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.

Apache Junction sign by MikesRoadTrip.com

Superstition Mountains in Apache Junction by MikesRoadTrip.com

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.

Apacheland Church, also known as the Elvis Chapel by MikesRoadTrip.com

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.”

Lost Dutchman Parade in Apache Junction by MikesRoadTrip.com

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:

  • The
  • 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.

23 Comments

  1. Hi Mike!
    Thank you for giving us a glimpse of the great TETON KEN on his mule mobile! People should stop by and see him! He gives great mule trips up into the Superstiton Mountains and has great stories to tell. He’s the last of the “ole miners” out thar! He can tell people all kinds of facts and lore of those great mountains! Just lately he was on another expedition up there (Superstitons) to find people who have disappeared while looking for gold! People still think they have the original maps to the Old Dutchman’s Mine! I think he’s great – he’s MY BROTHER!
    Myrna McMeekin

  2. Hi Mike
    My husband and I made Apache Junction our home 25 years ago and love it here. It is just beautiful, and your road trip is great.
    Thank you very much
    Nancy Megyesy

  3. Hi Mike,
    good job! I have a Hungarian webpage about Arizona, for Hungarians who come here to visit the Phoenix area. You helped me a LOT to help them to show what they can see in Apache Junction! Thank you!
    We love Apache Junction, and every time our family come here, we take them there! Its lot of fun and beautiful!

  4. Great job with the pictures! Apache Junction is an incredible part of the desert southwest and not many people understand the beauty of the area. I believe you have done a wonderful job capturing the essence of AJ.

  5. Hey Mike!
    Love your tour through Apache Junction but you missed out on a HUGE amazing old ranch at the base of the Supersition mountain range. It’s called Meanwhile back at the Ranch. It’s an old ranch turned into a BEAUTIFUL rustic bed and breakfast. Next time you come that way be sure to check that place out! The owner, Joy, is the sweetest lady you’ve ever met, and the views from the cabin’s are amazing!

    1. Hi Angela…thanks for stopping by and sharing. “Meanwhile back at the Ranch” is pretty easy to miss…I can’t find a website for them. And, I lived out there for years and have never heard of it, so they must not do a very good job at marketing. Thanks again for sharing though. Cheers!

  6. Nicely, done, Mike! Am planning a trip to AJ for a few days next week so this was a nice preview on what to expect! Much appreciated!

    1. Hey Rita, my pleasure. I will actually be in the area in a couple weeks shooting some annual event footage (Lost Dutchman Days) to include and re-edit the video I did a few years ago. Some amazing hiking in the Superstitions. Enjoy, and, thanks again for stopping by.

  7. Hey Mike! Since my first trip to AJ in 2007 I have been making plans to move out there from NC. I am so in love with the state of AZ that I have flown out to see it 5 times in the last 7 yrs! Thanks for the video! Will be in AJ again next month, I can not wait!!!

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