East of Phoenix, off-roaders can enjoy the dirt on half of Hwy 88 as it winds along toward Theodore Roosevelt Lake, about 45 miles NW of Apache Junction.
Before the Hwy 88 pavement ends, "Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert, 40 miles east of Phoenix. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Take a stroll along the Native Plant Trail or hike the challenging Siphon Draw Trail to the top of the Flatiron. Depending on the year’s rainfall, you might be treated to a carpet of desert wildflowers in the spring. Enjoy a weekend of camping and experience native wildlife including mule deer, coyote, javelina and jackrabbit. The park offers a variety of hiking trails, nature trails, picnic facilities, 72 campsites, a dump station, restrooms, showers, and group use areas. The visitor center sells maps and other publications."
If you prefer all pavement, you can still reach Theodore Roosevelt Lake from the NE via Hwy 188, off Hwy 87. You'll probably want to ride 87 anyway, to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.
"Tucked away in a tiny valley surrounded by a forest of pine trees, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park has been in the making for thousands of years. It is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point."
"Today, visitors can stand on top of the bridge or hike down below to capture the true size and beauty of this geologic wonder."
This entire route is about 250 miles, depending on where in Phoenix you start and end, with stops on Hwy 87 at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Hwy 188 at Lake Theodore Roosevelt, and US 60 at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. Here's the Google map with directions.
There's gas and plenty of food choices in Payton, south of Tonto Natural Bridge SP, but not many options for the next 100 miles.
About 2 miles before the bridge, Vineyard Canyon Picnic Area has covered pavillions that overlook the lake, great for escaping the Arizona sun.
Head south on Hwy 188 then west on US 60 to Miami, Arizona. Copper was discovered in the 1860's near Miami, 90 miles east of Phoenix. Southeast Arizona is a major copper producer. Here's more area copper mining information.
Photo - "Chrysocolla and quartz specimen from the Live Oak mine above Miami, AZ. Live Oak is famous among mineral collectors for this mineral combination."
There's gas and food in Superior. 50 miles east of Phoenix, on US 60 near Superior is the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. There's a visitor center, restrooms, hiking trails, picnic area. There is an admission charge.
Wildlife - "The Boyce Thompson Arboretum’s irrigated gardens and protected grounds are a magnet for birds and animals. Over 300 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians call the Arboretum home. While often unseen, Mule Deer, Javalina, Fox, Raccoon, Skunk, Squirrel and Rabbits (just to name a few) call the Arboretum home.
In 2007 the Arboretum was designated as an important bird area. More than 250 species have been recorded in the “birds of the Arboretum checklist”. Gambel’s Quail, Canyon Wren, Curved-Billed Thrashers, and Black Throated Sparrows are among the most abundant species. Bird lists are available at the Visitor Center."
8 billion pounds of copper
“In almost 100 years of continuous production before the Bisbee mines closed in 1975, the local mines produced metals valued at $6.1 billion (at 1975 price) one of the largest production valuations of all the mining districts in the world. This staggering amount of wealth came from the estimated production of 8,032,352,000 lbs of copper, 2,871,786 ounces of gold, 77,162,986 ounces of silver, 304,627,600 lbs of lead and 371,945,900 lbs of zinc!”
The ride to Bisbee has more interesting stops. 10 miles east of Tucson is the Saguaro National Park.
Click the map to enlarge it or download the pdf file below.
The nearby Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum earned a TripAdvisor 2015 Hall of Fame
designation. Tucson is also home to the Pima Air & Space Museum, and the Franklin Motorcar Museum, both highly rated on TripAdvisor.