Damn near the nicest hike I've ever done in Arizona. It's one of my favorite summer spots to get out of the heat. If you're in the White Mountains for the weekend and want a relatively quick and easy day hike, this is perfect
. It can also be part of a longer hike as it connects with other trails in the area.
The trailhead starts where Forest Road 116 intersects the West Fork of the Black River
, and follows a well-travelled single-track through foot-high grass along the banks of this picturesque mountain stream.
While I've hiked this trail a couple of times, most recently, I was there on a 2-day backpacking trip, beginning with the Indian Springs trail, connecting to the West Fork (Black River) trail, and then the Thompson Trail.
From the trailhead, the trail meanders downstream at a very easy grade ... only 100 feet per mile. Most of the hike is exposed on a sunny day, but occasionally passes through groves of pine along the river. A couple of times the trail meanders a few dozen feet from the banks of the river, but not for long.
Toward the end of the trail, there are a couple of muddy or rocky areas where springs bubble from the mountainside above and cross the trail draining into the river. During wet seasons like early spring or during the monsoon, this trail may have some short muddy spots. Nothing too treacherous, but something to be aware of.
In wet weather, the trail is paralleled up the west slope by an old cindered railroad grade. The hike isn't quite as scenic as the stream-side trail, but it leads to the same spot, and offers a quicker and easier alternative. Also, the streamside trail is limited exclusively to hikers. The railroad grade is open to mountain bikers (and equestrian I believe) as well.
The trail ends at a spot called Deadman Crossing
, where it intersects with the West Fork trail which crosses the river and heads up the East slope of the valley.
There are endless spots to set up a campsite along this trail, including a handful of existing fire rings. I didn't encounter anybody else on my most recent visit, though it was a Thursday-Friday overnight. Previously, over weekend visits, I have seen a handful of anglers hiking along the river, and one family of four camping near Deadman Crossing.
To return to the trailhead, head back the way you came, or follow the trail up the west side of the valley a short distance to the railroad grade and follow the parallel route back to your car.