White Mountains Online

Introduction to Springerville Ranger District Hiking & Trails


Arizona's White Mountains

Hiking Horseback Riding Mountain Biking

Introduction from USDA Forest Service,
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, Springerville Ranger District:

Hiking as a means of recreation is a modern development. Walking used to be the primary mode of travel for the vast majority of people in this country. They considered it a way to get from one place to another, not a leisure time activity.

Some people are intimidated by the word "hiking". It carries connotations of week-long treks in the outback, eating freeze-dried food and drinking muddy water with iodine tablets in it. Or they feel hikers are the most fit one percent of society, like the models in the ads in "Outside" magazine.

Our advice is "don't worry." A hike is only a walk with scenery added. A hike is only as long as you want to make it. No rule says you have to continue to the end of a trail if you feel like turning around at mid-point. The outdoors is a place to be enjoyed and respected. You can enjoy it just as easily sitting in the shade as you can performing a death march to the summit.

Nothing Too Extreme! None of the trails on the Springerville Ranger District are death marches. True, some are very steep and at high elevation, but they are not endless. The East Baldy and West Baldy trails are the most difficult we have to offer. Each is a 14 mile round-trip and each climbs to within a quarter of a mile from the top of Arizona's second highest mountain. You will climb nearly two thousand feet in seven miles, all within the Mount Baldy Wilderness Area. You cannot legally climb to the summit of Mt. Baldy because it is on the White Mountain Apache Reservation and is considered a sacred place by the Apaches. Please respect their beliefs and stay out. You wouldn't want packs of strangers coming into your backyard, would you?

Other than the Wilderness trails, most of the trails on the district have only short portions which are steep. Once you get past these sections, it's just like a walk in the park-complete with squirrels.

There are scores of old logging roads which you are welcome to explore in your vehicle. The developed trails are for people who desire a quiet outdoor experience. Since mountain bikes and horses are a difficult mix, we have tried to manage the problem by allowing one or the other, not both, on our developed trails. Check the individual trail descriptions for specifics.

Besides developed trails, the Springerville Ranger District has many miles of closed roads, primitive roads, game trails and abandoned railroad beds that serve as trails for horseback riders, hikers and bicyclists. If you choose an undeveloped trail, be prepared to share it with others who may not enjoy your interests and have a different means of recreating. But chances are that you will have the place to yourself, due to the sheer volume of undeveloped trails on the district.

Far from the Crowds! The summer months are the high season in the White Mountains. People make the drive to the cool mountains to escape the heat and frantic pace of the desert cities. Therefore, everything is crowded, from restaurants to fishing spots between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This is the case with the district's trails, especially on weekends and holidays. If you have a problem with other people sharing your wilderness experience, and if dealing with other people is not the reason you came to the mountains in the first place, then arrange your schedule to avoid the crowds. Try a trail on a weekday or an off season and you'll be amazed at the solitude you will find.

Three Seasons Many of the high altitude trails, especially the wilderness trails, are still snow-packed into May and sometimes as late as June. But most of the trails at 9,000 feet and below are accessible through much of the spring. This is a verdant time in the mountains. Water courses down normally dry creek beds, leaves are budding and grass pokes up through the soil. Spring is also a fragile time. Melted snow has left the soil saturated and muddy and susceptible to damage from vehicle tires, horse hooves and footprints. If it looks like you will damage the land by traveling on it, find another, drier, place to play.

A great time to explore the trails on the Springerville Ranger District is after Labor Day and before the first big snow (usually around Thanksgiving). The conditions are generally dry and the crowds have gone home. Try a favorite trail in September or October and you'll witness nature's change in the aspen leaves and cool days.

A word of caution for autumn trail users - various hunting seasons are in full swing in the fall. It is a good idea to wear bright clothes and stay on the trail. Check with the Arizona Department of Game and Fish about what is in season and try not to look like it.

In winter, some of the district's trails are converted to cross-country ski trails. Old roads become snowmobile lanes and ski runs. The boot and bike give way to the snowshoe and ski. Many of the developed trails become inaccessible because snow blocks the roads leading to them, allowing the trails a much deserved rest until spring!

Remember.......Be sure to check with the Springerville Ranger Station for current information on trail conditions!

For more information, please feel free to contact the USDA Forest Service, Springerville Ranger District at 520.333.4372 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