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Apache Trail -- Highway 88 -- Phoenix, Arizona

Apache Trail -- Highway 88 -- Phoenix, Arizona

Old Apr 6, 17, 5:14 pm
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Apache Trail -- Highway 88 -- Phoenix, Arizona

For those unaware, the Apache Trail is Arizona State Highway 88 going from Apache Junction (east of Phoenix) to Roosevelt (not far from Globe) via a series of canyons. What's interesting about this state highway is that about 20 of its 44 miles are unpaved and maintained in the tradition of the 1930s.

I drove this highway about 15 years ago and recently had the opportunity to drive it again. The highway is in reasonable condition, and a fun drive when traffic is light. It is narrow in a few places and has a 10% grade on the Fish Creek Hill portion. It does take awhile to get past the Canyon and Apache Lakes up to Roosevelt, which is where the Indian ruins at Tonto National Monument are located.

We drove it in a rental Nissan Sentra.

The road is described as "dangerous" on some websites, but I would describe it as fun. Very scenic country.
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Old Apr 6, 17, 7:17 pm
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(Not far from Globe) = 31 miles. Only in the West.
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Old Apr 7, 17, 9:26 am
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I always try and take visitors on the Apache Trail, as it is a fun drive, sort of scenic, and ends at Tortilla Flats for a good dose of Touristika. Early morning walk at the Boyce-Thompson Arboretum, a little bit of art gallery hopping or antique looking or bird watching, lunch and then up to the Tonto National Monument and Roosevelt Dam before the return.

Some incomer from the east wrote an infamous article some year back that I can no longer find that called the Apache Trail "dangerous" and warned readers only to attempt it with a guide and a four-wheel-drive vehicle. As a result of that article being somewhat widespread, I have had various people object to driving it with me. However, this is a list of vehicles in which I have come back on the AT:

- 1967 Ford pickup (2WD)
- 1995 Honda Accord (FWD)
- 1998 Honda CRV (FWD)
- 2006 Saab 9-2x (FWD)
- 2009 Cadillac ATS (RWD)
- Many random rental cars

For the truly terrified, I like to fill them up with a big buttery-tortilla lunch at La Casita Cafe in Globe before driving back on the AT - a sleepy passenger is a less nervous passenger.
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Old Apr 7, 17, 3:48 pm
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I drove it in a Toyota Matrix, FWD, AFTER driving Flagstaff-Winslow-Holbrook-Snowflake-Payson right before it the same day. Didn't see any big issue, as long as one wasn't treating it like the Daytona 500. Sure, it's not the Interstate, but I've driven worse roads. Heck, it wasn't even the worst condition road I drove that day .

Last edited by TheBOSman; Apr 7, 17 at 3:57 pm
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Old Apr 8, 17, 5:51 am
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Originally Posted by Reindeerflame View Post
We drove it in a rental Nissan Sentra.
Most rental contracts specifically stipulate that the vehicles are not to go on dirt/unpaved roads.
So long as there's no way to tell, and there are no issues along the way, it probably isn't a problem.
However, some companies are now putting GPS trackers in the vehicles.

I've seen threads on other forums where people get charged additional fees when it is found out that they took a rental off of the paved road.
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Old Apr 10, 17, 8:58 am
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Originally Posted by aztimm View Post
Most rental contracts specifically stipulate that the vehicles are not to go on dirt/unpaved roads.
So long as there's no way to tell, and there are no issues along the way, it probably isn't a problem.
However, some companies are now putting GPS trackers in the vehicles.

I've seen threads on other forums where people get charged additional fees when it is found out that they took a rental off of the paved road.
For whatever it's worth, I asked the National representative at Bozeman, MT a few years ago about the unpaved road policy when it comes to a highway construction zone where the pavement has been removed while a section of highway is being reconstructed. He stated that the policy does not apply to any maintained public highway, pavement or no pavement. In fact, we encountered two long ( 5 miles +) stretches of unpaved highway, one a Montana state highway and the other part of the "figure 8" loop road in Yellowstone that is a federal highway.

In our current case, we encountered an unpaved portion, about a mile, of State Route 77 on the way from Globe to Tucson, where major construction is underway. Literal compliance with rental car contracts would mean driving miles out of one's way to avoid the unpaved portion.

Finally, driving on the Apache Trail in a careful and cautious manner likely does no damage to a passenger car -- or, another way of looking at it, it's much more problematic driving any car on the average California freeway these days at maximum allowable speed, given the state of disrepair of many aging highways.
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Old May 15, 17, 3:31 pm
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I idiotically drove this in 2015 from Tonto National Monument down to US 60 in an Audi A4 from Silvercar. I had no idea the road would be dirt until I had gone a few miles. I decided to press on and while terrified the entire time (both of dying and of destroying the rental car) it is an amazing drive. THe one lane bridges especially are nerve wracking but also fun. Here are a few photos of the drive:





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