Overview: This Off-Trail Loop will take you up to two high points providing you with breathtaking views of Apache Lake, in both directions. Once you top out on Peak 2367, the ridgeline heading west follows the shoreline from above, giving you a bird's eye view of the lake below, ending at the tip of a large peninsula. After the peninsula, there are a couple of nice swimming spots to cool down on a warm day before heading back to your vehicle.
Warning: With the exception of the first and last 1/4 mile, this Hike is entirely off-trail, and although the bushwacking is light in most areas, pants are recommended. There is very little shade on this Hike and access to the lake itself is not possible until the last 1/2 mile, so be sure to take plenty of water.
History: The Apache Trail (State Route 88) is the only highway access to this lake. The Trail and the Salt River channel below, are rich in history. The Salt River was an important resource to the Salado Indians thousands of years ago and evidence of their residency is still found along its shores today. Later, the Apaches also called this area home, using a route through the rugged canyons that is known today as The Apache Trail. When white men came to settle in the area, the Apache Trail became a Stagecoach Trail stretching from Roosevelt Lake all the way into what is now Mill Avenue in Tempe. As progress and time ensued, an actual road was constructed on this route, to allow access for the construction of the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. The road was completed in 1905. Part of this road was registered as the The Apache Trail National Forest Scenic Byway in 1986, from MP 201.0 to MP 242.5.
Apache Lake is the 2nd largest lake of the 4 Salt River Project Lakes. It was formed by the completion of the Horse Mesa Dam in 1927. It is the longest lake in the chain, at 17 miles long, sporting 41 miles of shoreline. It is completely surrounded by the Superstition Wilderness, Tonto National Forest and the Three Bar Wildlife Area. This area is home to Javelina, Bighorn Sheep, Bald Eagles, White-tailed Deer and many other species of Wildlife. The Lake is popular with fishermen, who routinely catch Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Crappie, Catfish and Walleye. Lake amenities include a Motel, Restaurant/Bar, Store, Marina, Boat Rentals, RV Hookups and Primitive Camping. There are no established Hiking Trails along the lake.
Hike: The Hike starts in the Parking Lot of the Restaurant. Follow the road back up the way you drove in for approximately 1/2 mile. You will notice a wash to your left (east), but it drops off rather sharply from the road. You'll end up back on the paved road and about 200 feet past a "Be extra careful with Fire" sign, you'll notice that the wash is now approximately at the same elevation as the road. Leave the road and cross the wash here, heading east towards the end of a ridgeline rising in front of you. You want to ascend up to the top of this ridgeline and proceed east along this ridgeline to it's unnamed high point. As you ascend, it will be steep in places, but keep your eye out for game trails. There is a very nice defined game trail that will take you up, avoiding some of the thicker bushwacking and rock outcrops. And if you're lucky you'll even see a Trail maker. I flushed a White-tailed Deer on the way up. Once on top of the ridgeline, it is more open, allowing you to hike east with relative ease. You will have to descend a little before actually hitting the high point. Don't forget to look back every once in awhile, as the views of the Lake to the west get better and better.
After you hit the high point of this ridge, you will see Peak 2367 to your NNE. You will have to descend into a very large wash before hiking back up to this Peak. This is easily done coming off the high point in a northerly direction traversing down the side of a descending ridge. Once in the wash, you will find that the water that flows through here on occasion has cut a 4-5 foot deep crevasse in the bottom of this wash. I went north several hundred feet through the wash before I could find a place to jump over it and start up the hill to Peak 2367. The first 100 feet out of the wash is your biggest challenge as far as bushwacking goes, but once you get beyond that vegetation, it thins back out to mostly cacti easily avoided, and brittlebush. You want to head in a northeast direction. Once again, watch for game trails and you will find a clear path that takes you just to the east of a large rock outcrop and up to the Peak. Once up to the Peak, take a moment to enjoy the miles of views and the east end of Apache Lake. The views of and around this Lake are incredible.
After you are done with the Photo Ops, follow the ridgeline west. You may have to descend off the ridge in a few places to find a clear path, but stick to the ridge as much as possible. Off in the distance you will see a large peninsula that protrudes into the lake. This is your next goal. You will reach the end of the ridgeline and descend off the west side to get to this peninsula. There is a cove off to your left where many of the resident Houseboats are moored. Proceed out to the Peninsula and enjoy the views at almost lake level. Come off the Peninsula the way you came on and traverse the hill going south, following the east shore of the cove. You can get down to the waterline in this area, but it would be difficult to follow the shoreline all the way back to the end of the cove and the road, unless you want to swim it. You will find a game trail/use trail pretty much all the way to the very back of the cove, where you will find a nice camp spot and beach tucked away around the corner from the Houseboats. On the way back there, I flushed another deer. You want to find the least steep path to descend down to that beach. Once on the beach you will find a path that climbs back up to the road. Follow the road west, past the Motel and turn left on the road back up to the Restaurant and back to the car. You will pass another nice little cove that would make a great swimming area, if you're so inclined. During Peak Wildflower Season, these hills will be solid yellow if the brittlebush is blooming, as they carpet these slopes. Enjoy this least visited Lake of the Salt River Chain, you won't regret it. The amount of off-trail Hiking in this area is endless....
Camping: Yes, RV, Primitive, Boat Camping and Backpacking.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.