This is a trip filled with old mining towns. . .
An historic bridge named after the President who deeded most of the really good lands to the National Forestry Services. . .
And a truly fascinating and well rstored ancient cliff dwelling overlooking a remarkable mountain lake and valley.
Most people associate cliff dwellers with the Anasazi in the four corner's region of the USA, but Arizona has a large number of cliff dwellings spread across the state. One of the better sites in Central Arizona is the Tonto National Monument.
Growing up in the fifties and sixties, every time I hear the name Tonto I think of Tonto and the Lone Ranger and their horses Scout and Silver. I remember all the bad Kemo-Sabi jokes and wonder why Tonto always went into town to spy around when he knew he's end up getting beat up by the bad guys.
But the Tonto National Forest covers a large expanse of central Arizona, and the Tonto National Monument rests near the top of two medium mountains overseeing Roosevelt Lake, one of the largest lakes in Arizona.
This proved to be one of our favorite biker and walking tours so far in this amazing state, and it makes for both an easy and pleasant ride during fall, winter or spring. Summer can be OK, but do it early and get back to Phoenix before the afternoon heat. There is no trip worth idling in Phoenix traffic in 115 degrees plus heat.
Starting from downtown Phoenix, take Highway 60 towards Apache Junction. This goes from a major metropolitan freeway, down to a four lane divided highway just outside of Apache Junction, then down to a two lane mountain highway just east of what is known as the 'Florence Junction'.
Heading east on Hwy 60 past the Florence Junction, be prepared for a treat: the road crosses a railroad line and almost immediately becomes a curving mountain road with substantial elevation changes and scenic drops offs. The first major canyon is known locally as Alamo Canyon. Be cautious as there is major highway construction in progress (I hope they are making this a four lane).
Watch to the right: if you have extra time, stop in to the Boyce Thompson SW Arboretum. The main BT Arboretum is a little farther on, and it more worth the time to stop.
You'll come into Superior. If you are in the mood for food, try out the Buckboard City Cafe. It is a popular Biker Stop and their breakfast is great.
Superior is home of the acclaimed 'the World's Smallest Museum' and it just might be, but so far we've passed by with too little time to spare. http://www.worldssmallestmuseum.com/index.htm . There is also a remarkable attraction known as the 'Tire Fountain'. It is a great example of what an artist can do with limited materials. . .
It's always tempting for me to turn right at S.Ray Road (Hwy 177) because that leads south through som incredible scenery, but keep heading East on Hwy 60. As quickly as you leave town you enter Elm Canyon and pass over one of the prettier bridges in the area.
This area is incredibly beautiful, but filled with curves and other drivers who are often distracted by the high cliffs and large boulders. About two miles east of Elm Canyon will be Devil's canyon, another remarkable gorge.
'Top-of-the-World' is a small community just east of Devil's canyon. There is an old railroad car that looks like it was once a restaurant, but little else in 'top-of-the-World'. Watch out for blind driveways here. I've been through here four times and three of those times had to jam on the brakes for old pickups and inattentive drivers.
A little farther on, Pinto Creek has another georgeous bridge, and then you'll begin to see signs of open pit mining to the North as rock tailings start to form their own bland mountains.
Then you come to Miami, a very small but interesting 'almost ghost' town. http://www.globemiamichamber.com/custom2.asp?pageid=445
You wouldn't think much about stopping in Miami (I know I didn't) but my passenger needed to stretch her legs, so, being fond of her legs, I pulled into the 'downtown' area and we walked the entire length of old main street, known as Sullivan Street. The mural in the photo above shows how good this choice was.
There are several antique stores (they all ship) with intriguing items, as well as some interesting architecture and the almost famous Miami bridges.
I say almost famous, as I've seen these bridges repeated in other web sites too many times.
However, this was the first time I'd seen this hotel sign. . .
One image stands over the small town as a reminder of why it is here, as well as why it is dying. I do hear the mines are coming back, what with Copper now at $3.84 per pound (as of today).
If you want a meal, Guayo's El Rey is in Miami/Claypool and they have very good mexican food.
You'll turn left on Hwy 188 (towards Payson) as you exit the Miami/Claypool area. The roadway is extremely smooth and beautify here with wide curves, but watch your speed: the locals make their revenue here making sure visitors don't exceed the miserly 45 mph speed limit.
You'll climb streadily for several miles, then crest a small pass and have a fabulous view of Roosevelt Lake. The road runs along Roosevelt Lake until you get to Tonto National Monument, and if you are not from the area you might be surprised at the number of boats on the lake, as well as the size of the lake.
Turn left into Tonto National Monument. The lower cliff dwellings can be seen from the highway, but you need to have binoculars and be watching for them.
There are upper cliff dwellings as well, and they can be seen from the highway, but are too distant to show on my telephoto lens here.
Tonto National Monumnet (TNM) was surprisingly interesting and makes for a great walking break after about a hundred miles of riding from Phoenix. For a few bucks per person, you can self guide up a fairly steep trail (well paved with a resilient surface) about a mile long and about 1,500 feet up to this cliff dwelling.
The trail itself is interesting with incredible views and a multitude of Cactus and cliff photo opportunties.
It took us about thirty minutes to make the climb (my girth slowed us down) and another twenty to come back down. Allow about 75 minutes total for the TNM.
Once done, head North again on 188. In a very short time you'll come to the rainbow bridge and Roosevelt Dam.
Roosevelt Dam is the largest 'Masonry' Dam in America. It was refurbished about twenty years ago, so you can't see the original brick structure, but at low water on the lake side you can make out the large bricks that form the backbone of this dam.
Don't be tempted by your GPS or the map to take Hwy 88 down to Apache Junction. The road is 44 miles of incredible scenery, but 28 miles of that is dirt, much of which is soft sand with high drop offs. There are confirmed stories of a number of intrepid bikers who goosed the throttle a little too hard on a sandy curve and fell to the canyon floor a few hundred feet below.
Keep on north on 188 to Jake's Corner, where you'll find a biker Friendy Bar and a convenience store. Another three miles and you can turn South on Hwy 87 (The Beeline Highway) and return to Phoenix on my favorite mountain highway in Arizona.
I've written about the beeline as well as many other riders, so I'll leave out the hyperbole and just encourage you to spend a day on this relaxing and rewarding tour.
This is a motorcycle ride in the state of Arizona. This motorcycle route has 9 scenery characteristics and other road conditions to help you plan your road trip. This motorcycle map was created by bdking in October. Click here to see other Motorcycle Roads by bdking