path all around it.


We parked (there is free parking) and one of the first birds we spotted was a bald eagle soaring overhead. Obviously it was a great start to our day of birding. The lake had a nice assortment of ducks on it as well. As we walked along the water’s edge we could see several large mouth bass and rainbow trout (they are stocked) so it became obvious why the eagle was hanging about.


Red Mountain Park’s trail has a nice assortment of vegetation so were able to spot lots of woodland and grassland birds as well as the aquatic ones in and around the pond.


Our next trip to Red Mountain Park we decided to play a little disc golf. The park has a disc golf course called Red Mountain Disc Golf Course. There are two courses with 36 holes in total. The course has a 4.3-star rating and we found it quite enjoyable even though it was a bit difficult to locate each hole in the proper order.


The course was fun and has a good layout zigzagging through desert shrubbery. Holes are of a nice range of hole lengths with none too far apart. There are a few Ace opportunities throughout the course making it even more fun even though neither of us achieved an Ace. But who know, maybe next time…