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One of the most popular day trips for anyone visiting Mesa is along the historic Apache Trail through the mysterious Superstition Mountains and into the foothills of the Tonto Natural Forest – the fifth largest forest in the United States. To this day, the area continues to pay homage to its Western roots which took shape in the late 1800s. On this scenic drive guests will encounter an authentic old west stagecoach stop, a ghost town, the famous Elvis Presley Chapel, and the majesty of a mountain lake, all nestled in the beautiful Sonoran Desert landscape that captures the true essence of Arizona.
GOLDFIELD GHOST TOWN – 1 ½ HOURS
In its heyday after the first gold-strike in 1892, Goldfield Ghost Town was a busy bustling little outpost perched atop a small hill between the mighty Superstition Mountains to the east and the Goldfield Mountains to the west. Today, visitors can walk down Main Street, explore the many shops and historic buildings and tour the historic Mammoth Gold Mine. Activities include the Superstition Zip Line, the Mystery Shack, and hop aboard the train at the Goldfield Train Depot, featuring a narrow-gauge railroad that takes visitors on a fun ride around the town.
APACHE TRAIL OFF-ROAD TOUR – 2+ HOURS
Off-road desert tours offer a heart-pumping adventure into the Sonoran Desert! Stellar Adventures’ all-terrain vehicles can hold up to 8 guests in one vehicle and offers some of the best photography options as you leave the city limits and head into the Tonto National Forest.
CANYON LAKE CRUISE – 1 ½ HOURS
Complete your Apache Trail experience with a sunset tour along Canyon Lake on a “Mark Twain” voyage aboard the Dolly Steamboat, a replica of a sternwheeler paddleboat. The 90-minute nature cruise or twilight dinner cruise is the perfect complement to the Apache Trail experience.
TOUR ITINERARY ADDITIONS
RANGER-GUIDED TOUR OF LOST DUTCHMAN STATE PARK
Home of the Lost Dutchman Mine, one of the most famous “lost mines” of the West. Five hiking trails are here that range in distance and elevation. Open year-round from sunrise to 10 p.m., the U.S. Forest Service protects this popular designated wilderness area. Special events include Stargazing, Moonlight Hiking, and a series of desert-inspired activities and an ongoing lecture series.
TORTILLA FLAT STAGECOACH STOP – 1 HOUR
Tortilla Flat is an original stagecoach stop settlement during the construction of the Roosevelt Dam. Today, there are six full-time residents and a saloon with saddles for barstools and walls decorated with currency and business cards from around the world. Open for breakfast and lunch.
ARIZONA MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY – 2 hours
The Southwest Gallery presents information on the ancient cultures of Central Arizona including the Hohokam, Anasazi and Mogollon cultures. Enjoy intricate displays with dwellings and artifacts including jewelry manufacture, pottery making, and hunting activities. Other galleries feature dinosaurs, Arizona’s cosmic night skies, and geology.
WESTERN FILM STARS TAKE CENTER STAGE AT SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN MUSEUM – 1 hour
Arizona has been the backdrop to hundreds of Hollywood Western movies and television shows. Visitors can tour the original buildings for Apacheland Movie Ranch including the Elvis Presley chapel in the movie El Charro. While visiting, be sure to view the collection of Lost Dutchman Mine maps dating back more than 100 years.
NATIVE AMERICAN DISCOVERY AT MESA GRANDE RUINS – 1 hour
This ancient Hohokam mound features an interpretive trail. The archaeological staff of the Arizona Museum of Natural History have helped preserve and develop the site, which is estimated to date to A.D 1100-1450. Guided tours and archaeological digs available upon request.
This guided tour horseback ride leads visitors along the Verde River, a preservation site for bald eagles, wild mustangs and other Arizona wildlife. Cattle drive adventures are also available. In addition, groups can arrange Desert Segway tours of the landscape, as well as off-roading in tom cars with Green Zebra Adventures.
This state-of-the-art equestrian facility serves as a venue for incredible equestrian events year-round such as Western and English riding competitions, car shows, concerts and festivals. Horseback riding is available along the Sonoqui Wash trail featuring lush Sonoran Desert landscapes and scenery.