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Monday, October 16, 2017

BURSERA TRAIL


BURSERA TRAIL
South Mountain Park, Phoenix
View of the Sierra Estrella Mountains
Twisted in organic, balletic form and smelling like perfume, Bursera microphylla---better known as the Elephant Tree—lives on the slopes of South Mountain Park. Brush up against one of these squat, red-green-barked trees with swollen, contorted pachyderm-like trunks and a pungent aroma of camphor will waif from its tiny leaves.  Related to the plants that produce frankincense and myrrh, sap from the elephant tree also can be dried and burned as incense. But, don't rush out with a collection bucket—the trees are a protected species in Arizona.
Elephant Tree
To get an up close look at this plant that grows only in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and parts of southern California and northwestern Mexico, just follow the Bursera Trail which was completed in 2011. The route is simple-to-follow and connects with both the National and Bajada Trails for those who want to add mileage to their hike. Also, because it's wide and not too steep, the route is very popular with mountain bikers. One bit of advise—although the elevation change for the hike is only 653 feet—you’ll do it twice for an out-and-back-hike.
LENGTH: 2.9 miles one-way (6.68 miles roundtrip including access trail)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1,235' – 1,888'
BEST SEASON: October -April
FACILITIES: none
GETTING THERE:
From Phoenix, take Interstate 10 south/east (Tucson) to Pecos Road exit 161. Turn right and continue 7.2 miles  to 17th Avenue. Turn right again and continue 0.7 mile to Chandler Blvd. Turn left and go 0.3 mile to the end of the road. There’s only parallel parking—do not block private drives. A generic "trail" sign marks the start point.
HIKE DIRECTIONS:
From the trailhead, begin by hiking west, making a sharp right about 0.1 mile in at a post for Pyramid Trail. Continue 0.44 mile to the junction with Bursera Trail, veer left and follow the signs.
INFO: City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation
MAPS:

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

SEDONA FALL COLOR PICKS

UP NEXT: SEDONA FALL COLOR
Oak and maples dominate in Sedona
Right about the same time when the aspens of Arizona's mountain climes have passed their fall color prime, the high desert forests around Sedona are just about ready to peak. Although there are dozens of Sedona-area trails with great autumn leaf viewing, the West Fork of Oak Creek gets most of the love.
With its sound-bouncing russet canyon walls, cascading water and brilliant stand of maples, it's no wonder hikers make a beeline to this hot spot in October.
Although it's arguably the top fall color spot in the state, it will cost you ten bucks to get in and if you arrive later than 8 a.m., you'll probably have to wait around for a parking space.
It's worth the money and the wait, so go ahead and get that one out of your system. Then move on to these other Red Rock Country canyons where you can soak up the eye candy in quieter, gentler surroundings.
BEAR SIGN TRAIL
Bear Sign Trail
Unlike some Sedona routes that have been worn smooth by love, this one feels raw and remote. Tucked into weather scoured hinterlands of Red Rock Secret Canyon Wilderness, the moderate hike rambles through classic high desert flora before ducking into the damp, upper reaches of Bear Sign Canyon. The color show here is courtesy of mustard-colored Gambel oaks, lemony Canyon grape vines, russet sycamores and shocks of crimson sumac scrambled among forests of Arizona cypress and juniper scrub. Actual bear sightings are rare, but signs of their foraging are common along the trail. The hike can be done as a 6-mile out-and-back or as a 7.2-mile loop with David Miller and Secret Canyon Trails. Elevation range is 4,880 to 5,640 feet.
Getting there:
From the "Y" intersection of State Routes 179 and 89A in Sedona go left (toward Cottonwood) and continue 3.2 miles to Dry Creek Road. Turn right, go 2 miles to Vultee Arch Road (Forest Road 152), hang a right and continue 4.5 miles to the Dry Creek #52 trailhead located past the Vultee Arch parking loop on the left. A high clearance vehicle is required on FR 152.
TEMPLETON TRAIL
Oak Creek, Templeton Trail
In a woodsy bend where Oak Creek swerves around Cathedral Rock, willows and cottonwoods arch over the steel blue waterway, caressing the flow that reflects autumn foliage in syrupy whirlpools. To reach the water from the trailhead, follow a 0.3-mile access path along a combo of constructed rock stairs and slick red sandstone marked by basket cairns to the Cathedral Rock/Templeton junction sign. Straight ahead is a short (0.4 mile), semi-technical rock scramble leading to two nice vista points----optional, but not this hike. Instead, head right and follow Templeton, which clings to a rugged, yucca cluttered slope. After about a half-mile, the path swerves for first views of Oak Creek and its flood plains. Here, the route makes an easy but edgy descent to the forested color frenzy along the waterway. A kaleidoscope of massive sycamore, cottonwood, of alder, sumac, willow, walnut and countless shrubs (beware of poison ivy) glow like beacons among cypress and junipers with a backdrop of rusty cliffs to boot. Along the next half-mile, the trail stays by the water exposing countless root-tangled coves and shady spots to relax in this high-desert oasis.
Templeton Trail along Oak Creek
Getting there:
From Interstate 17, take the Sedona/Oak Creek exit 298. Turn left (west) and continue 11 miles on State Route 179 to the traffic circle at Back O’ Beyond Road near milepost 310. Veer left and go 0.6 mile on Back O’ Beyond to the Cathedral Rock trailhead on the left.
BOYNTON CANYON
Boynton Canyon
Already a hiker favorite for its spectacular geology and soul tingling vortex virtues, the haunting trip through Boynton Canyon also brims with autumnal color beginning in mid-October.
You'll need to hike a few miles through sunny yucca and manzanita before reaching the mouth of the canyon where a frenzy of maple, hoptree, alder and oak trees that sway in gorge-fueled breezes appear as animated watercolors and stained glass. The 7.4-miles roundtrip hike climbs from 4,500 to 5,050 feet, ending in a box canyon wrapped in red sandstone walls soaring hundreds of feet overhead.
Getting there: From the traffic circle at State Routes 179 and 89A in Sedona go left (toward Cottonwood) and continue 3.2 miles to Dry Creek Road. Turn right onto Dry Creek Road (Forest Road 152C) go 3 miles to Boynton Canyon Road, turn left and proceed another 0.3 miles to the parking lot on the right. Roads are paved. FEE: Red Rock Pass--$5 per vehicle is required
SECRET CANYON
Secret Canyon sycamores
A community of pinion pines, juniper and assorted cacti at the trailhead belie what lies ahead on Secret Canyon Trail. Epic views of Sedona’s red rock landscape dominate the first 1.75 miles of this 11-mile roundtrip hike before the trail makes a sharp westward swerve at the mouth of the canyon. From here, the route leaves the shade-less chaparral plunging into a stream bed where torrential storm runoff and blowing dust have carved bizarre sculptures in the sandstone escarpments flanking the path. Residual pools of water stand at the bases of moisture-hungry cottonwoods with heart-shaped, lemony leaves.
Near the 5-mile point, the trail enters “the narrows”, a series of slick-rock corridors hemmed in by a vertical fortification of sandstone with clusters of blood-red maples and rusty-orange oaks bursting from the rubble-strewn canyon floor. Beyond this point, the trail degrades into a quagmire of scree and undergrowth, which is why most hikers make the narrows their turnaround point. However, those with good route-finding skills can opt to scramble, squeeze and scoot along a sketchy footpath for another half-mile. Elevation range is 4,500 to 5,100 feet.
Getting there:
From the traffic circle at State Routes 179 and 89A in Sedona, go left (toward Cottonwood) and go 3.2 miles to Dry Creek Road. Turn right and go 2 miles to Vultee Arch Road (Forest Road 152). Turn right and continue 3.4 miles to the trailhead on the left. A high clearance vehicle is required on FR 152.
RED ROCK STATE PARK TRAILS
Tame by comparison to some of the aforementioned destinations, the 5-mile trail system at Red Rock State Park is neatly groomed, well signed and outfitted with wooden bridges where they cross Oak Creek. The lovely creekside foliage is augmented with family-friendly features such as a visitor center, picnic areas, restrooms and educational programs. Elevation is 3,880 to 4,080 feet.
Getting there: From the traffic circle at State Routes 179 and 89A in Sedona, go left (toward Cottonwood) on Highway 89A for 5.5 miles to Lower Red Rock Loop Road and follow the signs 3.3 miles to Red Rock State Park. The park is open 7 days 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Entry fee is $7 for adults, $4 for youth 7-13 and free for kids 0-6. Pets are not allowed.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

WILSON MEADOW

WILSON MEADOW
View of San Francisco Peaks from Wilson Meadow
On the western face of Flagstaff’s San Francisco Peaks, vast grasslands of wild roses, ferns and berries lap up against pine-studded slopes beneath an airborne tide of golden aspen leaves.
Wilson Meadow
This patchwork of wet meadows--collectively known as Hart Prairie--is home to some of the most beautiful, but often overlooked aspen glens in the state. In October, the white-barked forests
blaze in a honey-lemon canopy.  Although hikers in search of autumn foliage trails around Flagstaff usually flock to big-name places like Inner Basin or the Kachina Trail where the crowds are as thick as the woodlands, Wilson Meadow offers a smaller, quieter option.  It's signature open space is populated with clumpy shrubs and thickets of rare Bebb willows surrounded by loosely woven stands of pines, firs and aspens.  The short, simple walk offers an alternative, contemplative experience.
Bebb Willows
LENGTH: 2 miles roundtrip
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 8,500’ – 9,000’
DOGS: This is a very sensitive area. Dogs must be on leash and owners must pack out all waste.
GETTING THERE:
From Flagstaff, go 10 miles north on US180 to milepost 225, turn right onto Hart Prairie Road (south access of Forest Road 151) and continue 4.2 miles to Forest Road 9007T on the right. Hint: if you reach the Nature Conservancy entrance, you’ve gone too far. Go 0.2 mile on FR9007T to the trailhead. FR 151 is maintained dirt passable by sedan. FR 9007T requires a high clearance vehicle.


Monday, September 25, 2017

CANYON OF FOOLS

CANYON OF FOOLS
Deep within the Canyon of Fools
Canyon of Fools might be the weirdest hike in Sedona.  Located in the Mescal Mountain cluster of trails northwest of town, the keynote feature of the route is a gnarly, half-mile walk through a red-earth labyrinth. Unlike other Red Rock Country hikes, this one ditches open air, ooo-ahhh vistas in favor a cloistered trudge through a dirt tunnel.  The adventure begins within a few yards of the trailhead off Boynton Pass Road where the trail ducks into a serpentine gulch that morphs from a roomy corridor into a claustrophobic, high-walled canyon with tree roots protruding in arthritic tangles.
Roots protrude from the canyon walls

Mescal Mountain
The rough-cut passage twists among flaking shelves of sandstone and side canyons sculpted into bizarre forms by running water and erosion.
Yucca fruit
You’d earn the title of fool by trying to hike here during a rainstorm for you’d surely be swept away in a torrent of mud and debris. The creepily distorted gulch is softened with a cap of wildflowers, grasses and familiar cypress-juniper woodlands. At several spots, mounds of decomposed sediments spill out like syrupy rivers of russet oatmeal, dividing the trail into easy and more difficult paths that loop around the debris and reconnect on the backside.  Once through the half-mile canyon section, the trail gradually opens into more conventional high desert terrain where it meets the Yucca Trail junction. The massive landform directly ahead is Mescal Mountain.  This is your first opportunity to consult a map to plan your return route as several trails that wend around the mountain’s base can be used to make loop hikes. With the canyon portion of the trek behind you, head left and continue hiking over slick rock and edgy paths to where the route ends at Deadman’s Pass Trail. For an out-and-back trek, this is your turnaround point. Otherwise, keep trekking north into Red Rock Secret Canyon Wilderness and Boynton Canyon or swing right for a scenic walk over an exposed mesa before picking up a connecting path to to loop back to the trailhead.
Cockscomb formation seen from Canyon of Fools Trail
Club-flower (Purple Birdbeak) blooms Aug-Oct
LENGTH: 2.25 miles one way
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 4440' - 4640'
GETTING THERE:
From the State Route 179/89A traffic circle in Sedona, go 3.2 miles west (left)  on SR 89A to Dry Creek Road. Go 2.8 miles on Dry Creek Road, veer left at the Long Canyon Road junction and continue 0.5-mile on Boynton Pass Road to the parking turnout on the right. A Red Rock Pass is not required at this trailhead.
INFO & MAP: Coconino National Forest

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wag & Walk Dog Adoption Hikes 2017-2018 Season

Wag & Walk Dog Adoption Hikes 2017-2018 Season
A Wag & Walk participant takes a snuggle break
A handsome boy and his volunteer handler.
October brings cooler temperatures, sunny days and the beginning of hiking season in the Valley. Few creatures are happier about this than the adoptable dogs at the Maricopa County Animal Care & Control shelter in Mesa. That’s because on the first Saturday of every month from October through April, they get to strut their stuff along the Merkel Trail at Usery Mountain Regional Park.
Shelter volunteers are on hand to assist you
 The public is invited to join the four-legged sweeties on these easy, 1-mile Wag & Walk Dog Adoption Hikes and also stick around for a meet-and-greet play session back at the trailhead. Shelter volunteers will be on hand to answer your questions about each dog’s personality, activity level, trick repertoire and history.
You can even “test drive” the dogs to see how well they behave on leash. For those looking for a potential canine hiking partner, this is a great opportunity to interact with dogs outside of the kennel environment where they are more relaxed and better able to display their true characters. All participating dogs will be spayed or neutered, up-to-date on their shots and ready to go home with you on the spot!  But, you don’t have to be considering adoption to join the fun. 
An adoptable dog demonstrates his hiking skills.
Perhaps you’re thinking about becoming a volunteer or looking for a way to add miles to your 100 Miles in 100 Days Challenge—a Maricopa County Park program that encourages hikers, bikers and horseback riders to log 100 trail miles between November 1, 2017 and February 8, 2018. We can help you with that. So why not double down on the fun?
Looking for her forever home....

WHERE: 
Usery Mountain Regional Park, Area 6.
3939 N. Usery Pass Road, Mesa
DATE: Saturday, October 7, 2017 and every first Saturday through April.
TIME: 9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Wag & Walk
100 Miles in 100 Days Challenge

Monday, September 18, 2017

WOLVERTON MOUNTAIN and QUARTZ MOUNTAIN

WOLVERTON MOUNTAIN and QUARTZ MOUNTAIN
Summit of Quartz Mountain
Over its 54-mile course, the Prescott Circle Trail tours some of the most spectacular country in Arizona’s central highland region. The city-circumnavigating route is organized into 10 segments that range from 2.7 to 9.1 miles in length with unique features that transport hikers through shady pine forests, lakeside coves, granite dells, grasslands and juniper scrub.
Summit of Quartz Mountain
But if highpoint vistas are your thing, Segment 4 delivers two juicy side trips: One tops out on an exposed crest with terrific sights while the other explores a solitary quartz-studded knoll. The segment is tethered by two trailheads. The White Spar Road trailhead is near a campground while the Aspen Creek trailhead is hike-in only.  The quickest access to the peaks is via the latter. Begin on Aspen Creek Trail #48 across from the parking area on Copper Basin Road. First up is Wolverton Mountain.
Wolverton Mountain Trail
To get there hike 1.7 miles on Trail #48, pass a gate and make an immediate left at a fork. This unsigned dirt track climbs 0.2-mile and 130 feet to a scenic lookout. The “peak” is just a weathered nub on the edge of a ridgeline, unremarkable except for its views of the Prescott lakes area and the Bradshaw Mountains.
Aspen Creek Trail


Cacti on quartz
To the east, a pyramid-shaped, white-speckled outcropping stands out among swaths of junipers. This is the next destination: Quartz Mountain (a.k.a White Spar).  To get there, descend to the gate, go right onto Wolverton Mountain Trail #9415 and hike 0.8-mile to the Quartz Mountain Trail #9415A turnoff. The 0.2-mile trail leads to a dirt roundabout at the base of the hill. A raceway of rough ATV roads circle and spiral up a jewel-box bluff of clefts and pinnacles.
View from Wolverton Mountain
The maze of deeply-rutted roads is iced with a layer of creamy quartz nuggets laced with bands of pink and black minerals. Agaves, cacti and swaying grasses grow from cracks in massive white embankments that crumble into glinting landslides of beautiful, but worthless gems. The roads reach to roughly 50 feet from the summit and offer great valley and mountain vistas that stretch all the way to Flagstaff, but if you want to get to the top, you’ll need to do some tricky, hand-over-foot scrambling on one of the several paths-of-use that lead to crown of quartz spires. The most direct base-to-summit route is a difficult, 0.2-mile hike with 112 feet of elevation gain. Loose rock and thorny plants can be dangerous, so opt for the paths most travelled. Once done exploring, descend and hike back to Trail #9145 which continues 3.4 miles to its terminus at White Spar Road.
Roads on Quartz Mountain are paved with "gems"
LENGTH: 5.9 miles one-way, 7 miles with summit spurs.
RATING: moderate (difficult with Quartz Mountain summit)
ELEVATION: 5,600’ – 6,704’
GETTING THERE:
WEST: Aspen Creek trailhead:
From Courthouse Square in Prescott, go 1 mile south on Montezuma Street (turns into State Route 89/White Spar Road) and to the light at Copper Basin Road.  Turn right and continue 4.6 miles on Copper Basin Road (turns to good dirt after 1.6 miles) to the Aspen Creek trailhead on the right. The hike begins across the road on Trail 48.
EAST: White Spar Campground trailhead:
From Courthouse Square in Prescott, go 3 miles south on Montezuma Street (turns into State Route 89/White Spar Road) to the parking lot on the left.  Trail access is south of the campground on the west side of SR89.
INFO & MAPS:
http://prescott-az.gov/services/parks/trails/circle.php

Monday, September 11, 2017

WILLOW SPRINGS LAKE LOOP TRAIL

WILLOW SPRINGS LAKE LOOP TRAIL
Aspens and pines around Willow Springs Lake
Although it’s best known as one of the best mountain bike trails on the Mogollon Rim, the Willow Springs Lake Trail also provides an invigorating trek for those who prefer to hoof-it. Located 30 miles east of Payson with easy to find trailheads along State Route 260, the route is made up of closed double-track dirt roads and lakeside footpaths that ramble through ponderosa pine forests and boggy backwaters above the spring-fed fishing hole.  Blue diamond tree blazes and generic bike signs mark the way. 
Willow Springs Lake
Some turns are easy-to-miss, so be sure to spot the next marker at each junction.
The loop swings through prime wildlife habitat where there’s always a good chance of spotting deer, elk and waterfowl during the hike. Black bears also inhabit the pine-aspen woodlands but are much more elusive.
Hikers take a break at the lake
Where the forest is thickest, you’ll notice orange and blue bands on some pine trees. These markings indicate areas prepped for thinning projects that will improve forest health, biodiversity and wildlife environments while reducing the chance of catastrophic wildfires.   Near the half-way mark, the route passes several shallow ponds and marsh areas before meeting the shores of the lake.
Members of Arizona Hiking Group gather at a junction
Slabs of limestone that line the 150-acre lake serve as convenient seating to take a break and watch for ospreys gliding above and diving for trout. The trail parallels the water for about a quarter-mile before it turns uphill and heads back into the forest.
A Great Blue Heron hunts for trout
The return leg of the loop climbs up along a shaded ridge where bright blue Western daylilies and brilliant red paintbrush flowers blossom in the cool sheets of spring water that cascade over the trail and into the lake below.
Leafybract aster late summer bloomer
LENGTH: 7.9 miles
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 7600’ – 7300’
GETTING THERE:
Horse Trap Trailhead:
From the AZ87/260 junction in Payson, go 31 miles east on AZ260 to the Horse Trap trailhead on the left between mileposts 284 and 285 (across from Young-Heber Road). Follow the short access path and head right at the first junction.
Horse Trap trailhead
Larson Ridge Trailhead:
From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go right (east) on SR 260 to Larson Ridge Road (Forest Road 237). Turn left on FR237 and continue a short distance to the parking area with restroom on the left just south of Forest Road 237A. The trail starts a few yards up the road from the parking area at an unmarked gate on the left.
INFO: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

Sunday, September 3, 2017

SUNFLOWER FLAT & J.D. CABIN EXPLORATION

SUNFLOWER FLAT & J.D. CABIN EXPLORATION

Kaibab National Forest
J.D. Cabin site on the Kaibab National Forest
Literature is rife with tales of creatures both real and imaginary. Books like J. K. Rowling’s "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" and the 1963 classic "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak introduce readers to magical places and whimsical creatures. These fanciful tales might inspire you to explore the equally enchanting real-life critters and locations of Arizona. There’s an easy way to indulge your curiosity and step back in history along the dirt roads and prairies southeast of Williams.  This two-part outing begins at Sunflower Flat Wildlife Area. Situated in a high-country wet meadow surrounded by mountain peaks of Kaibab National Forest, the site is unique in that its condition varies with rainfall, and visiting wildlife responds accordingly. When there’s lots of rain, the 160-acre Arizona Game & Fish property is a shallow lake that plays host to myriad waterfowl and shorebirds like ruddy ducks and mallards.
Many varieties of sunflowers bloom in the marshes
As the water wanes, look for cinnamon teals, herons and northern shovelers poking around in the marsh. Even during the driest times, residual puddles and reflecting ponds draw hawks, elk, pronghorn, black bears and deer and there are always plenty of frogs, lizards and gartersnakes enjoying muddy bogs. Exploring this ephemeral wetland begins at an information kiosk where you can learn about the site and its special place in the landscape. Because the objective of this peaceful enclave is to protect and enhance wildlife habitats, please read and respect the trailhead sign that has tips about how to view the local fauna responsibly.  Spot any bald eagle nests along the way? The majestic birds nest here in winter. Also, look for areas where tall grasses have been flattened into circular beds. These are animal wallows--places where elk, deer and other beasts sleep and rest.
Bill Williams Mountain over Sunflower Flat
The hike follows the perimeter fence and takes roughly two hours.
A favorite spot for waterfowl at Sunflower Flat

Sitgreaves Mountain & the San Francisco Peaks on horizon

Corral at the J.D. Cabin site
The second destination is the J.D. Cabin and grave site. To get there, hike back up the wildlife area access road, turn left and follow the road 0.7-mile to a turnoff on the right marked "no camping here". This is the historic homestead of James Douglas. An array of rustic buildings with metal-roofs and rough-hewn log construction is remarkably well preserved and gives an idea of what life on the prairie must have been like back in the 19th century. A walk around the deteriorating bunkhouse, cabin, corrals and crumbling foundations takes about an hour.  Ol’ J.D. is buried nearby among soaring pines and wildflower meadows.
a wallow
KA Hill looms over the wetlands
LENGTH:
Sunflower Flat: 3.7 miles
J.D. Cabin: 2.2 miles
RATING: easy
ELEVATION:
Sunflower Flat: 6620' - 6640'
J.D. Cabin: 6640' - 6680'
GETTING THERE:
Sunflower Flat:
From Flagstaff, go 27 miles west on Interstate 40 to exit 167. Turn right and go 3.8 mile south on Forest Road 141 and veer left at a fork. Continue another 4 miles to Forest Road 109, turn right and go 3.3 miles to Forest Road Road 14. Turn right and continue 1 mile and turn left on Forest Road 14A. The trailhead is 0.4 mile down this road.  Roads are good gravel and passable by passenger car up to FR 14 where high clearance is recommended. Forest Road 14A is rough dirt and requires high clearance.
INFO:

Monday, August 21, 2017

INDIAN SPRINGS TRAIL # 627

INDIAN SPRINGS TRAIL # 627
Indian Springs Trail
Late summer in Arizona’s White Mountains is prime time for wildflower viewing. Cooler evenings take the edge off daytime heat and mornings break in a crisp dewy dampness that hints of autumn and nurtures a colorful spectacle of blooming plants. Fields of sunflowers dress roadside pastures making the annual bloom frenzy accessible to anybody willing to take a drive and pull off onto a random dirt road.
Apache Lobelia
But if you want deeper access to high altitude botanical treasures, lace up your hiking boots, strap on a backpack and hit the Indian Springs Trail near Big Lake.
Paintbrush and ferns
The 2011Wallow Fire roared across this classic trail of fir-spruce woodlands taking out some segments while leaving others mostly intact.
Richardson's Geranium
The upside to the loss of coniferous canopies is a sunlight-generated surge in wildflower proliferation. The best part about loop trails like this one is its mix of sun, shade, hydrology and micro climates that produce a wide variety of flowering plants.
The blossom bonanza begins right from the get go in a bud-dotted meadow. Here, sun-loving fleabane and harebells bob in mountain breezes. Beyond the trailhead, the path moves into a section of survivor pines and the filtered light domain of species like Richardson’s Geranium, Pleated Gentian and brilliant orange Paintbrush.
Indian Spring suffered damage from the 2011 Wallow Fire
A passage of wild red raspberries and ferns culminates at the junction for the optional half-mile spur trail that leads to Big Lake Lookout. Although the fire tower that stood on this rocky knob succumbed to the blaze, there’s an upside. Lake views are now easier to see through toasted stumps and resurgent shrubs.
Wild Raspberry shrubs and ferns
The next section of the hike passes through an old growth forest of fir, spruce and mature aspens. This darker, wetter space favors Canada violets, mushrooms and  Blue-eyed grass. At the 1-mile point, the reliable trickle of Spillman Spring creates a water garden of clovers and Seep Monkey Flowers that grow in bright clumps in and around the rustic wooden troughs set up to catch the flow. Fire damage is much more visible throughout the remainder of the hike. Thickets of aspen saplings account for much of the regrowth.
Seep Monkey Flowers
In these areas, look for Common mullein, Apache lobelia and Spurred Gentian.
Indian Spring appears as a mucky pond at the 2.5-mile point.
Red Raspberry
The swamp’s fringe of Rocky Mountain irises that bloom May thru June, are  long past prime by mid-summer.
Harebells
Beyond the loop’s halfway mark, marshy areas define the trail’s lowest elevation.  Runoff collects in soggy bogs and funnels into streamlets that feed the tributaries of the Black River. These swales are the habitat of False Hellebore, horse mint, New Mexican checker mallow, lupine and penstemones. At 5-miles there’s an option to add on the 6-mile round trip West Fork of the Black River Trail #628 before the route curves back to the start point. 
False Hellebore
Water Hemlock

LENGTH: 7.5-mile loop (8.5 miles with lookout side trip)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  8600’ - 9415'
Pleated Gentian
GETTING THERE:
From the Hon-Dah casino in Pinetop-Lakeside go 19.6 miles east on State Route 260 to State Route 273, just past milepost 377 and signed for Sunrise Ski Area. Go 19.2 miles south on SR 273 (turns into Forest Road 249 past the Big Lake turnoff) to Forest Road 249E, turn right and continue 0.4 mile to the trailhead on the left. Roads are paved up to FR 249E which is good gravel.
INFO & MAP: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/asnf/recreation/recarea/?recid=45143&actid=24