Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests

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Black Mesa Ranger District

The Black Mesa District has within its boundaries five high elevation lakes, numerous scenic canyons, and several campgrounds offering approximately 400 campsites. Year round outdoor recreational opportunities abound including mountain biking, hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, picnicking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.

The entire southern boundary of the district is defined by The Mogollon Rim, the southern edge of the great Colorado Plateau. This massive escarpment, created by a fault line, presents a nearly vertical drop as much as 2,000 feet to the forested hills and desert below.

The Mogollon Rim was made famous by Zane Grey (1872-1939), an American author of popular adventure novels depicting an idealized image of the rugged Old West. The White Mountains made green by Ponderosa pine, gentled by cold waters flowing to the valleys below and far beyond. It is a physically challenging and rewarding recreational landscape; a place of spiritual renewal and more.

Springerville Ranger District

Big Lake

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A diamond in the White Mountains. There are five campgrounds at the Big Lake Recreation Area complex. These campgrounds can accommodate a large RV of up to 82’, to a throw down camp with just a sleeping bag. The Apache Trout Campground has full hook-ups with all the amenities and will facilitate a RV of almost any size. The Rainbow and Grayling campgrounds also have RV sites for smaller RV’s and don’t offer hookups. The Brookchar and Cutthroat campgrounds are tent only campgrounds. A large variety of camping sites are available for you to select from here at the Big Lake Recreation Area complex, whether you are in a tent or motor home.

There are fishing, canoeing, hiking, and bird watching opportunities that will keep you busy, or just relax, read a book, take some pictures, enjoy the quiet and beauty of the area.

Alpine Ranger District

Blue Range Primitive Area

Blue Range remains one of Arizona’s untouched and little known jewels. This is a land of rugged mountains, steep canyons, and stark ridges that is, at the same time, remote and accessible through an extensive trail system.

Escudilla Mountain

You can see towering Escudilla Mountain from just about anywhere in the neighborhood (the neighborhood of eastern Arizona, that is). The Wilderness encompasses the upper reaches of the mountain, which at 10,912 feet is the third highest in the state of Arizona. It was this mountain that Aldo Leopold referred to in his article “Thinking Like a Mountain” where he arrived at the side of a wolf he had shot “in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes,” an experience that he grew to regret and which forever changed his life. The last known grizzly bear in Arizona was killed here, and Leopold wrote: “Somehow it seems that the spirit of the bear is still there, prowling the huge meadows, lurking in the thick stands of aspen and spruce, wandering the steep slopes that looking down from is like looking out of the window of an airplane.”

Two trails give access to Escudilla Wilderness. The three-mile, maintained Escudilla National Recreation Trail #308, approaches the summit from the Terry Flat Loop Road and leads to a fire lookout tower, the highest tower in the state. The Government Trail #119 starts at the base of the mountain and also climbs to the summit as it ascends Profanity Ridge. You will find little water along these trails, but views that reach to Flagstaff 100 miles away.

 Bear Wallow Wilderness

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Home to some of the largest acreage of virgin ponderosa pine in the Southwest, venerable reminders of a once extensive forest of these giants. Along the length of the area, through a blanket of pine, fir, and spruce, Bear Wallow Creek flows year-round and is shaded by green riparian hardwoods during summer. The creek provides a habitat for the endangered Apache trout; anglers can try for other species in the creek and its north and south forks. Early explorers were impressed by the large number of well-used wallows, which revealed how plentiful the area’s population of black bears was. Black bears still abound, and you may see elk, deer, and a diverse community of smaller mammals, birds, and reptiles. Wildflowers bloom in profusion, especially during the summer rains. Poison ivy is present and can be dangerously abundant in places.

Five trails offer foot and horse access to Bear Wallow.

  • The Reno Trail #62 (1.9 miles) and the Gobbler Point Trail #59 (2.9 miles) drop into the canyon of the creek from easily accessible trail heads on Forest Service roads.
  • The Bear Wallow Trail # 63 follows the rocky stream bed 8.2 miles to the boundary of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation.
  • The Schell Canyon Trail #316 (2.8 miles) connects the Bear Wallow Trail and the canyon floor to the Rose Spring Trail #309 (4.5 miles), which skirts the southern boundary along the precipitous Mogollon Rim, the southern edge of the vast Colorado Plateau. From atop the Mogollon Rim the views to the south are tremendous. Visitors to the San Carlos Reservation must have an advance permit. For information and permits, contact the San Carlos Tribal Office, Box O, San Carlos, AZ 85550.

Recreational use of Bear Wallow is light.

Aker Lake Fishing Site

One of the many hidden jewels of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests is pristine Aker Lake, which is just over 25 miles south of Alpine just off the west side of Highway 191 on FR 8312. Located in higher elevation this secluded gem is a wonderful getaway from the heat and the hassle of everyday life, giving you a quiet, cool revitalizing break.  This small lake, which has Apache trout and Arctic grayling, is a catch and release, artificial lure and flies only lake. Be sure to check with current Arizona fishing regulations for this site before your visit.

Often you are the only visitor at the lake; there are several dispersed camping areas that are seldom occupied. The Aker Lake trail is 3.5 miles that will take you to the Hannagan campground; this is a good trail for mountain biking as well as hiking and horseback riding.

Items you may need: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests:  map, flashlight, hat, book.

For more information please visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/asnf