A Saturday Trip to Roosevelt Lake

A Saturday Trip to Roosevelt Lake

Since buying my new truck I’ve been more and more interested in getting into the mountains East of Phoenix.  Taking trails to new areas, seeing new places, enjoying the change of climate as you crawl yourself from the sweltering heat of the valley upward several thousand.  The views are incredible.  Mountains are green.  Trees are tall and the cactus was left behind miles back.  Yep, in about an hour all of this awaits you.

Four Peaks

Four Peaks In The Distance

We started off just after sunrise and headed from Queen Creek straight up Ellsworth Rd toward Lake Saguaro.  We packed a little cooler with cold drinks and not knowing just how long it would take, brought some picnic-y food, too.  As we approached the exit off of Beeline Highway for the trailhead to Four Peaks Rd. it was 7:00am and the sun has already crested the mountains.  It was still low on the horizon and in a few spots made pictures a little difficult to take.

Four Peaks Rd. is a moderately traveled, mostly maintained dirt road that begins on the West end at Beeline Hwy and Terminates on the East end just north of Roosevelt Lake.  By moderately traveled, I mean there were about five trucks parked with empty trailers.  We’d see them later on in their side-by-sides and trail quads.  I can imagine that this place could get much more crowded.  I know this is called a road by name, but it’s a cross between a dirt road and trail.  More trail-like as you get higher up in elevation.

So we set off without knowing much about what we’d see and encounter but the road was maintained well enough that you could do it in a small 2WD SUV without issue.  We put it in 4WD a few times but not really out of necessity.  Toyota suggests driving a few miles in 4WD every thousand miles to lube the front drivetrain.  So while we obliged, it wasn’t needed to run this trail.

Running Water In The Boulders

At the beginning the road is heavily washboarded out.  There is a perfect speed that won’t rattle your fillings out but I assure you, as soon as you find that speed you’ll be out of them and on to smoother terrain.  We scoped a few places that from satellite images looked like areas that jutted from the trail that you could maybe pull into to take a leak (check), grab a refill (check) and break for a snack.  These points early on the trail were already taken by people shooting targets.  No big deal.

As the trail climbs in elevation you see the climate’s effect on the flora.  Sage brush at the beginning, transitioning into wonderful dense groves (?) of Saguaro cactus, and then finally into Pinion Pines at the top.  Amazing to see the change as you go up.  Along the way there were several places with water running across the trail.  In the valley it hasn’t rained in months and it definitely isn’t monsoon season yet so I can imaging these swelling to much more flow and potentially impeding travels during storms.  Something to note:  there are reports of the water

The Descent To Roosevelt Lake

running through the area teeming with Giardia, which is contagious and generally no bueno.  We drove across all of them with no issues.  The ground wasn’t soggy or muddy like we thought it would be but definitely check yourself before you plow through running water in the hills.  Johnny tow truck ain’t gonna be cheap.

The trail at one point had decent water crossing at an elbow and to the left was a decent clearing with a small group camping in it.  Further on there was a thick set of trees with more campers among them.  This is certainly the definition of primitive camping.  The road earns it’s alternate “trail” description as you get further in.  In one place the road was more inclined but the hard dirt was riddled with rocks.  It was like they were buried at one time and the dirt had eroded away and exposed them.  These, again, will make your fillings rattle and kids giggle.

Roosevelt Lake Bridge

Strange how that works.  Up we went.  At the top we took the turn to the Pigeon Springs and Lone Pine Trailheads.  By now well deep into the towering Pinion Pines we reached the trailheads and there it was… proof you don’t need 4WD to get up here.  A freaking Dodge Caravan.  Oh well.  We didn’t hike; this was a truck expedition, but the trailhead to Brown’s Peak begins here.
One word of caution:  this area has one of Arizona’s densest black bear populations so if you’re here to hike, be smart.

Driving down the backside was a real treat.  The views of Roosevelt Lake are unreal.  The trail descends quickly into Tonto Basin and before you know, you’re back on backtop.  This time it’s State Route 188.  Take the highway to the right (South) and you’ll run right along the water and over the longest two-lane inverted arch suspension bridge in America.

Roosevelt Dam

It reveals a view of the dam from the lake side, without the boat!  Just after the bridge crossing you have a choice.  The long way back to the valley is straight ahead through Globe and Superior and Gold Canyon and AJ and damn it’s long.  It feels like you wish you were home halfway on this route.  We did it last time.  The other option is to hang a right after the bridge and pass the dam on the south side.  This leads to another dirt road (yaaay!) that runs along the Salt River, Apache Lake and Canyon Lake.  Again it’s another 2WD safe trail (this time named the Apache Trail) and we followed an Altima and a 5th wheel toy hauler.  So ya, your mini van will be fine here, too.  This time you’ll get to cross a one-lane bridge and if you’re hungry, just after the dirt road turns back into blacktop, you’re in Tortilla Flats.  You and about another 100 cars.  This place pulls people in.  You can write on a dollar bill and they’ll plaster it up on the walls inside the restaurant, which admittedly, is a cool place to eat.  The bar doesn’t have regular stools.  Instead they’re saddles!

All in all, a fun way to fill a Saturday that’s not really too hard on your vehicle.

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