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Monday, March 9, 2009


APACHE VISTA Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest UPDATE: This trail has been damaged by the WALLOW FIRE, June 2011. Check with the forest service for updates.  Hovering over the town of Springerville in Arizona’s White Mountains, the Apache Vista Trail #617 showcases outstanding high-country scenery. Situated at 9,000 feet in elevation, the gentle path traipses through wide-open alpine meadows along the edge of a deep, forested canyon. Cool summer temperatures and ample rain foster profuse growths of multi-colored wildflowers and towering old-growth conifers. It’s no accident that the trail has the word “vista” in its name. Expansive views of volcanic fields and river gorges that stretch all the way into New Mexico are this trail’s signature attraction. LENGTH: 5.2 miles round-trip RATING: easy ELEVATION GAIN: 50 feet GETTING THERE: From downtown Eagar, go west on Highway 260 for roughly 3 miles to the Highway 261 junction. From there, turn left (south) on Highway 261 and continue for 7.2 miles to the trailhead on the left. INFORMATION: (928) 333-4372


BIG LAKE LOOKOUT Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
This trail was impacted by the WallowFire on June 4, 2011. This scenic spur route leaves the Indian Springs Trail at a signed junction located about a half-mile from the trailhead. Adding a heart-pumping extra mile to the loop hike described below, the short but steep trail leads to the site of the former 30-foot-tall, 1930s-era fire tower. Situated at 9,415 feet, the tower was anchored into a rocky outcropping high above the Big Lake recreation area. Although the tower is gone,  excellent views make this side trip worth the extra effort. LENGTH: 2 miles round-trip (if done as an out-an-back hike from the trailhead). RATING: moderate ELEVATION GAIN: 315 feet GETTING THERE: see Indian Springs entry below


INDIAN SPRINGS LOOP Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
2012 UPDATE: Trail is open and hikers that report damage from the June 2011 Wallow Fire is not too bad.  Peppered with remnants of mid-twentieth century logging and railroad operations, this forested loop hike is rich in discovery. Set in a peaceful high-country environment, the trail embarks on a journey through history. Sights along the way include depression-era water troughs, an old cinder-bed railroad grade, cattle guards and a colorful display of gigantic wild mushrooms. The mostly-level trail weaves among refreshing timberlands and fragrant meadows crossing forest roads three times until the loop comes full-circle back at the trailhead. LENGTH: 7.5-mile loop RATING: moderate ELEVATION GAIN: 300 feet GETTING THERE: From downtown Eagar, go west on Highway 260 for roughly 3 miles to Highway 261. Turn left (south) on Highway 261 and continue for about 16 miles to Highway 273. Go left on Highway 272 and continue nearly 3 miles to Forest Road 249E. Turn right on FR-249E and drive approximately a third-of-a-mile to the trailhead on the left. INFORMATION: (928) 333-4301


MAVERICK SPRING Coronado National Forest This secondary path is a pleasant and shady detour to a secluded seep area. To find this hidden gem, start out on the Green Mountain trail and hike for roughly 1.5 miles to the sign for “Maverick Spring” (ignore the negative graffiti that’s scrawled onto the metal post) and continue downhill to a cozy enclave where canyon grapes and wild raspberries thrive in the damp soil. LENGTH: 0.8-mile side trip RATING: easy ELEVATION: 6000'-7300' GETTING THERE: see Green Mountain entry


GREEN MOUNTAIN Coronado National Forest Clinging to the slopes along scenic Catalina Highway in Tucson, the Green Mountain trail winds through a wilderness of wind-sculpted granite boulders. The steep, rugged route rambles among bizarre stone outcroppings--never straying far from the edge of the mountain and views of the yawning San Pedro River Valley below. Recent wildfires in the area (Ignore my personal snark: “there is no global warming, there is no global warming” ) have destroyed large portions of the forests that formerly shaded the trail. However, the spectacular vistas that have opened up as a result, make up for the loss. To really appreciate this trail, be sure to explore the spur paths that lead to lookout points on the cliffs where dizzying views of the surrounding mountain ranges fill the horizon. Even though this trail hovers between 6,000 and 7,300 feet in elevation, it still gets very warm in the summer months so, it’s best to plan an early start. LENGTH: 7.2 miles round-trip RATING: difficult ELEVATION: 6000' - 7300' FEE: $5 daily fee per vehicle. Exact change is required at the self-serve pay station. GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take Interstate 10 to Tucson. In Tuscon, exit I-10 at Grant Road (exit 256). Go left on Grant Road and continue to Tanque Verde Road. Go left on Tanque Verde and continue to the turn off for Catalina Highway. Follow Catalina Highway for about 22 miles to the Upper Green Mountain trailhead (just before the San Pedro Vista Lookout area). INFORMATION: (520) 388-8300


SEVENMILE GULCH #9854 Prescott National Forest Meandering in the forested woodlands above Prescott Valley, the Seven Mile Gulch trail delivers a variety of panoramic views. The shared-use trail is open to hikers, bikes, motorcycles and ATVs, and the rocky route is wide enough to accommodate the traffic. The hike begins with an easy stroll through a forest of Ponderosa pines, walnut, mahogany and a vigorous undergrowth of vines and wildflowers including hefty clumps of electric-orange skyrocket penstemones. After a short stretch, the path emerges from the woods and begins climbing up sun-drenched rolling hills. Among the acres of manzanita shrubs, Sacred Datura vines with their showy, white trumpet flowers bask in the sunlight while delicate prickly poppies thrive in shadier spots. The open section of the trail levels out at about 6,400 feet of elevation and serves up 360-degree views. To the north, the San Francisco Peaks stand out on the horizon and the bright blue swath of Lynx Lake shimmers in a ravine to the east. After that, the route continues to climb through scrub oak and pinon pine to the 6,700-foot junction with the Watershed Trail #299—the turnaround point for this hike. LENGTH: 6.2 miles round-trip RATING: moderate ELEVATION GAIN: 1,160 feet GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, travel north on I-17 for the Cordes Junction interchange. Go west on Highway 69 toward Prescott. Just before entering town, go left (south) on Walker Road (Country Road 57) and continue for 2 miles to the “Sevenmile” trailhead. Roads are paved all the way. No facilities. INFORMATION: (928) 771-4700 or