Just down the road from stunning Canyon Lake, where standup paddleboarders and Dolly Steamboat riders cruise between golden cliffs, lies Tortilla Flat, population: six. Established in 1904 as a freight camp for laborers constructing Roosevelt Dam, the town has served as a stagecoach station and lunchtime pit stop for President Theodore Roosevelt. Located an hour from downtown Phoenix, this leisurely outpost is popular with day trippers looking for a Western vibe and watery adventure.
At the Superstition Saloon & Restaurant, diners can hop onto saddle bar stools and sip sarsaparilla while feasting their eyes on the estimated $350,000 worth of signed dollar bills papering the walls. For dessert, pop into the Tortilla Flat General Store for a prickly pear gelato and mosey down the boardwalk. Then head to the mini museum to learn about the town’s colorful history, from fires to filmmaking.
Nestled in the “sky island” mountains north of Sonoita, Kentucky Camp offers a rare chance to spend the night in an abandoned ghost town. The U.S. Forest Service rents a restored adobe cabin onsite, giving guests an intimate experience with deserted buildings set amidst the silence of the grasslands and the grandeur of a star-filled sky.
After gold was discovered in the area in 1874, around 500 miners rushed in, depleting the deposits within a decade. In 1904, Kentucky Camp was built as the headquarters of the Santa Rita Water and Mining Company, which aimed to employ hydraulic gold mining to extract more ore. But the venture fizzled out when, a year later, the camp’s designer and chief engineer mysteriously plummeted to his death from a window in Tucson. Today, visitors can explore the restored headquarters building, relax on the porch, and mountain bike or hike along the Arizona Trail.