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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

West Fork Trail #628 - Black River, AZ

no permit
270 31 1
Guide 31 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Eagar S
3.6 of 5 by 16
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 2.35 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,900 feet
Elevation Gain -318 feet
Accumulated Gain 153 feet
Avg Time One Way 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 2.86
Interest Perennial Creek
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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16  2019-06-05
Thompson Trail #629
7  2017-05-15 fricknaley
2  2015-08-01 trekkin_gecko
33  2015-08-01 tibber
5  2012-09-01 hikemonk
22  2012-04-01 JuanJaimeiii
30  2012-04-01
Indian Spring Trail #627
26  2011-05-26 azmuslima
Page 1,  2,  3
Author desertgirl
author avatar Guides 20
Routes 1
Photos 3,098
Trips 428 map ( 3,024 miles )
Age Female Gender
Location Chandler, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep → 9 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:02am - 6:22pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Riverside jewel
by desertgirl

Likely In-Season!
This is a short and mostly easy trail that leads you to a picturesque grassy meadow on the West Fork of the Black River.

From the developed trailhead, the trail heads out at an easy grade through mixed forests of pine, spruce, fir and stands of aspen. At about 3/4 mile from the trailhead you run into the 1st of 2 meadows - Neck Tank. The meadow had quite a bit of flowers (iris) blooming and the dog had a blast chasing large yellow butterflies. The green meadow, flowers, buzzing bees and fluttering butterflies, dappling warm sunshine and the dense forest beyond presented quite a sight. The trail continues on and encounters another meadow. This is a smaller meadow and had similar ambiance as the earlier meadow. Done with chasing butterflies, we continued on and at about the 2-mile mark the trail reached the edge of the canyon the west fork of Black River... vistas opened up to dense slopes of coniferous trees that descended sharply to the river. You proceed along the rim for a bit taking in expansive views. After the 2.5-mile mark, the trail descends gently. You cross a wooden footbridge across a scree slope. It becomes steeper and rockier at it progresses down the slope; switchbacks at a reasonable grade quickly take you down to the river and a welcome swathe of greenery. The river is fairly narrow and you find quite a few boulder-hop paths across. This a welcome break from this hike down and there are many points along this river for a quick break. At many locations you see the work of the industrious beaver as water spills over their dams. Greenery glittering under the crystal clear water, the babbling brooks and darting fish, trees like willow & alder add to the beauty of this shimmering green riverside community. This is in stark contrast to the surrounding mountainside environment.

After, spending a few hours playing in the water and catching up on snacks, we headed up the slope back to the trailhead. It was a quick walk back and along the way we encountered some mountain bikers - the trail is open to mountain bikes so watch for them.

Note: This trail can be accessed from Indian Springs Trail.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2003-06-30 desertgirl
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One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking 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.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
West Fork Trail #628 - Black River
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made the gorgeous drive out to check this hike out. it was cool, in the mid/low 50's and pretty windy. lot of burn damage. the last leg before heading down the canyon to the river is in better shape and very nice. the river is awesome and we spent a good time chilling and having a picnic. warmed up a touch on the way back.

i'm sure this was just spectacular before the fire. lot rougher now
West Fork Trail #628 - Black River
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after having lunch at Big Lake, we discussed hiking Indian Springs or another trail. We decided we didn't want to do a lot of mileage as Mary Jo wanted to have some energy left to cook our dinner so after reviewing the map for West Fork, that's what we opted to do. In retrospect, I think Mary Jo was saving up for the Baldy assault. ;) The weather continued to be "iffy" but we geared up and headed out with bouts of thunder rumbling from time to time. We got to the open area and pow-wowed, observed the weather around us and decided to go back to the vehicle for 15-20 minutes. Just before we got back to the vehicle it started sprinkling. It was short-lived and after a few more minutes, we decided to try it again.

It's not the most beautiful hike; especially thru the area that seems to have been hit the hardest from the fire and looks like they maybe did some log clearing? We did walk thru a couple lanes with small aspens growing on each side before hitting the Neck Tank drainage. We encountered a couple hikers here who said they enjoyed the hike. They said they got hit with the weather over on Baldy the previous day. Anyway, we discussed the mileage on the sign vs what we had estimated and per usual for today, the sign was wrong as it is only 1.6 miles or so to the River from Neck Tank. The forest sign for Thompson Trail lists the hike as 3.5 to the River and it is only 2.5. I have determined that in this area, the forest service must be relying on Garmin :roll: .

Anyway, we hiked on through the forest. There were still some big aspen standing and a couple green areas and a fern section until we made our way to above the creek. And after another brief pow-wow, we headed on down knowing that it would be a bit of a climb back up. However, the dreaded climb back was not nearly as bad as we thot since the trail is laid out so nicely. You cross over this big scree drainage area and you can hear the water running under the rocks; it's the weirdest sound. Gradually the trail switches back for the final leg down to the River. It was great fun to be at the bottom across from where we were only a few hours earlier. The river is quite wide through here. And right now it's running high and fast. We didn't linger long before heading right back up again. I grabbed my trekking poles.

No one was taking many photos and there were quite a few wildflowers so I obliged :D and took a few extra as well as filming some video. It didn't seem to take very long to get to the top, walk thru different layers of the forest and back to Neck Tank and out into the open area before arriving back at the car.

​On the way back home we stopped at a Scenic Viewpoint. It was scenic looking over the wide expanse in front of you. Kelly and Mary Jo also picked up some trash; always trying to build that karma. On the way home we stopped at Western Drug in Springerville. Once back at the cabin, Mary Jo made us chili and fresh cornbread; might tasty!

Video of the hike to the River and the SR261 Viewpoint:
West Fork Trail #628 - Black River
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second hike of the day after some lunch by big lake
nice to have some options in the same area
indian springs was under consideration, too
skies had clouded up quite a bit and we heard some thunder
made one false start, and stats include that half mile
headed through forest, some burned
passed by two meadows and reached the canyon edge
had several conversations about the weather along the way
decided to go for it, and dropped down into the canyon
reached the point across from where we had stopped at the end of the thompson trail earlier
didn't spend much time there due to threat of rain
hiked up and out and made it back with just a few sprinkles
nice trail, and fun to see how things connect
turns out it had rained quite a bit on indian springs trail, so we were happy with our choice
West Fork Trail #628 - Black River
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After hiking the Thompson Trail, we took a lunch break at Big Lake. Did you know that all roads in the White Mountains lead to Big Lake? Neither did I. We watched people paddle and others attempt to lure fish onto their hooks while we munched. Kelly scanned the building thunder boomers as we contemplated our choices for the afternoon. The forecast was 80% chance of afternoon thunderstorms. We decided on the West Fork #628 trail which would take us back to the terminus of the morning’s Thompson hike.

A quick drive took us to the trailhead. The sky was getting darker. After a quarter mile we heard thunder rolling in the not too far distance. We stopped and held council, our first of many for this trip. The collective judgement was to retreat to the truck and see what was going to happen with the weather. Wet hiking isn’t that bad, but no one wanted to risk any being out during any lightening.

After a half hour or so, the darker clouds had gone either east or west of us. We weren’t home free, but thought it safe enough to venture farther down the trail and reassess the situation. We set a system of hiking to a reference point, holding a council, and moving on. While this hike is sort of so-so in my opinion, the four of us bonded pretty well in our decision making process, never a bad thing.

Footing on this trail is pretty good. Many of the burned areas now have burgeoning groves of young aspen. The descent and climb out of the Black River canyon is fairly mild and the prettiest part of the hike. It was fun to drop back down to the end of the Thompson Trail and see that pretty area from the other side of the river. We celebrated quickly and headed back to the truck still looking over our shoulders at the threatening sky.

Once back at the trailhead, it was obvious that heavy rain had fallen there while we were on the trail, yet not a drop had found us. The drive back to the cabin was uneventful and the evening was light and fun with good food and great company.
West Fork Trail #628 - Black River
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This trail must have been really nice before the fire. Currently, most portions more than a mile from the trailhead in either direction have been burned. They are keeping up trail maintenance, however. Combined with the West Fork Trail, this made for a nice dayhike, with just a little bit of summer rain.

The West Fork of Black River was swollen with monsoon rains and would be difficult to cross. It was about my turnaround time, so I headed back.
West Fork Trail #628 - Black River
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This was a beautiful scenic hike even with the large swaths of blackened pine and aspen trees. The ground was charred in areas and at times the landscaped sparsely laden with snow felt like a dramatic movie set on which those silly hikers meet up with a werewolf or two.

We were drafted by the Mother-in-Law to come to Pinetop, a previous residence of her's. She wanted to see some fall colors that she, now as a Phoenix resident had been missing. We stayed at the Westmark Resort which I give dual distinction of having the best bed I have ever slept in and yet the worst couch I have ever sat in.

Sherry, the aforementioned Mother-in-Law was excited to do her first six mile hike. So much so that she had been doing single laps around Lookout Mountain for the last couple of weeks to get in shape. She did pretty good didn't really start to peter out until the last mile of the hike.

The fire has left 7 or 8 fallen trees to walk around and/or climb over. I kept constant vigil for widow-makers. One tree defied gravity with what looked like mostly bark bearing the bulk of it's weight from the middle of the tree up. Luckily the winds weren't very strong.

Came across the section of scree and could hear water deep under all the rocks with a nice little rumble. However, and we noticed this on the way back, the foot bridge was burnt up in the fire, you would be hard pressed to even know one was ever there if you didn't already know that one was supposed to be there.

We ate lunch where the trail meets the river. Heard the familiar cackling of a Stellar's Jay and hoped he wanted to come visit bu no go. After lunch, Sherry was not so inclined to cross the river using dried out old log. There was signage here that said this was the three mile mark she was excited at being at the halfway point, I didn't have the heart to tell her that I would consider the signage suspect because we if were going to quit here and the mileage for this hike included the loop that was on the other side of the river then something wasn't adding up. As it turns out it looks there is an alternate trail head north of where we started from that is counted in the forest service signage that they saw. So for her mom that was the stopping point. I crossed the log just to show'em how it was done. Looked around a little and admired a small stream that fed into the river.

The clouds were turning grey and ominous making the ladies antsy so I returned. We noticed on the way in that there was rock structure a short distance off the trail near one of the clearings. I checked it out while the girls hiked on trying to race the storm clouds to the TH. I can't how old it was but it seemed to be a 3 foot high remains of an old chimney. I didn't really see any signs of an adjoining structure or any other signs of what happened to the rest of the chimney but there were definite signs that people were still using what remained of it and camping near by.

I caught up the girls just as it started snowing. So we made quick work of what remained of the trail. Wendi and I promised each other that we would be back to finish the hike off. As far as Sherry will ever know she hiked 6 miles and is quite proud of that. My GPS says 5.1 miles and she should be proud of that anyways. We returned to Westmark excited to make use of the outdoor spa that just looked wicked cool against the snowy backdrop. We jumped in with our cups of Sangria and marveled at our adventures.

West Fork Trail #628 - Black River
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Adding old hikes... Started at the Thompson trailhead, hiked that trail, then went east on the West Fork trail, and finished by walking along the forest roads to make a loop. BTW, I don't recommend using the forest roads to get back to your car - LONG and BORING. Retrace your path on the two trails instead.
West Fork Trail #628 - Black River
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This was the first hike in our excursion to Big Lake. Drove up to Big Lake and got our campsite set up just before the monsoon hit with a vengeance at about 1230 hours. Heavy rain then pea-sized hail. Drove around the area to scout out trailheads and the construction on 273. Rains ended so at about 1500 hours we hit the West Fork of the Black River Trail 628. The trail description describes this trail perfectly. Very pleasant stroll for about 2.5 miles then a quick descent to the meadow. You cross the creek and meet up with the Thompson Trail #629 junction on the far side. Eric brought his flyfishing rod and worked up & down the river. We had a nice chat with an AZ Game & Fish biologist. They are working on a project to reintroduce Apache Trout to Stinky Creek. A robin kept teasing me to take a photo but I could never get a clear shot. I was working on equipment variations for carrying my dSLR, lenses and tripod on this trip. While stalking for Elk, I figured out how not to carry my 300mm lens. Hope it can be fixed.
West Fork Trail #628 - Black River
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From the trailhead at Forest Road 68, this is a 3 mile trail (6 r/t), however if you are connecting to the Indian Springs Trail #627 as I did as part of a two day trip, make sure to account for an extra 1/2 mile each way. Strangely, the sign for the West Fork Trail posted at the Indian Springs Trail junction says it's 3 miles to the Black River, but after hiking 1/2 a mile an reaching the roadside trailhead, signs there also say 3 miles...

The West Fork trail is a very enjoyable trail through dense Pine and Aspen forest for the first two miles, with a well maintained surface. It passes through two picturesque meadows, including one with what appeared to be the ruins of some kind of building. I did not investigate, but the Topo map indicated an old 4wd road just north of the meadow which would provide access to such a building.

The last mile of the trail becomes less pleasant to hike, getting rocky at times, and with loose footing in places. Luckily, once on this part of the trail, views of the river and lush valley below motivate easily.

The trail reaches the Black River at Deadman Crossing, which is named after Deadman Spring, which drains into the river at the same point. This is an excellent spot to rest and grab a bite to eat. Weekends will find occasional anglers along the river, and some backpackers will camp in this area as well.

The Thompson Trail #629 continues upstream from here, and is perhaps the most beautiful hike I've been on in the White Mountains. I highly recommend the extra 5 mile round trip. I've posted a trip log for that trail as well.

We camped near Deadman Crossing and enjoyed a light-rain thunderstorm in the evening, followed by a dry, cloudy night, keeping the temperatures in the upper 40s (it was in the low 30s on a clear night the day before).

The next morning, after 3 beautiful hours of light rain drizzling in this green river valley, we headed up the rocky slope and back toward the trailhead.

Though the trail is listed for hiking and mountain biking, I wouldn't recommend anybody to bike the last mile down to the river. Not worth the return trip.
West Fork Trail #628 - Black River
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Small Group headed down the trail for a overnight stay. Easy trail great view once you reach the canyon. We hiked down river about two miles after reaching the end of the trail in search of a camp spot and didn't find anything, to steep. (Very limited flat land for camping). We ended up hiking back to the end of the trail and hiked a about a mile up river and found flat ground on the north side of the river. Turned out to be a great spot. Signs posted did not allow fishing, but we didn't see any anyways. Over all great trail, little chilly at night after it rained.

Permit $$

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike
From Eagar drive west on 260, turn south on 261 & drive 18.3 miles to turnoff for 273. Turn left and continue to end of 273 and start of Forest Road 249 (You should see turnoff for Big Lake camping areas at the end of 273). Head down Forest Road 249 for 0.7 miles and you will see turnoff to right for Forest Road 249E. Turn right onto 249E and drive 2.2 miles to where FR68. Follow this road 1.5 miles to developed trailhead for West Fork Black River. ( At 0.5 miles down this road is the trailhead for Indian Springs loop)
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