Tortilla Flat: America’s Last Stagecoach Stop

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“You have to drive through beautiful scenic views with twists and turns to reach us. So part of the appeal of Tortilla Flat is not just the destination, but the journey to get there,” said Katie Ellering, owner and self-appointed mayor of Tortilla Flat.

Nestled in the middle of the Tonto National Forest in the Superstition Range is an old west town, Tortilla Flat. Founded in 1904, Tortilla Flat was the freight stop for all supplies transported to and from the Roosevelt Dam. The town is just 18 miles northeast of Apache Junction and is a must-see destination for anyone interested in history or visiting the area.

“You have to drive through beautiful scenic views with twists and turns to reach us. So part of the appeal of Tortilla Flat is not just the destination, but the journey to get there,” said Katie Ellering, owner and self-appointed mayor of Tortilla Flat.

The area’s rich history is the appeal of this small town. Visitors are transported back in time as they walk the boardwalk that runs through the center of town. In the 1920s, over 120 people lived there after the dam was completed. Back then, the area had a zoo and a school for residents and even a US Post Office established in 1927 that is still in operation. Today, with a population of just six people, it’s hard to believe that in high season more than 20,000 people visit the town every month.

The western town has a merchant with unique gifts and souvenirs. It features amazing works of art made by local artists. In their country store they have ice cream, homemade fudge, their world famous prickly pear, gelato and all kinds of fun old fashioned candies and sodas. They also have a full service restaurant, the Superstition Saloon. Ellering and her husband are foodies and have made it their mission to ensure they provide quality options to their visitors.

“For more than 80 years, we have had a chili recipe that is world famous. People love our chili so much that we sell the spice mix in the country store and I mail it out every week. I get emails and calls where people tell me they need their chili fix, especially when the weather turns cold,” Ellering said.

They have live music, food and drink seven days a week from Christmas until it gets too hot on the BBQ terrace which operates on a first come, first served basis. they don’t close during normal hours for private events as many regulars rely on them.

Tortilla Flat is a great hub for Arizona adventurers. The city has access to resources to explore the beautiful nature that surrounds it.

“We also sell the Tonto National Park day passes, in our country store and in our mercantile. So it’s eight dollars for a day pass and you need the pass if you’re at any of the labeled recreation sites,” Ellering said.

The area is extremely popular for people of all ages with the lure of history and all outdoor activities like hiking, boating and fishing. If a visitor wants to stay overnight, they can book the Tortilla Flat Campground which is not affiliated with the historic site but is located across the street. Alternatively, there are various accommodations at Apache Junction, just 35 miles from town.

At this time, Ellering supports Save the Apache Trail efforts. Due to the fifth largest wildfire in Arizona history (which burned over 120,000 acres of wilderness) and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lorena in 2019, the Arizona Department of Transportation ( ADOT) has closed a portion of the historic Apache Trail, home to a ton of recreational activities such as scenic driving, hiking, fishing, water activities and more. Currently approximately 18 inches of topsoil is missing from the road surface and sections of the road are beginning to collapse. Without immediate attention, the historic Apache Trail is at risk of greater damage that could cost millions more to repair.

The Arizona Legislature passed SB 1820 this year, approving $700,000 for education. ADOT says they have to wait until they have completed soil studies before starting work. However, quick action is needed to make repairs for a better chance of restoring this land.

If you would like to get involved, sign the Save the Apache Trail petition here: saveapachetrail.com/#cta.

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