White Mountains Online

South Fork Trail #97


Arizona's White Mountains

Elevation: 7,500 to 9,000 feet.

Season: April through November, depending upon snowpack.

Use: Moderate

Length: 14 miles round trip.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Access: South Fork Campground or Mexican Hay Lake.

Description: Cool water, great view and three seasons of use make the South Fork trail one of the most rewarding trails on the District. A round trip hike adds up to fourteen miles so many people like to leave a vehicle at each trailhead. The lower trail follows the South Fork of the Little Colorado of 3.5 miles, through stands of cottonwood, sycamore, pine, aspen and oak. Several grassy meadows open up the scenery and make ideal picnic spots, offering a change from the steep-sided canyon that dominates most of the lower trail.

The South Fork of the Little Colorado is a fast running river fed by runoff and springs. Many pools exist along its path where an angler can snag a fat trout or a footsore hiker can cool off. Look for signs of beaver, gnawed aspen stumps and intricately built dams are their trademark.

Views from the upper bench are spectacular. From the southwest to the northwest, Mount Baldy, Green's Peak and all the mountains between are spread out, while the vast grassland to the north stretches all the way to the horizon. To the southeast, Escudilla Mountain rises near the New Mexico state line.

Mexican Hay Lake is a shallow, high elevation lake. A large meadow borders it on one side and an aspen and conifer forest on the other. The tall reeds that give the lake its name make it a magnet for waterfowl. Ducks and Canada geese can be seen through most of the year and bald eagles winter there. Elk, deer, beaver and turkey are all common sights along the trail.

Attractions and Considerations: The primary trailhead is located in the South Fork campground on the west side of the creek. Parking is limited at this time. Please do not park in an occupied campsite. Another trailhead is located on the north side of Mexican Hay Lake. The roads to that trailhead can be very muddy during the spring run-off and the summer rains. If this is the case, park by the gate near the highway and walk to the trail-head. The trail is open to horseback riders, bicyclists and hikers.

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For more information, please feel free to contact the USDA Forest Service, Springerville Ranger District at 928.333.4372 or you may write us at 309 S. Mountain Avenue, Springerville, Arizona 85938
White Mountains Online wishes to express our appreciation to the USDA Forest Service, Springerville District for providing this information! Page Design & Graphics by White Mountains Online. Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved.