Hiking

With some fantastic scenery and wildlife, hiking in the White Mountains Arizona is an awesome experience!

Within 15 minutes to the Baldy trail and a very short distance to some othe great hikes listed below, you will find that Greer Point Cabins are an excellent base for some excellent walks in North Arizona,

For more information, please contact the USDA Forest Service, Springerville Ranger District at: 

Voice: (928) 333-4301
Fax: (928)-333-5966
TTY: (928) 333-6292

Here is a link to their excellent trail guide. If you plan to hike - check out this before you do! 

http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5227797.pdf

Please click on any of the links below for more information

Attractions and Considerations: The Butler Canyon Trail is a self guided nature trail with numbered stations beside the trail. These stations correspond to descriptions in a pamphlet which is available at a sign-in station at the trailhead. Please return the pamphlet after you've finished with it so that others may use it. Interpretative lectures and walks are conducted here during the summer by a Forest Service Naturalist. Schedules are posted at Hoyer campground and at the Springerville Ranger Station.

Description: This cool verdant canyon has long been a favorite with tourists. It is particularly popular with seniors and families with young children because of the level grade of the trail and the interpretative stations. Its location in Greer makes it a convenient spot for the many visitors to this picturesque community. The trail travels up Butler Canyon for about one half mile, then crosses a small stream before looping back. 

Butler Canyon was named for Jacob Butler, who settled here in the late 1880's with his nineteen children. Aquatic plants grow along the stream, which is shaded by alders and willows. Aspen, pine, spruce and fir line the canyon and provide nests for the many birds who make their home here. If you start your hike early enough, you may see wild turkeys, deer and coyotes as they come downcanyon for a drink.

Difficulty: Easy. The trail is mostly level, though two hills exist.

Access: Butler Canyon is just east of Greer. The trailhead is located off the East Fork Road.

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Description: Cool water, great view and three seasons of use make the South Fork trail one of the most rewarding trails on the District. A round trip hike adds up to fourteen miles so many people like to leave a vehicle at each trailhead. The lower trail follows the South Fork of the Little Colorado of 3.5 miles, through stands of cottonwood, sycamore, pine, aspen and oak. Several grassy meadows open up the scenery and make ideal picnic spots, offering a change from the steep-sided canyon that dominates most of the lower trail. 

The South Fork of the Little Colorado is a fast running river fed by runoff and springs. Many pools exist along its path where an angler can snag a fat trout or a footsore hiker can cool off. Look for signs of beaver, gnawed aspen stumps and intricately built dams are their trademark. 

Views from the upper bench are spectacular. From the southwest to the northwest, Mount Baldy, Green's Peak and all the mountains between are spread out, while the vast grassland to the north stretches all the way to the horizon. To the southeast, Escudilla Mountain rises near the New Mexico state line. 

Mexican Hay Lake is a shallow, high elevation lake. A large meadow borders it on one side and an aspen and conifer forest on the other. The tall reeds that give the lake its name make it a magnet for waterfowl. Ducks and Canada geese can be seen through most of the year and bald eagles winter there. Elk, deer, beaver and turkey are all common sights along the trail.

Attractions and Considerations: The primary trailhead is located in the South Fork campground on the west side of the creek. Parking is limited at this time. Please do not park in an occupied campsite. Another trailhead is located on the north side of Mexican Hay Lake. The roads to that trailhead can be very muddy during the spring run-off and the summer rains. If this is the case, park by the gate near the highway and walk to the trail-head. The trail is open to horseback riders, bicyclists and hikers.

Attractions and Considerations: The Pole Knoll Recreation area is primarily known as a cross-country ski area, but the trails accommodate other activities through the rest of the year. 

Most of the trails are old roads. Some are closed to vehicular traffic, others are not. Closed roads are signed. This is the only developed trail system on the Springerville Ranger District with a varied use mix. That is, hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders, motorized vehicles, may all find themselves on the same trail. With this mixture of users, it is essential that each person respect the rights of others. 

There are two trailheads; the main one is located just off AZ 260 and provides parking for up to 20 vehicles. In addition to parking, outhouses (during the winter months) and an information board are set up. The secondary trailhead is located off AZ 373, north of Greer. Parking is available for 6 to 8 vehicles and an information board is there. No overnight camping is allowed in the parking areas. 

The trails are signed with Nordic ski symbols. You might not think these will be very helpful in the middle of July, but what goes for skiing often goes for walking and even riding a bicycle as well.

  • A Green circle means an easy trail.
  • A blue square indicates a moderately difficult trail.
  • A black diamond advertises the most difficult Pole Knoll has to offer.

Description: Pole Knoll is very typical of the knolls that grace the White Mountains. The north side is heavily timbered with spruce, fir and aspen. The west and south aspects are mainly bunch-grass, with some mixed conifers toward the top. The east side of the knoll is a mixture of ponderosa pine, spruce, fir, aspen and even a few hardy oak trees. 

Trails and roads provide access to most sections of the knoll. Motor vehicles are limited as to where they can go, but for those using muscle-power or horses, the only limiting factors are energy and daylight. The trail system covers all terrain found on the knoll. Vehicles are prohibited from the fragile grass slopes and also the recently built trails in the forested areas. Please obey all road closure signs, there are enough roads without making new ones. 

Each trail has been given a name. The trails originating from the Pole Knoll side are descriptive names and the names of birds and animals. The trails originating from below, near Greer, have been given numbered designations. Pamphlets describing the trails are available at the sign-in register at each of the trailheads. Please return the pamphlet when you are through so that others might use it. 

The Pole Knoll area offers fantastic views of the White Mountains, both in the distance and close up. Keep your eyes to the ground and you may see wildflowers, mushrooms and animal tracks. Look up and you can see Sunrise Lake, Sunrise Peak and Mt. Baldy stretched out to the southwest, Green's Peak to the north and the Little Colorado Basin to the East.

Description: The trail begins on a fairly level grade and takes you through stands of Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine and aspen, with some grass meadows thrown in for variety. A few rolling hills dominate the first 2.5 miles, then the trail drops down to the Black River drainage. This portion of the trail is very steep, which should present little problem to hikers but mountain bikers may find it difficult. In the words of an enthusiast, "If you ride it down, you have to pack it up." Before dropping down, the trail follows the canyon rim, offering magnificent views of the river. About halfway down slope, you will come to a rock slide with a rustic bridge spanning it. As you prepare to cross, pause a moment and listen. Deep beneath the rocks you can hear the distinct sound of a spring bubbling. From the bridge, it is a short way to the river. 

Once at the West Fork, reward yourself by wetting your fishing line or relaxing in a shady grove. Note where beavers have gnawed willows and aspen saplings to build a nearby dam, or look for animal tracks in the mud of the stream bank. Soon it will be time to turn back and return along the same trail with a new perspective.

Attractions and Considerations: This trail does not go to the West Fork Campground. This trail was built specifically for hiking and mountain bicycle use. To avoid user conflict, it is closed to horseback riding and motorized vehicles. The West Fork Trail is connected to both the Thompson Trail (#629) and the Indian Springs Trail (#627). Parking is available at either trailhead. The black rubber bars set across the trail are water bars, designed to carry runoff away from the trail to prevent erosion. It is safe to ride over on a bicycle. Only experienced mountain bikers should attempt the portion of the trail that descends to the Black River, as it becomes very steep. Bring drinking water, as water sources in the area are untreated.

Description: The trail begins in a meadow but soon plunges into the forest, dominated by ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir trees. If you are lucky, you will see elk and deer browsing along the edge of one of the several meadows the trail passes through. The trail is wide and graveled, providing good traction for bicycle tires and boots alike. After about a half mile, the trail forks. The right fork continues on the main route, while the left fork takes you to the Big Lake lookout tower. 

The trail leading to the tower is steep and not really suited to mountain bike use, so be prepared to carry your bike if you bring it. The tower is staffed regularly through fire season, which in this part of the world is May, June and July. You do not need to be in the tower itself to enjoy the panoramic views. Excellent views are to be had from the tower's steps or the rock knob the tower sits on. NEVER climb a lookout tower when lightning is striking nearby and always ask the person on duty if it is okay to come up. 

Back on the main trail, you will soon come to Spillman Springs, which is distinguished by a series of dugout logs. The troughs have been in use since at least 1950 and are believed to have been constructed by the Civilian Conversation Corps during the depression. The road soon drops down and crosses Forest Road 24. Take care as you cross this road, the 24 road can be busy at times. The trail soon merges with an old road, passes Indian Springs, and gives way to an old railroad grade. This is the remnant of the Apache Railway Company's Maverick Line, which transported logs to the mill in McNary from the 1940's to the early 1970's. Here the trail opens up to lush meadows bordered by trees. The railroad grade has a slight uphill incline which is steady but not killer. The traction on this old cinder bed is very good. 

About 2.5 miles from Indian Springs you will come to the spur trail that connects this trail to the West Fork Trail (#628). If you choose this route, you will add another seven miles to your trip. If you find yourself short on time or energy, continue on your way and ignore the turnoff. In about another half mile, you leave the railroad bed and cut through a strip of forested land before entering a long meadow. In the late spring and through the summer, this meadow is bright with wildflowers of all sizes and hues. From the meadow, the trail crosses the 249E road, where it rises and dips near a rock ledge. On the other side of the ledge is Rainbow Campground, which is connected to the trail by a spur trail which comes off of loop D. The main trail soon crosses the 249E road again to finish up at the parking area.

Attractions and Considerations: This trail was designed for hiking and mountain bicycling. To avoid user conflict, it is closed to horseback riding and motorized vehicles. Please stay on the trail and avoid the temptation to make your own shortcuts. The black rubber bars set across the trail are water bars, designed to carry runoff away from the trail and prevent erosion. they are safe to ride over on a mountain bike. It is recommended that you begin the Indian Springs loop on the south side of the road, by the register. This will greatly reduce possible conflict with other users and will eliminate a climb between Spillman and Indian springs. Bring your own drinking water, as water sources in the area are not treated. All roads to the trailhead are suitable for passenger vehicles.

 

Description: There are two trailheads, both of them off AZ 273. The main trail head is on the north side of the East Fork of the Little Colorado. Phelp's Trailhead used to be on this site. A secondary trailhead is located at Gabaldon Campground. The trails merge within a quarter of a mile of their respective starting points. 

The two trails merge near the wilderness boundary. The trail follows the East Fork of the Little Colorado River through a long meadow. The river has several pools created by beaver dams which are usually good fishing spots. If you don't have a fishing pole, or even if you do, maybe what you'll catch is a glimpse of a beaver going about its daily tasks. If you don't see one of these large, shy rodents you can always console yourself with the variety of wildflowers that blanket the meadow from late spring through the summer. 

After following the meadow for about a mile and a half, the trail enters the timber. Here is where it begins to climb, and what a climb it is. The trail winds up through a maze of sandstone boulders and stands of mixed conifer. In a half mile of climbing, you will gain 800 feet in elevation. As if this were not enough reason to catch your breath, try the view. A reward usually comes to those who strive, and your reward will be a truly panoramic view. This view includes portions of the White Mountain Apache Reservation, Big Lake, Crescent Lake, a sizable chunk of the Black River Valley, Escudilla Mountain, the Blue Range and on into the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. Few vantage points on the Forest offer a view like this, hopefully you brought a camera. 

From this point, the trail follows a ridgeline on a continuous uphill grade, thought it is a far more gradual climb than the one you've just been through. As the trail climbs, it alternates between timber and bare, rocky areas. About seven miles from the trailhead, this trail merges with the one from Sheep's Crossing. The two come together in a saddle below Mount Thomas, nearly to the top of Mount Baldy. The summit of Mount Baldy itself is located on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation is closed to all non-tribal members. From this point you can choose to continue on to Sheep's Crossing, about seven miles away, or to return the way you came. Many people like to hike up one trail and down another and make their lives easier by parking or shuttling their vehicles at each of the trailheads.

Attractions and Considerations: Please sign in at the trailhead register. Carry your own water or purification equipment and do not drink untreated water. This is a wilderness trail. Rules pertaining to wilderness areas apply and are enforced. No motorized vehicles, mountain bicycles or power equipment are allowed in the wilderness. Please follow low impact camping techniques and leave no trace of your passing. For more information, refer to the Wilderness section of the USDA Forest Service. Group size limits are 12 for hiking and riding and 6 for camping.

 

Description: The trail immediately crosses the West Fork of the Little Colorado River, so roll up your pants and prepare to get your feet wet, because there is no bridge here. Once across, the trail goes almost straight up toward Amberon Point, rising nearly 600 feet in elevation in just under an eighth of a mile. Engleman spruce and Douglas fir trees are thick on either side of the trail here. The chattering of squirrels should inspire you through the climb. Once at Amberon Point, catch your breath and consider that the most difficult part of the trail is behind you. The trail continues on a more reasonable grade toward Marble Spring, offering a glimpse of the Greer Basin. Near Marble Spring, the trail skirts and actually passes through an area that was logged in 1988. 

The trail soon leaves the forested area and cuts across wide meadows, detouring around cienegas, or marshy areas. Waterfowl can be found in these wet spots through the summer and early fall. Frogs sing away the summer as garter snakes hunt in the tall grass. Elk are common sights, cooling themselves in the cienegas in the warm summer afternoons. The trail continues through open country, bordered by tall trees, eventually following an old railroad grade near Colter Reservoir. These railroad beds are common through the Springerville and Alpine Ranger Districts. they are what is left of the Maverick line of the Apache Railway system, which hauled lumber to the mill in McNary after World War II. Posts set in the ground with a hiker symbol help delineate the trail's course through the meadow. 

Past Colter Reservoir, the trail crosses the gravel portion of AZ 273 before ending across the road in Gabaldon Campground. Use extreme caution while crossing AZ 273 for people tend to drive very fast on this stretch of road. This portion of the trail ends at Gabaldon. Past Gabaldon, the trail takes you into the Mount Baldy Wilderness Area.

Attractions and Considerations: This trail is open to hiking, horseback riding and mountain bicycling. It is closed to motorized vehicles. The trail continues past Gabaldon Campground and into the Mount Baldy Wilderness area. Mountain bikes are not allowed past the wilderness boundary. Please be considerate of other trail users. Carry your own drinking water or purifying equipment, as none of the water sources in the area are treated.

 

Description: This is the second half of Trail #94, which begins in Greer off Osborne Road.  

The trail starts just out of the parking area and through the gate. Please, take a moment to sign the visitor register. The trail is easy to follow as it cuts across a wide meadow and edges up to the West Fork of the Little Colorado. The trail follows the stream for the next two miles, climbing gradually. This stretch is the most heavily used portion of the trail and quite possible the most heavily used trail on the Forest. If you have a problem with lots of other hikers, then avoid this trail on weekends and holidays. as the trail begins a more noticeable climb, the crowds thin out quite a bit. The trail crosses the West Fork over an old bridge and continues its uphill grade. The ascent is no vein-popper, but it can still be taxing due to the steady climb and high elevation. 

The trail crosses meadows and winds through a thick forest setting dominated by spruce, fir and aspen. Beaver dams dot the stream and fishing on the West Fork is generally good. As you work your way up, the trail becomes a series of switchbacks. Please stay on the trail and resist the temptation to make your own shortcuts. This damages the soil, scars the land and causes erosion which could wash out the established trail and bring silt into the creek. The West Baldy Trail merges with the East Baldy Trail in a saddle near the Reservation boundary below Mt. Thomas. At this point you can see some new country and continue down to the other side, or turn around and see the trail you just came up from a different angle. Each is a 7 mile hike from this point. Many hikers park a vehicle at the Sheep's Crossing trailhead and another at the Phelp's trailhead as shuttle vehicles. The summit of Mt. Baldy is on the White Mountain Apache Reservation and is closed to all non-tribal members. Please respect their customs and laws and do not travel to the top.

Attractions and Considerations: This is a wilderness trail. Rules pertaining to wilderness areas apply and are enforced. No motorized vehicles, no bicycles and no power equipment are allowed in the wilderness. For more information on rules and ethics governing wilderness areas, please refer to the general information section of the USDA Forest Service Wilderness guide. Carry your own water or bring water purification equipment. Do not drink from local water sources, it is untreated. Please sign in and out at the trailhead register. Let someone know where you'll be and when you expect to return. Group size limits are 12 for hiking and riding and 6 for camping.

Description: If you start from the Osborne trailhead, the trail follows a small creek, which is surrounded by aspen and ponderosa pine trees. The trail takes a gradual uphill grade to Badger Pond, also known as Trail Springs Tank. Wild roses and raspberry bushes grow near the tank, offering a treat to the eye as well as the palate from mid to late summer. Past the pond, the trail splits and merges again in less than a quarter of a mile. Here comes the most difficult part of the hike, as the trail rises through steep and rocky ground. It is a short climb, however, and the trail soon levels out. You will notice that Forest Road 87 parallels the trail for a short stretch. After leveling off, the trail crosses two dead-end roads that come off F.R. 87. Either one of these roads offer an excellent place to park as you begin your hike. 

From this point to Sheep's Crossing, the trail is generally level, except where it makes a slight dip to Potato Hollow Spring. The spring is set in a cool stand of Douglas-fir trees and offers a perfect spot for a break. The trail continues through a checkerboard of forest and meadows. Deer are often seen browsing at the forest edge. 

Just a quarter of a mile from Sheep's Crossing, the trail crosses the gravel portion of AZ 273. Cross this section of road with care, as people tend to drive very fast. The trail follows an old railroad bed before dropping down to Sheep's Crossing. From Sheep's Crossing the trail becomes the West Fork Trail to Mt. Baldy, which is in a wilderness area.

Attractions and Considerations: Hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders are welcome, but not motorized vehicles. Please be considerate of other trail users. Carry your own water or purification equipment and do not drink untreated water. Mountain bikes are not allowed on the second leg of this trail, which is located in the Mt. Baldy Wilderness Area on the west side of Sheep's Crossing. The wilderness portion of this trail is covered on the West Baldy Trail #94 page.

 

Description: The Thompson Trail follows the course of the West Fork of the Black River and passes through some of the most striking country to be seen on the Springerville District. 

This high country, snowed in for nearly half the year and characterized by steep, timbered canyons and frequent meadows. The Thompson Trail takes you through this and more. Add a shallow fast moving stream that is a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon fishery and you have an idea of what awaits you on trail #629. 

The trail begins just off Forest Road 116 near Thompson Ranch. Because it travels alongside of the West Fork of the Black River the trail is generally level. Some stretches of the trail pass through boggy ground. For this reason, horses and bicycles are not allowed, but foot travel is. When the water is high expect to get your feet wet while traversing these sections. 

An old railroad bed is located upslope from the trail and the river. Feel free to hike, bicycle or ride a horse on the cindered railroad bed. The rail road bed follows the route of the trail pretty closely and offers the same great scenery. 

As you walk along the first mile or so, you will notice large piles of rocks secured in wire (gabions) that span the width of the creek. These are fish barriers, designed to allow fish to swim downstream but not up stream. Thus, the upper reaches of the river and its tributaries are free of exotic, non-native trout.

Attractions and Considerations: This trail connects with the West Fork Trail #628 and loop trail #628A. The trail is open to foot travel only. If you wish to ride a bicycle or horse you may use the old rail road bed which runs parallel to the trail and is located upslope from the trail. Horses are prohibited on Trail #628. No motorized vehicles are permitted. Please stay on the trail and avoid making shortcuts. Bring drinking water or a purification system. The stream water is not treated. The Thompson Trail was built with a grant from the Heritage Fund in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The trail was constructed with help from many volunteer organizations.

Description: This is a short but sometimes arduous hike, as it is a steady uphill climb from the trailhead to the tower. Aspen, spruce and Douglas-fir are the most common trees on this hike. Look for mushrooms poking up from the forest floor after the summer rains. Once your arrive at your destination, pause a moment to catch your breath and enjoy the view. If the tower is not staffed, great vistas are available from the hill or the stairs of the tower.

Attractions and Considerations: This is a steep and narrow trail and is not recommended for mountain bikes. The Big Lake Lookout Tower was constructed in 1933 and remodeled in 1967. The tower is 30 ft. tall and has a 12 ft. square observation area. This tower is generally staffed from May through July. The primary duty the lookout is to detect forest fires. Visitors are welcome, but not if their visit will interfere with the lookout's job. Do not climb the tower when there is lightning nearby.

Special thanks to the USDA Forest Service, Springerville District for providing this information.