Apache Junction, the gateway to the Superstition Mountains
Apache Junction (AJ) is located about forty miles east of downtown Phoenix and is home to the majestic Superstition Mountains. Apache Junction is steeped in history, legends and lore. The area was once a hot spot for the movie industry and has lured gold seekers from around the world with stories of an ol’ miner named Jacob Waltz, also known as the “Dutchman.” The Lost Dutchman Mine has become the iconic symbol of Apache Junction and its backdrop, the Superstition Mountains.
It was back in the 1950s when a man named William Creighton came to Apache Junction with a dream to build a movie set—by 1960, that dream had became a reality with the groundbreaking of a studio set that would become known as, “Apacheland.” Apacheland was originally constructed as the set for Death Valley Days, which starred Robert Taylor and then, Ronald Reagan.
Over the years a number of well-known movies were filmed at Apacheland, including “Charro,” starring Elvis Presley. As western movies began to wane, Apacheland saw several owners who tried to revive the luster of years gone by. By the early 1990s, the Birminghams (Sue and Ed) purchased the property and revived the old movie studio from what had nearly become a ruin. For the next decade, Apacheland become a tourist destination with a number of shops, restaurants, and landmarks. In 2004, on Valentine’s Day, flames some 300 feet high engulfed the old studio and put an end to a historic landmark. A couple of the surviving structures were moved to the Superstition Mountain Museum, such as the Elvis Chapel shown above.
The Movies was just one chapter in the life of Apache Junction; the Apache Trail put AJ on the map, so to speak, much earlier. The Apache Trail is known as one of the most scenic drives in the state of Arizona and was constructed to help supply the construction needs of the Theodore Roosevelt Dam—which was completed in 1911, a year prior to statehood. The dam’s construction was to support a fairly new commodity…electricity. In addition, the Roosevelt Dam is the catalyst for a series of recreational lakes along the Salt River that supply water to the Phoenix Metro area.
Even before the construction of Theodore Roosevelt Dam, the Apache Junction area (before it was named) gained fame as being rich in gold by the little-known miner named, Jacob Waltz, who claimed to have extracted a bounty of gold from the Superstition Mountains back in the late 1800s. For over 100 years, people have flocked to Apache Junction and the Superstition Mountains in search of that “lost goldmine.”
Today, Apache Junction is known for its many attractions along the Apache Trail and beyond—from hiking, biking, golf to horseback riding and water sports, Apache Junction has a lot to offer its visitors and residents alike. The views of the majestic Superstition Mountains alone makes a visit worth the journey.
There are also a number of annual events to check out…here are just a few:
- Lost Dutchman Days
- Renaissance Festival
- Lost Dutchman Marathon
- Lost Dutchman State Park Benefit Ride
- Superstition Mountain Chili Cook-off
- National Day of the Cowboy celebrations
Here are some of the attractions in the area worth a visit:
- Silly Mountain Park for light hiking and great views
- Superstition Mountain Museum has a great display of the legends and lore of the area as well as an unparalleled book and gift shop.
- Goldfield Ghost Town – This place will entertain you for a full day with its many activities
- Canyon Lake is a desert oasis with soaring cliffs, great boating and many other recreational activities.
- Tortilla Flat is an old historic stage coach stop with a number of exhibits and eateries and gift shops.
The only thing the Apache Junction area lacks is more lodging options. For the amount of visitors area receives, it would be a big revenue coup if they could land a top-notch resort to keep visitors in the area. There is the Gold Canyon Golf Resort, which has a world-class golf course, and a few motels and hotels, but during peak season these book up fast.
If you’ve been to the area, please write a comment below and share your experience to Apache Junction.