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Sunday, April 13, 2014


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

Willow Springs Canyon

Popular with hikers, bikers and anglers alike, the trails around Willow Springs Lake provide both access to the water and miles of pine-shaded solitude on the Mogollon Rim. For many outdoor enthusiasts, a trip around 7.6-mile Bike Loop #534 serves as an inaugural exposure to the area.  This trek begins on that trail, but then drops into the canyon behind the dam at the north end of the lake. From the Horse Trap trailhead, hike 0.2 mile to the first signed junction, head right and continue to a fork.  Here, the bike trail veers right while an old road heads left toward the lake.  We went left and   hiked to the dam on the fisherman trails along the water's edge, however, the bike trail will get you there as well in about the same distance. Once at the dam, make an easy scramble down into Willow Springs Canyon and trek north following the creek.  The way is clear and easy for 1.5 miles, winding through alpine meadows and protected wildlife habitat.  Be sure to keep an eye out for the osprey nests teetering on the tops of dead pines.  The canyon narrows gradually, transforming the hike from a sunny stroll to a bushwhack through a quagmire of deadfall and boulder-choked channels. Determined hikers who are prepared for a challenging journey can continue upstream to where the stream meets Chevelon Canyon 3.5-miles north of the dam. Otherwise, for an easy trek, just turn back when the going gets messy.
Easy hiking for about 1.5 miles

LENGTH: 7.6 miles (easy) 10.70 miles (to Chevelon Canyon)
RATING: easy or difficult
ELEVATION: 7635’ – 7300’ (7040’)
From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go 31 miles east on SR260 to the Horse Trap trailhead on the left between mileposts 284 and 285.

Entering the quagmire

Nesting osprey
INFO: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

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