This trail is unusual in that, although it is designated non-motorized in summer, snowmobiles are allowed in winter. It is best done on a mountain bike, but I have seen people hiking it, too. It's also used by horse riders. It is kind of flat for hiking, but perfect for a summer's day mountain bike ride. I have also cross country skied along it. It is ok for beginners to that sport, but doesn't have enough hills for more advanced skiers.
It travels through the high meadows, with constant views of Mount Baldy, Mount Ord and all the little knolls. There are several lakes and lots of ponds. The lakes include Geneva Reservoir and White Mountain Reservoir. Sunrise Lake can easily be seen across the meadows.
In its heyday, the Apache Railroad was used to haul logs to the sawmill in McNary. It went all the way to the now defunct logging camp of Maverick. From 1964 to 1976 White Mountain Scenic Railroad operated steam-powered passenger excursions from McNary to Maverick. (I sure would have liked to experience that!) As the track deteriorated, the run was shortened and finally ceased operation. In the old days the train linked all the way to Snowflake and Holbrook, and ran regular passenger service up until the 1950's from McNary to Holbrook.
The Railroad Grade trail was constructed in 1998, in partnership with Apache County and with use of grant money from ADOT.
Parts of the trail are very marshy in early spring, and can't really be ridden until late May in very snowy years. Generally it can be hiked or mountain biked from late May through late October. For cross country skiing, usually January and February are the best months, again depending on the snowfall that year.
If you are on a bike, you will notice that the tread of the trail varies, from well-packed single-track to sloshy cinders. Mostly it is pretty good--the cinders are starting to wash away, thankfully. Keep your fingers crossed that the FS in its infinite wisdom does not decide to cover it over with cinders again, like they did when it was first built. It was not rideable back then, and local mountain bikers were upset with the FS.
For more information, visit the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest website. Wikipedia also has information about the Apache Railway. - Jul 02 2010 azbackpackrOne-Way Notice:
This hike is listed as One-Way. When you hike several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example