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Monday, June 10, 2019


COUNTRY CLUB TRAIL, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Mount Baldy seen from Pat Mullen Mountain
The White Mountains TRACKS Trail System is a loopy network of non-motorized paths that spans a strip of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest from Linden to Vernon in northeastern Arizona’s White Mountains. 
Cattle graze in Whitcomb Pasture June - October
The approachable, customizable trails offer dozens of options ranging from easy strolls located just steps from town to long distance backwoods excursions. Eleven major loops are tethered by connector trails that enable seamless travel for challenging day hikes or multi-day backpacking.
Meadow salsify bloom June through September
The route passes through several rustic gates
Fendler's ceanothus shrubs grow along Country Club Trail
At the heart of the system, the towns of Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside provide plenty of jumping off points for exploring this diverse system that encompasses a wide range of environs including arid pinyon-juniper grasslands, humid creekside corridors and fragrant pine woodlands.
Natural picnic seating on the summit of Pat Mullen Mtn.
A good introductory TRACKS choice is the Country Club Trail. Located just a few miles off State Route 260 in Pinetop-Lakeside, the 3.25-mile loop is a pleasant walk through shady forests and spring-fed meadows.  From the trailhead kiosk, the hike begins as a mellow meander in sun-spackled pine-oak woodlands.  Like all TRACKS trails, this one has excellent signage.  Tree tags point the way and location markers placed roughly every quarter mile correspond with maps available online and at the trailhead let hikers know exactly where they are on the route. Where the trail crosses the many dirt roads in the area, be sure to locate the next marker before proceeding to keep from wandering off course. 
White Mountains vistas seen from Pat Mullen Mtn.
Fleabane is a common high-country summer plant
Pine-oak woodlands on the Country Club Trail
Watch for trail markers where the route crosses forest roads
About a mile in, the trail passes a gate and enters Whitcomb Pasture. From June through October, cattle graze in the dewy fields nurtured by the dribbles of Whitcomb and Chipmunk Springs. Beyond the meadows, the trail begins a mild climb on the flanks of Pat Mullen Mountain.  
The half-mile vista spur has great views
For glimpses of classic White Mountains vistas, take the optional half-mile spur path that ascends 300 feet to the 7,612-foot summit. 
Rocky Mountain irises bloom in Whitcomb Pasture
Although the short climb is smothered in pines, oaks and  a few spectacular specimens of ancient Alligator junipers, views of the surrounding terrain can be seen through breaks in the foliage.
Enormous Alligator junipers shade the Pat Mullen Mtn spur
The massive form of Mount Baldy (11,403’), Blue Ridge Mountain (7,656’) and numerous cinder cone volcanoes jut above seemingly endless swaths of trees. 
Wild roses grow in moist areas along the trail
Although views are sparse on the summit, huge basalt shelves and jumbled boulders provide ample seating for a snack break or breather before taking on the final easy mile back to the trailhead.
Gate at Whitcomb pasture
A pine sapling sprouts near a common mullein plant
Snow lingers on 11,403 foot Mt. Baldy
LENGTH: 3.25-mile loop or 4.25 miles with the Pat Mullen Mountain spur.
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 7200 – 7612 feet
In Pinetop-Lakeside go south on State Route 260 (White Mountain Blvd.) to the traffic signal at Buck Springs Road at milepost 355.  Continue 0.6 mile and turn left onto to Sky Hi Road (Forest Road 182).  Follow Sky Hi Road 1.8 miles to the 632 trailhead on the right at the junction with Forest Road 185. All access roads are sedan friendly.
INFO: White Mountains Tracks Trail System

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