Travel: Get on the desert trail in Mesa, Arizona

Discover wild west history, nature and foodie experiences, says Ruth Brindle

The spectacular Superstition Mountains in Mesa, Arizona
The spectacular Superstition Mountains in Mesa, Arizona

After an 11-hour transatlantic flight to the States it’s good to know that Mesa, Arizona is only a 20-25 minute drive from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport.

And when you arrive in this desert heaven, there are two easy road trips to help you discover the best of the area.

The Apache Trail

View of the Salt River in the Tonto National Forest

A scenic ride around 12 attractions and places of interest along the way through the Superstition Mountains. The partially-paved, 48-mile road snakes along a chain of three man-made lakes on the Salt River – Canyon, Apache, and Roosevelt.

Best attractions

A 90-minute Dolly Steamboat ride on Canyon Lake.

Tortilla Flat, an authentic remnant of an old west stage stop with real saddles serving as bar stools in the restaurant. Try the Prickly Pear Ice Cream.

See what life was like in the Old West along the Apache Trail

Goldfield Ghost Town, the site of a gold strike in 1892. Wander around, watch a ‘gunfight’, take an underground tour of the tunnels or enjoy a drink and meal in the saloon.

Where to stay

Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch in the Tonto National Forest. It’s in a truly gorgeous, mountainside location on the banks of the Salt River beside the towering Bulldog Cliffs. The cabins are surrounded by the distinctive saguaro cacti.

Here you can relax and eat, watch TV or use the WiFi. The 20 ‘get-away-from-it-all’ cabins have no TV, WiFi, radios, clocks or phones in the rooms, but do have heating and air conditioning.

Get away from it all at Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch

What to do

Swim under a dazzling star-lit sky; take a horseback trail ride to spectacular views.

Foodie Trail

This is a ‘have fork will travel’ collection of the finest venues for buying, eating and drinking your way around the area.

Get a Wild West welcome at Goldfield Ghost Town

Best attractions

Queen Creek Olive Mill is a family-owned olive farm producing olive oil and oil-based products. The Olive Oil 101 tour tells the story, and you can enjoy a tasty lunch and the in-house roastery’s Superstition Coffee.

Agritopia is an urban farm producing fruit and veg through a community garden scheme where individuals grow varied crops, which you can buy fresh, or enjoy in dishes at Joe’s Farm Grill, a ‘60s-style diner.

What to do

Splash out on the Fall Orchard Dinner. Enjoy a Meditteranean-themed feast in the citrus orchard. Stunning.

Also popular

Ruth takes a trip on the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake

Hiking - head for Usery Mountain Regional Park. It’s 3,648 acres of Sonoran desert. Enjoy a picnic in the shade or take the Wind Cave Trail up 2,840ft for a panoramic view.

Mesa Grande Cultural Park in town, to learn about the ancient settlement built by the Hohokum between 1100 and 1400 AD.

Famous ‘fast food’ at Jalapeno Buck’s. ‘Arizona-style BuzzSaw Brand BBQ and New Wave Mexican Soul Food’ on offer. Makes you feel like a real local!

Mesa has so much to offer and it’s all so easily accessible - a fantastic desert experience taking in the best of the past and present.


More information on

America As You Like It (020 8742 8299) has a five-night fly-drive to Mesa, Arizona from £1,485 per person, including return flights on British Airways from London Heathrow to Phoenix, five days fully inclusive car hire, two nights bed and breakfast at the Residence Inn Phoenix-Mesa East and three nights bed and breakfast at the Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch.

Mesa Goldfield and mountains
Discover how mining was done in the old days
The sumptuous Orchard Fall Dinner at Agritopia along the Foodie Trail