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Monday, August 26, 2013

Epic views from a White Mountains mesa


Recently upgraded to incorporate an extra 1.5 miles of White Mountain scenic vistas, this undulating hike loops through a mix of shaded coniferous woodlands and sun drenched pinion-juniper scrub.  Route finding was also improved with the addition of location markers (T1-T29) placed every quarter-mile and blue diamond tree blazes that eliminate confusion where fire roads intersect the trail #636.  After a short climb (mitigated by long switchbacks) epic views begin to emerge. The western edge of the mesa-- buttressed by volcanic boulders--overlooks Jacques Marsh wetlands and Scott Reservoir, where, in late summer, acres of wildflowers transform the high country prairies into a sort of Monet painting replete with muddled hues, reflective waters and shocking splats of gold all brushed and blended in unbridled strokes over a living canvas. This hilltop art galley goes on for roughly 2 miles before the trail veers east, ducking in-and-out of damp ravines, deadwood lizard habitats and spare high points with a start-to-finish cache of alluring natural and human-made curiosities.

LENGTH: 7.9-mile loop (including 0.4 mile on  access path)
RATING:  moderate
ELEVATION: 6,640' - 6,960'
From Phoenix, travel north on SR87 to the SR260 junction in Payson.  Head east (right) and follow SR260 to milepost 350 and the stoplight at Porter Mountain Road (FR45) in Pinetop-Lakeside.  Turn left at the light and go 2.2 miles (veer right at the 1.7-mile point to stay on FR45) to the trailhead sign.  Turn left and continue 0.1 mile on a  dirt road (watch that rut!) to the trailhead.

Lakeside Ranger District, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, 928-368-2100

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