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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Creek hike with a mountain summit

Billy Creek

The cool, spring-fed waters of Billy and Thompson creeks anchor this deeply wooded mountain circuit. Perfect for a late summer or autumn trek, the route is located just off Pinetop-Lakeside’s main drag making for a quick up-and-around day hike with lots of variety.
One of the beautiful things about the Blue Ridge Trail is that it can be accessed via either of its two trailheads or by way of Ice Cave Trail, Springs Trail or Billy Creek Connector. But, if creekside trekking is what you're after,  the later provides the best water exposure. Along its 0.75-mile, course, Billy Creek Connector is augmented with footpaths leading to bramble-embellished quiet spaces at the water's edge.  Go right at the Blue Ridge Trail loop junction and hike through 2 miles of fragrant wet meadows to the Springs Trail turn off and the beginning of the 600-foot climb to the summit of Blue Ridge Mountain through airy, oak-pine woodlands, red earth, volcanic boulders and marauding cattle.  Blue diamond markers and location beacons help keep hikers on course where dirt fire roads muddle the map. Occasionally, tree cover parts just enough to reveal White Mountain vista views, however, do not expect the stereotypical treeless, wind-in-your-face, summit-conquering experience---- there are just too many trees..  If you have the stamina, take a side trip on the Ice Cave Trail, which leaves from the return leg of the loop. It's roughly 2 miles one-way (near mile post 8)  to the lava tube cave. Would be spelunkers be warned, hiking/climbing into the cave is not allowed.
Near the top of Blue Ridge Mtn
Billy Creek

LENGTH: 9.9-mile loop
RATING:  moderate
ELEVATION:  6880' - 7656'

Billy Creek trailhead:
In Pinetop-Lakeside, go south on AZ260 (White Mtn Blvd) to milepost 252 (just past Darbi's) turn left onto Pinecrest Rd. and continue 0.1 mile to the trailhead. Parking is very limited and for passenger vehicles only---do not block private drives. 

Billy Creek Connector:
Blue Ridge Trail:

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