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Sunday, June 14, 2015


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Trails are marked with Nordic ski symbols

Conveniently located off State Route 260 near Greer, the Pole Knoll Recreation Area is a year-round destination for outdoor sports. The site's 12 trails combine for 18 miles of both cross-country ski routes in winter and hike-bike-horse paths in summer. Nordic ski symbols mark the trails. Green circles indicate easy trails, blue squares are for moderate and black diamonds mark the most difficult. The trail system loops through a mix of alpine meadows, pine forests and aspen-fir groves. Although most of the trails here offer moderate grades and well-engineered climbs, the diminished oxygen of this high elevation site tends to slow down visitors from the lowlands who may find themselves huffing and puffing even on the easier routes. You may need to suck more air here, but persistence pays off with gorgeous mountain and lake vistas. Having to catch your breath every so often is the perfect excuse to stop and savor views of classic White Mountain peaks like 11,421' Mount Baldy and the 10,133' tower cluttered slopes of Greens Peak---the tallest cinder cone in the Springerville Volcanic Field. (And, yes, you can hike its edge-hugging summit road). Route options include the easy 6.2-mile Pole Knoll Loop that traces the meadowy base of the aspen embellished volcanic hill and the more difficult Summit (2.1 miles) and View Point (1.3 miles) trails that ascend to near the top. Although trails do not go to the actual summit, peak baggers (hikers focused on reaching mountain tops) with GPS skills can easily hike cross country to the high point prize. Whether you trek along the base or trudge high into heavenly hypoxia, this easy to access destination offers a satisfying spectrum of hiking options for all levels of experience.
LENGTH: 18 miles of interconnected loop trails
RATING: easy-difficult
ELEVATION: 8,700'-9,700'
FACILITIES: restrooms, picnic ramadas
From the intersection of State Routes 260/73 in Pinetop-Lakeside (near the Hon-Dah Casino), continue 25 miles east on SR260 to the turn off on the right just beyond milepost 383.

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