The old Apacheland Movie Ranch, Apache Junction, Arizona.
Last week, we braved the heat and took a road trip down the historic Apache Trail. It’s one of the oldest scenic byways in North America, a drive full of hairpin turns and sun-flares over desert hills. The trail, which runs 41.5 miles, begins on Main Street in the town of Apache Junction east of Phoenix and winds its way through the storied Superstition mountains. The long, twisting road is dotted with ghost towns, lakes, desert dams, and narrow bridges before terminating at the Roosevelt Dam. The trail was constructed in the early 1900s as a way to haul materials to the construction site at Roosevelt Dam. Read more Apache Trail history here.
Just beyond the Superstition Mountains and the Lost Dutchman State Park, there’s an eye-catching roadside attraction. It’s called Apacheland, a retired movie set that served as a filming location for Westerns like Gunfight at the OK Corral and The Battle of Cable Hogue, and Elvis Presley’s foray into “serious” movie acting, Charro!
Apacheland endured two fires, years of mismanagement, a bankruptcy and even closure throughout its rocky history as a film set. Today, you can tour the “Elvis Chapel” (built for Charro), the Apacheland Barn and a handful of quirky set pieces, the last remnants of its old movie-making days. Apacheland, which is now located on the grounds of the Superstition Mountain Museum, makes for a quick pit stop if you’re heading to Goldfield Ghost Town, Canyon Lake, or just cruising the Apache Trail.
The “Elvis Chapel” at Apacheland.
A tour guide told us the chapel was built specifically at the request of Presley, who would not be wed on film without a proper chapel in view. The chapel exterior appears in Charro! At that time, the structure was a facade. Eventually, it was turned into a small movie memorabilia museum. Today, there’s not much to see beyond a few movie posters, and one notable mannequin.
Inside the little white wedding chapel in the desert: the King himself. According to the Apacheland website, the chapel is available for weddings.
And let’s not forget “Boothill Cemetery,” located across the yard from Apacheland. The cowboy graves might be fake, but the snakes warnings are 100 percent genuine.
Apacheland Ghost Town and Museum
6517 S Kings Ranch Rd
Gold Canyon, AZ 85118