APACHE TRAIL is Arizona's Oldest Highway

Click on this link to view or download a printable version of the Historic Apache Trail map before starting your adventure!As the old Apache Trail ads would say: “Every Mile Is A Scene Worth While, Sunshine All The Way!”


Apache Trail Map (click image for full size map)

Apache Trail / AZ Highway 88 / PO Box 3445 / Apache Junction, AZ 85117

DID YOU KNOW the existing Apache Trail in Arizona is a 120 mile circle route through the Superstition Mountains. It was named the Apache Trail after the Native American Indians who originally used this trail to migrate through the Superstition Mountains for over 1,000 years. The current Apache Trail links Apache Junction at the edge of the Greater Phoenix area with Theodore Roosevelt Lake, through the Superstition Mountains and the Tonto National Forest. Today, much of the Apache Trail is paved, and the section east of Apache Junction is known officially as State Route 88. It is also the main traffic corridor through Apache Junction, turning into Main Street as the road passes into Mesa, and regains the Apache name by becoming Apache Boulevard in Tempe, ending at Mill Avenue.

History of the Apache TrailSRP websiteandApache Junction Library

“The Apache Trail combines the grandeur of the Alps, the glory of the Rockies, the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and then adds an indefinable something that none of the others have, to me, it is most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful.” ~ 1911 Theodore Roosevelt

The Mesa-Roosevelt Road (known as the Apache Trail) was originally an old path. This narrow, rugged trail was converted to transport heavy equipment and supplies a distance of nearly 60 miles from the town of Mesa to the Theodore Roosevelt Dam site.

Some of the most difficult and dangerous work had to be done by hand. Almost 400 "force account" laborers were housed in six camps along the route and worked through the spring and summer. The Apache Indians provided much of this labor force, working long hours under brutal summertime conditions - conditions that required treks of up to four miles for drinking water.

History of Roosevelt Dam

This enormous reclamation project was accomplished during the transition from mule teams to motorized vehicles in America. This accomplishment at that particular time in history was a triumph over overwhelming odds. Man, beast, and machine had harnessed the power of the mighty Salt River of Central Arizona.

The early pioneers who first settled in the Salt River Valley dreamed of harnessing the Salt River’s enormous energy. An early pioneer named John W. “Jack” Swilling looked at the Hohokam canal system and wondered why he couldn’t do the same thing. Swilling formed a canal company and started digging. He planned to irrigate the fertile desert land with water from the Salt River.

Swilling began construction on a canal site along the north bank of the Salt River in December of 1867. This vision of irrigating thousands of acres of desert land eventually led to the construction of Roosevelt Dam. A hundred years ago, nobody would have believed Swilling’s name would someday be synonymous with reclamation.

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