I recently visited Apache Junction, a small town located about 35 minutes east of Phoenix in the remote Superstition Mountains. I was immediately drawn to its rich history and stunning natural beauty.
As an old mining town, Apache Junction is full of hard-luck stories and local legends. I loved learning about the town’s history and exploring the many ghost towns and mining ruins in the area.
I also enjoyed hiking and biking in the Superstition Mountains. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, and I was lucky enough to see a variety of wildlife, including deer, coyotes, and mountain lions.
I had a wonderful time in Apache Junction and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a unique and memorable travel experience. Here are 15 of the most amazing things to do while in Apache Junction:
1. Lost Dutchman State Park
If you’ve ever been captivated by the captivating tale of the legendary Dutchman who vanished amidst the rugged Arizona terrain, Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction is an absolute must-visit.
Legend has it that during the late 19th century, a Dutch prospector stumbled upon a prodigious gold vein worth millions in the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction. Tragically, before he could reap the rewards of his remarkable discovery, he met an untimely demise, leaving behind a tantalizing mystery that continues to captivate adventurers to this day.
Drawn by the allure of unimaginable wealth, intrepid seekers have embarked on perilous quests to uncover the fabled mine. However, the treacherous Superstition Mountains have proven to be an unforgiving labyrinth, claiming the lives of many who dared to unravel its secrets.
Lost Dutchman State Park sprawls across nearly 300 acres, offering a vast expanse of natural beauty and an array of interconnected trails. As I ventured into its depths, I was keenly aware of the warnings that accompany this wilderness. The intricate network of trails can easily disorient even the most experienced hiker, leading to lost explorers in search of the elusive Dutchman’s fortune. Each year, a handful of individuals find themselves in need of rescue, while others tragically succumb to the rugged terrain.
Yet, despite the inherent dangers, Lost Dutchman State Park remains an awe-inspiring testament to the allure of the unknown. Its rugged beauty, with its towering peaks and winding trails, paints a mesmerizing backdrop for those willing to brave the untamed wilderness.
2. Visit the Goldfield Ghost Town
As I make my way down North Mammoth Mine Road in Apache Junction, the allure of the Goldfield Ghost Town beckons me with promises of history, charm, and exciting adventures.
Steeped in a rich tapestry of bygone eras, this town bears witness to the rise and fall that echoed through Arizona’s mining towns, their fate intertwined with the whims of the precious ores embedded in the surrounding rocks.
Immersed in this living testament to the past, I find myself drawn to the town’s captivating museum, a treasure trove of artifacts and tales that chronicle the vibrant history that once pulsed through these dusty streets. Here, the stories of the boom and bust come alive, painting vivid pictures of the trials and triumphs of those who sought their fortunes in the shadows of the nearby mines.
One of the unique features that sets Goldfield Ghost Town apart is its illustrious narrow gauge railroad, the last of its kind in the entire state. The rhythmic chugging of the locomotive transports me back in time, as I embark on a nostalgic journey through the town’s rustic landscapes, relishing the authentic experience that this operational marvel offers.
My exploration takes me along paths lined with meticulously restored buildings, each whispering tales of a bygone era. The care and dedication poured into preserving these architectural gems is evident in every lovingly crafted detail. As I wander through the town, a quaint gift shop catches my eye, its shelves adorned with a delightful array of trinkets and mementos that pay homage to the Wild West spirit that lingers here.
However, the true highlight of Goldfield Ghost Town awaits me, as I eagerly anticipate the renowned gunfight performance. The echoes of gunfire and the crackling excitement in the air transport me to a time when lawmen and outlaws clashed in the dusty streets, their battles immortalized in thrilling reenactments that captivate visitors from near and far.
As the sun begins to set over the rugged landscape, I find myself deeply immersed in the allure of Goldfield Ghost Town. It is a place where the past mingles with the present, where the spirit of the Wild West is kept alive through captivating performances and lovingly preserved relics. With each step, I feel the echoes of history reverberate through my being, leaving an indelible mark on my journey.
As I bid farewell to the Goldfield Ghost Town, I carry with me the memories of an enchanting adventure, the tales of a spirited past forever etched in my heart. It is a place that serves as a testament to the resilience of those who shaped the Arizona frontier, a tribute to the indomitable human spirit that continues to thrive amidst the desert sands.
3. Superstition Mountain Museum
Stepping into the Superstition Mountain Museum on North Apache Trail in Apache Junction feels like embarking on a nostalgic journey through the bygone era of old western movies. As I wandered through its halls, I found myself immersed in a world of captivating relics and archives that pay homage to the rich cinematic history of the Wild West.
Situated in close proximity to the awe-inspiring Superstition Mountains and Lost Dutchman State Park, this museum offers a treasure trove of delights. From meticulously crafted movie sets to beautifully preserved carriages, the exhibits transport me back in time, allowing me to relive the excitement of classic western films. I’m greeted by lifelike full-size mannequins, which further enhance the immersive experience, bringing the past to life right before my eyes.
What truly fascinates me is the museum’s collection of native animals, meticulously stuffed and preserved to showcase the region’s natural heritage. These specimens provide a glimpse into the diverse wildlife that once roamed these lands, serving as a testament to the delicate balance between man and nature.
An unexpected gem within the museum grounds is a charming little white chapel. Its presence carries an intriguing history, having been relocated to the museum after serving as a filming location for an Elvis Presley movie in 1969. As I stood before it, I can almost imagine the echoes of music and laughter that once filled its walls, leaving an indelible mark on the cinematic landscape.
Before bidding farewell to this captivating destination, I made sure to visit the museum’s gift shop. It offers an array of souvenirs and mementos that allow me to carry a piece of this extraordinary experience with me on my next adventure.
4. Tube the Salt River
In the scorching and arid landscapes of Apache Junction and neighboring Phoenix, the allure of water sports and aquatic adventures is nothing short of mythical. Spanning an impressive length of nearly 200 miles, Arizona’s Salt River winds its way through some of the most rugged and awe-inspiring terrain one can imagine, eventually merging with the Gila River to the south of Phoenix.
Embarking on a floating expedition along this picturesque stretch of the river, from Mesa to Phoenix, is an absolute must for those seeking respite from the heat and a chance to witness nature’s wonders firsthand. It provides a soothing escape from the blazing desert sun, offering a much-needed reprieve. While the journey is generally suitable for individuals of most ages, it’s worth noting that there may be large groups of spirited teenagers and young adults who occasionally liven up the atmosphere with their enthusiastic revelries.
Amidst the laughter and occasional exuberance, I was treated to an array of breathtaking sights. The rugged landscapes that flank the river showcase nature’s unparalleled beauty, captivating me with their majestic presence. Each twist and turn reveal a new vista, as if the river itself is an ever-changing canvas painted with the vibrant hues of Arizona’s rugged terrain.
While the presence of enthusiastic groups adds an energetic ambiance to the experience, it’s important to find a balance that allows everyone to enjoy the journey in their own way.
5. Tonto National Forest
In the vast expanse of Arizona’s remarkable landscapes, where expanses of land seem to stretch endlessly, one area stands out as a testament to nature’s grandeur. The Tonto National Forest, encompassing a staggering 3 million acres, claims the title of the largest forest in the state and the fifth largest in the entire United States.
Stretching from the Sonoran Desert in the south, through the majestic ponderosa pines of central Arizona, and reaching the breathtaking Mogollon Rim in the north, near Flagstaff, this forest is a diverse tapestry of ecosystems and natural wonders.
Within its expansive borders, the Tonto National Forest is home to an abundance of marvels waiting to be discovered. Two picturesque lakes shimmer under the Arizona sun, while countless creeks and streams meander through the forest, offering tranquil retreats and inviting opportunities for exploration.
As I traversed the forest’s trails, I was left in awe of the remarkable array of plant and animal life that call this place home. Majestic javelinas roam freely, while elegant elk gracefully navigate the dense foliage. It’s even said that elusive mountain lions roam these lands, adding an air of mystery to the forest’s already captivating allure.
For those seeking a gateway into the Tonto National Forest, Apache Junction offers several access points. Among them, the area near the scenic Apache Lake stands as a favorite among visitors. Here, one can immerse themselves in the serenity of nature, surrounded by stunning vistas and the calming embrace of the forest.
6. The Siphon Draw Trail
If you’re seeking a thrilling adventure that combines a challenging hike with breathtaking vistas and a serene picnic spot, then the Siphon Draw Trail in Lost Dutchman State Park is an absolute must-visit. The trail itself presents a certain level of difficulty, with sections that require determination and perseverance to conquer. But trust me, the rewards that await are well worth the effort.
As I ventured deeper into the trail, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the anticipation of reaching the elusive waterfall. Depending on the season, its cascading waters may or may not be flowing, adding an element of unpredictability to the journey. It’s a reminder of nature’s ever-changing presence and the allure of its hidden wonders.
Finally, after pushing myself through the trail’s challenges, I reached the ultimate destination: the Flatiron. This massive slab of rock stands as a testament to the awe-inspiring power of nature. From its commanding vantage point, I was treated to panoramic views that stretch as far as the eye can see. The surrounding country unravels before me in all its splendor, and even the distant city of Phoenix, nearly 30 miles away, reveals itself as a tiny cluster of buildings amidst the vast landscape.
I took a moment to catch my breath, letting the serenity of the surroundings wash over me. It’s the perfect opportunity to savor a well-deserved picnic or a refreshing snack, while basking in the magnificence of the vista before me.
Lost Dutchman State Park and the Siphon Draw Trail offer an unforgettable experience for those who seek adventure and appreciate the wonders of nature.
7. Go Ziplining
If you’re an adventurous soul with a fearless spirit, I have a thrilling suggestion that will take you to new heights and offer a bird’s eye perspective of the stunning landscape that surrounds you. Ziplining is an exhilarating activity that allows you to soar through the air, and there’s no better place to experience it than at Superstition Zipline in Goldfield Ghost Town.
As I made my way to North Mammoth Mine Road, excitement courses through my veins. I knew that soon I’ll be suspended hundreds of feet above the ground, granting me breathtaking views of the town and its captivating surroundings. From the moment I stepped onto the zipline, the world below transforms into a tapestry of wonders waiting to be explored.
As I zipped through the air, my heart raced with each passing second, I was treated to remarkable vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see. The state park unfolds before me, revealing its untamed beauty, while the town below offers a glimpse into the remnants of the past.
To embark on this thrilling adventure, I highly recommend booking online. The Superstition Zipline website provides excellent pictures that offer a glimpse of the breathtaking sights you’ll witness during your journey. Take a moment to explore the possibilities, and let the anticipation of the experience build as you prepare for an adventure that will leave you with lasting memories.
8. Mesa Market Place Swap Meet
When it comes to unique shopping experiences, the Mesa Market Place Swap Meet is a destination you simply can’t miss. Trust me, it’s much more than just a flea market. In fact, it exudes an upscale ambiance and even offers live entertainment to enhance your visit.
As I stepped into the market, I was immediately captivated by the vibrant atmosphere that surrounds me. Since its opening in 1996, it has grown to become a haven for over a thousand vendors, each offering a treasure trove of goods and wares that cater to every imaginable taste and preference. From quirky collectibles to stylish fashion pieces, the market boasts a diverse range of products that are sure to pique your interest.
One of the best things about the Mesa Market Place Swap Meet is that both parking and admission are free, making it an accessible and affordable outing for everyone. As I navigated through the aisles, I was delighted to find a food court where I was able to indulge in delicious culinary treats, refueling my energy for more exploration.
Before setting off on your Mesa Market Place adventure, be sure to check their website for the most up-to-date information on opening hours, as they may vary depending on the season. What’s more, their website offers a nifty feature that allows you to print coupons, helping you save a few bucks while enjoying the myriad offerings within the market.
If you’re feeling particularly entrepreneurial, the market also provides an opportunity for you to become a vendor. It’s a fantastic chance to showcase your own unique products and engage with a vibrant community of shoppers.
9. Big League Dreams
If you’re a baseball enthusiast with dreams of stepping onto a field reminiscent of the major league’s iconic stadiums, then a visit to Big League Dreams in Gilbert is an absolute must during your Apache Junction itinerary.
As I arrived at the park, the sight of the meticulously crafted replica baseball fields fills me with a sense of awe and excitement. It’s as if I’ve been transported into a world where my big-league dreams can become a reality. The best part? The park welcomes visitors of all ages, making it a perfect destination for both young and old who harbor a love for the game.
Throughout the year, Big League Dreams hosts a variety of leagues, tournaments, and events that bring the spirit of competition alive. Whether you’re looking to join a league, participate in a tournament, or simply enjoy the thrilling atmosphere as a spectator, the park offers endless opportunities for you to immerse yourself in the world of baseball.
For those seeking a unique venue to host special occasions, Big League Dreams provides the option to rent sections of the park for private parties, family reunions, or corporate outings. Imagine celebrating a birthday with a game on the field or organizing a team-building event that will have your colleagues bonding over their shared love for America’s favorite pastime.
Even if you prefer to be a spectator and witness the exhilarating games from the sidelines, Big League Dreams ensures you have all the necessary amenities to make your experience enjoyable. The park is equipped with various facilities, including a restaurant, where you can savor delicious meals and snacks while soaking in the vibrant atmosphere of the games.
10. Commemorative Air Force Museum
If you share my passion for the awe-inspiring war-birds of yesteryears, then a short drive to the Commemorative Air Force Museum on North Greenfield Road in Mesa is an absolute must.
As I stepped into the museum, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement coursing through my veins. The collection of historic aircraft is a sight to behold, and among them stands one of my personal favorites: the legendary P-51 Mustang. This iconic aircraft played a crucial role as a long-range bomber escort during World War II, providing protection to American and English bombers as they braved the skies over Germany. Its powerful presence and remarkable performance helped turn the tide of the air war over Europe.
But the museum offers more than just a display of magnificent planes. It houses a treasure trove of historical artifacts, including archival footage, newspaper stories, weapons, and personal accounts from brave airmen and soldiers who served in these formidable war machines.
Before planning my visit, I find it helpful to check the museum’s website for their hours of operation and admission prices. It ensures that I can make the most of my time at this remarkable place, savoring every moment surrounded by the aircraft and the stories they hold.
11. Usery Mountain Regional Park
If you’re looking to break a sweat and immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the local geology, plants, and wildlife, then a visit to Usery Mountain Regional Park in nearby Mesa is a must.
With an extensive network of trails stretching over nearly 30 miles, the park offers a haven for hikers, bikers, and even horseback riders like myself. The diversity of trails caters to all preferences and fitness levels, ranging from flat paths to challenging mountain routes. It’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts of every kind.
As I planned my adventure, I made sure to note the must-visit trails in the area. Merkle Trail, Wind Cave Trail, and Mountain Trail consistently receive high praise from fellow nature enthusiasts, and I can’t wait to experience their unique charms firsthand. Before setting off, I take a moment to study the trail maps conveniently located near the nature center. It’s always a good idea to familiarize myself with the routes and choose the ones that align with my interests and abilities.
The stunning rock formations, vibrant flora, and curious wildlife accompany me along the way, creating an unforgettable experience. Whether you choose a short stroll or a long, invigorating trek, the park never fails to impress and captivate.
12. Lu Lu’s Bordello Museum & Gift Shop
If you’re ready to embark on a unique journey into the intriguing history of a rough and tumble prospector’s town, Lu Lu’s Bordello Museum and Gift Shop in the Goldfield Ghost Town is the place to be.
Housed in a beautifully renovated building that once served as a real-life brothel, this museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the seedy yet authentic past of the town. As a history enthusiast, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to explore this hidden gem.
Upon arrival, my family and I were warmly greeted by knowledgeable guides who made us feel at ease. They assured us that the tour would be tailored to the age of our little ones, ensuring a family-friendly experience.
The guided tours, which typically last around 20 minutes, provide captivating insights into the intriguing world of the bordello and its place within the Goldfield Ghost Town’s history. As we walked through the museum, we marveled at the carefully curated artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that shed light on the colorful characters and vibrant atmosphere of the era.
What sets Lu Lu’s Bordello Museum apart is the sensitivity and respect with which the guides handle the subject matter. They strike the perfect balance between sharing intriguing stories and maintaining an appropriate level of decorum for all visitors. Rest assured, there won’t be any explicit content that might make younger guests uncomfortable.
If you’re traveling with family members who prefer to explore at their own pace or might not be as enthralled by the museum, fear not! Lu Lu’s Bordello Museum and Gift Shop has a delightful gift shop where you can peruse a variety of unique items and souvenirs. So, while Aunt Margaret indulges her prudish sensibilities, the rest of us can immerse ourselves in the fascinating history of the area.
Lu Lu’s Bordello Museum and Gift Shop offers a one-of-a-kind experience that combines education, entertainment, and a touch of the Wild West’s intriguing past. It’s an adventure that allows us to appreciate the rich history and stories that have shaped the Goldfield Ghost Town, ensuring a memorable visit for the entire family.
13. Superstition Farm
Just a short drive from Apache Junction, on South Hawes Road in Mesa, lies Superstition Farm—a charming working dairy farm that offers captivating tours.
As a parent, I’m always on the lookout for educational and engaging experiences for my children. Superstition Farm provides the perfect opportunity to teach them that food doesn’t magically appear on supermarket shelves. It’s a valuable lesson in understanding the origins of the food we consume.
During our visit, we were delighted to discover a delightful petting zoo on the farm premises. What made it even more special was learning that many of the animals had been rescued after unfortunate encounters with cars and other incidents that left them injured. It was heartwarming to see how the farm provides a safe haven for these animals, and it added an extra layer of appreciation for their presence.
Superstition Farm goes beyond being just a farm—it’s a community hub. They host a vibrant farmer’s market where visitors can explore a variety of fresh local produce and other delightful products. The farm also offers its enchanting setting for private parties and even weddings, making it a unique and picturesque venue for special occasions.
To plan your visit, I highly recommend checking out Superstition Farm’s website. You’ll find information on upcoming events, hours of operation, and pricing details. It’s always a good idea to stay informed and make the most of your time at the farm.
14. The B&B Mesa Gateway 12
When the scorching Arizona sun is beating down, there’s nothing quite like seeking refuge inside a cool, dark movie theater. If you’re in agreement, then I have just the recommendation for you: B&B Mesa Gateway 12.
Nestled on South Signal Butte Road in Mesa, this theater is a haven for those looking to escape the heat and enjoy a few hours of cinematic entertainment. What sets it apart is that it also offers IMAX and RD films, which provide an immersive and thrilling experience. If you haven’t had the chance to try them before, I highly recommend giving them a go.
Now, it’s important to note that if you prefer a quieter movie-watching experience, B&B Mesa Gateway 12 may not be the ideal choice. The arcade area can get quite lively with rambunctious kids, flashing lights, and loud noises. But if you don’t mind a little buzz of excitement, it can add to the overall atmosphere and fun. To plan your visit, check online for the current movie lineup and showtimes.
15. Saguaro Lake
When it comes to outdoor fun near Apache Junction, Saguaro Lake in the breathtaking Tonto National Forest is a hidden gem that offers a plethora of activities. Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s an adventure you don’t want to miss.
Located just a short distance from Apache Junction, Saguaro Lake is a paradise for water enthusiasts. Whether you enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, or water skiing, this lake has it all. It’s hard to resist the sparkling waters and the thrill of engaging in various water activities.
You might be interested to know that Saguaro Lake came into existence in the 1930s when the construction of Stewart Mountain Dam was completed. This dam transformed a section of the Salt River into the beautiful lake we see today. With nearly 23 miles of picturesque shoreline, there’s plenty of space to explore and create memories.
As you venture around Saguaro Lake, you’ll discover convenient amenities such as a marina, multiple picnic areas, designated swimming spots, and even overnight camping sites equipped with restrooms. It’s the perfect place to spend a sunny day with family and friends, enjoying the natural beauty and tranquility of the surroundings.
Now, let’s talk about dining options. Saguaro Lake doesn’t disappoint in that department either. They have a fantastic restaurant that not only offers delicious food but also boasts breathtaking views of the lake and the majestic mountains that encircle it. It’s an experience that combines great flavors with an incredible visual feast.
To plan your visit, I recommend checking out their website. You’ll find useful information such as directions, maps, and even the current weather conditions. It’s always a good idea to be prepared, especially when venturing into nature’s playground.