APACHE TRAIL, AZ (ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV) - It’s one of Arizona’s classic scenic drives, with a chain of lakes along the Salt River that shine and sparkle in every hue of blue you’ve ever seen. It’s officially called State Route 88, but the name of Apache Trail seems much more fitting.

Arizona Highways TV takes us along the Apache Trail
Arizona Highways TV takes us along the Apache Trail(Arizona Highways TV)

It was built in 1904 after Congress passed the National Conservancy Act. That authorized the western states to build dams. But before a dam along the Salt River could be built, they needed a road first. So Arizona chose to pave a road along the old Indian footpath that the Indians used to travel the Salt River Canyon on.

During construction of the Roosevelt Dam, the road was built to provide transportation of equipment and supplies.

In 1919, the Apache Trail was approved as a special transportation link between Phoenix and the towns of Globe and Miami to open up the copper industry to the Phoenix market.

With its narrow, hairpin turns and awe-inspiring scenery, it was easy for tourists back then, and today, to fall in love with this roadway.

“I think the best part of the trail would be the Fish Creek Hill experience because it’s a little bit of an exciting adventure because you’re dropping about 2500 feet in less than a mile, and there are some rough edges and we have the virtual guardrail that’s almost not there,” said Brent Merchant owner of Apache Trail Jeep Tours.

The drive is like no other you’ll take in the world. But it’s also one of those white-knuckle experiences you’ll never forget.

“It can be smooth, but there’s a lot of switchbacks and you really have to pay attention to what you’re doing and where you’re going, because there’s a lot of beautiful vistas and you wanna avoid the ‘Honey, hey look over there syndrome’ and just pay attention to what you’re doing,” said Merchant. The roads can have that rough washboard surface. Also, there are a lot of steep drops and a lot of sharp curves. So be careful when you set out on this drive.

There are sections of the scenic drive where only one car can pass at a time. The right of way belongs to the person going up the hill. That was established when the old freight wagons and stagecoaches used the trail. Back then, they didn’t want to break the momentum of the horse going up the hill.