The Apache Trail, located in the heart of central Arizona, is known for its breathtaking beauty, but for those who enjoy outdoor recreation like boating, fishing, and hiking, it’s also a first-rate attraction. Located within the Tonto National Forest, the Apache Trail is also one of Arizona’s most scenic drives and has been designated a USFS Scenic Byway. I’ve driven the trail four times, but I’ve never had an opportunity to do some serious boondocking and fishing along it until last weekend.
Fish Creek Canyon is perhaps the best and most scenic part of the drive. The steep, copper-colored canyon walls and jutting peaks provide a spectacular backdrop to the creek below. Unfortunately, the creek is actually a wash and flows only during rain storms, but the amount of rain is enough to water the abundant Arizona Sycamore and Cottonwood trees that line the creek. These tall, leaf bearing trees provide a stark contrast–especially in late fall–with the ubiquitous Saguaros and Ocotillos seen on this drive. The trail that passes along Fish Creek is a dirt and gravel surface. Since the creek can fill quickly after a rain, two large, single-lane bridges have been constructed to provide year-round access.
Fish Creek Canyon has two established sites where you can boondock. Neither one is developed. You won’t even find a fire ring though there was evidence of a recent campfire where we were camped. November is a great time to explore the Apache Trail. The weather while we boondocked was darn near perfect–a high of 80 degrees during the day and a low of 59 at night, perfect sleeping weather. While were were camped we were fortunate to have a full moon which bathed the canyon in an eerie yet spectacular glow during the night. Cell reception? Not down in this deep canyon, though you will find AT&T 3G service further east near the Apache Lake Marina and AT&T 4G service at the end of the trail at Roosevelt Lake.
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. A communications expert and licensed ham radio operator (KK7TCA), he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, holds a BS degree, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side. He currently rolls in a 4WD Ram 3500 outfitted with a SherpTek truck bed with a Bundutec Roadrunner mounted on top.
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Mike, Thanks for the write up. We we’re in the area over this past weekend and primitave camped east of Tortilla Flats. We drove the entire length of the Apache Trail and ended up at the Spring Creek RV park for long hot showers after the dusty ride. BTW, really nice people there, clean showers, club house with a pool table, wifi and free dryers. I did learn to double check the rear tie downs before the somewhat steep descent at Fish Creek as a few bumps slid our AF 996 firmly against the front bumpers leaving the rear Fastguns twisting in the wind. Awesome Valley of the Sun weather, mid 70’s all 4 days.
We love that area too but hated the fact that we had no internet. I guess sometimes we need to pick and choose. Enjoy!
Yeah, that sucks, but sometimes that can be a good thing when one is trying to escape work.