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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.

Thompson Trail #629, AZ

no permit
922 74 1
Guide 74 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Eagar S
4.6 of 5 by 24
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Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,840 feet
Elevation Gain -250 feet
Accumulated Gain 360 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6.8
Backpack Yes
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16  2019-07-12 kenandjude
20  2019-07-05 OdinWiski
16  2019-06-05 DixieFlyer
4  2018-09-15 Sun_Ray
5  2016-05-29 RickVincent
100  2015-08-02 Katzen4
24  2015-08-01 AZWanderingBear
13  2015-08-01 trekkin_gecko
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Author BelladonnaTook
author avatar Guides 12
Routes 9
Photos 1,291
Trips 58 map ( 568 miles )
Age 72 Male Gender
Location Lakeside, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Aug, Sep, Oct, Jul → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:06am - 6:15pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
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Prettiest in the White Mountains
by BelladonnaTook

Likely In-Season!
In its short course along Black River's west fork, Thompson Trail traverses one of the loveliest landscapes in the White Mountains. The trailhead is on a major forest road negotiable by vehicles of all types. The trail is generally well groomed and level and remains always on the same side of the creek, requiring no crossings. Despite its proximity to the popular campgrounds around Big Lake, the area has few visitors other than fishermen, who usually do not venture far from the road.

The trail begins, atop the old railroad grade, where West Fork departs a large valley and enters a narrow, forested canyon. The first of two fish barriers appears in the creek .4 mile along, and immediately after that the trail divides. At this point bikers and equestrians are invited to remain on the rail bed while the footpath departs to the left and through a gate. The two routes stay close and parallel, but the former is elevated and, for the most part, out of sight from the latter. The trail passes the second fish barrier - fishing is prohibited between the two - and continues at creekside for a mile. Then the canyon widens, the forest recedes, and stream and trail veer easterly through a grassy park. Another park, even broader, occurs a half mile farther down stream, and a sign near the end of it indicates a second way into, and out of, the canyon. To the right of the sign, a trail ascends to the rail grade, which here loops up into Stinky Creek and intersects an abandoned road back to FR 116. Thompson Trail continues to the left for a short distance until the canyon narrows and the path ends.

At this point the hiker can retrace the route to its beginning or proceed along one of several different ways. West Fork Trail #628 begins on the opposite side of the creek and wanders to its intersection with FR 68 in about 3 miles. Crossing to it during low flows is possible by rock hopping or wading. If the stream is running high, one can cross on a couple fallen trees a short distance farther downstream. A bit further along an arrow carved on a pine tree points to the right up a side canyon. An unmaintained track here leads to the rail bed. One could also start here on a cross country trek of 5 miles, combining old log roads, game trails and bushwhacks, to reach West Fork campground. A good map is essential.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2003-09-13 BelladonnaTook
    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 of 19 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Thompson Trail #629
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    We were camping at Big Lake and this trail has been on my wish list for who knows how long. Never been to this part of Arizona before. I am hooked! Weather was perfect, flowers were in bloom and we had a great time as a family. I'm counting down to fall as I see there are other trails in the area that should have great foliage.
    Thompson Trail #629
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Had to first change a flat tire upon arrival at trailhead. Hiked the trail which still has some beauty, but has lost much if its luster from the Wallow Fire. Found a nice spot along the river to relax in my hammock, then returned to TH. Headed back to camp. Got as far as south cove of Big Lake, and spare flatted. Sheeesh!
    Thompson Trail #629
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    White Mountain weekend :y: .

    We drove up Friday via I-17 and crossed over to Payson and onto almost Nutrioso. It really is a beautiful drive. The scenery is great fun to really soak in when you don't have to keep your eyes on the road. Thanks for driving Wade. The weather for the weekend would be iffy the entire time but we got lucky as we were able to get in 4 hikes.

    Saturday it was early rise to enjoy a great breakfast quiche prepared by Mary Jo and then our hour drive to the Trailhead. It was very green and lush as we headed down toward the River. The star of the day was Western Sneezeweed en masse :) . What is already an incredible landscape was highlighted by this yellow wildflower all over the place. They have been getting lots of rain here and it surely showed; even when we were on the trail that had lots of water on it from time to time.

    We encountered some of the Conservation Youth Corp working on the trail clearing brush and doing other maintenance to make our hike even more pleasant. The amount of flowers was astonishing. I didn't make it to Glacier Park this year so this made up for it in that I got to see many alpine flowers I would normally see up there including Heal All (Self-Heal) and Harebells among others. I think Ambika may have lost count of all the flowers this weekend.
    The water was running fast and somewhat muddy in the cascades.

    The stars of the show was the flora though. We really hit it at a good time. There weren't many people on the trail though we did run into a few fisherman and maybe 1/2 dozen hikers or so. It looks like at the turn around junction that the river has widened somewhat and some of the banks have eroded. We didn't stay long here.

    On the way back someone spotted a large group of mushrooms. There were lots in this one area close to the river. I don't believe I've seen so many mushrooms in one place, especially the Fly Agaric. We did see lots of other mushrooms along the trail too. There was even running water coming down the seeps.

    All I can say is "as usual, this trail delivered everything it's hyped to be". I think it is a must-do every time you are up in this area.

    Two Part video (the light was a little difficult for the video),
    Including some of the drive outside of Springerville and then hike to big gathering of Columbia Monkshood
    Monkshood to confluence:
    Thompson Trail #629
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    spent a great weekend in the white mountains with angela, mary jo and wade
    angela picked out a number of hike possibilities
    the thompson trail was at the top of the list
    set out saturday morning with partly cloudy skies and cool temps
    hiked along the west fork of the black river through meadows full of wildflowers in shallow canyon
    enjoyed the scenery at a relaxed pace
    checked out the fish barriers
    saw a crew of around 14 working on the trail
    took plenty of photos
    had a snack at the end of the trail and returned the same way
    might be fun to take the old railroad bed back for a different perspective
    first time hiking with az wandering bear
    nice trail, and i see why it's one of tibber's favorites
    Thompson Trail #629
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Angela kindly invited us and Kelly for a few days of hiking in the White Mountains basing from Ambika’s cabin. So we found ourselves at the Thompson trailhead early the first morning. We all thought this would make a nice hike to get adjusted to the elevation before tackling more strenuous hikes.

    Everything was wet and green and cool, such a contrast from what we had left behind in Phoenix. The wildflowers were both abundant in quantity as well as variety. We all went into “Tibber mode” with the cameras. Luckily I had left my good camera at home afraid it would get trashed in a monsoon storm. Good thing, too. Nope, we didn’t get caught in a storm. But if I’d had my proper camera, I might still be there taking photos. This is not a trail you hurry through.

    Only saw a few other hikers, a couple of fishermen, and a trail crew comprised of shiny young people doing something worthwhile for their summer. The trail itself was in great shape as it followed the meandering Black.

    While there are burned areas near the trail, you almost don’t notice them for the lush vegetation. Your camera stays in macro mode for most of this hike. I guess we hikers are in that mode as well along the Thompson.

    Stopped for a bite at trail’s end, a pretty little confluence with a side stream. I was an area we’d see later in the day from a different vantage point. The hike back to the trailhead was no less inspiring than the hike in.

    The Thompson gave us a great start to what would turn out to be a wonderful few days of hiking in the White Mountains.
    Thompson Trail #629
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    4th of July hike and maybe a little fly fishing is what we hoped for on this overnight trip. What we found was a lot of traffic just trying to get away and the beginning of the monsoon's. The dogs, wife & I had breakfast at basecamp (my toy hauler parked east of Heber)then headed east towards Big Lake to do the Thompson trail hike that midday before our final destination of West Fork Black river. The parade was just letting out in Show Low and ended taking about an hour and a half to get thru town. Getting to the Thompson trailhead, we were just in time for the afternoon showers, so after waiting to see if the weather would pass we decided just to head over to the Black River. The rain was just as bad there, so we set up our camp at the trailhead parking lot and waited it out.

    It rained all night, but finally stopped in the morning. So we geared up and were preparing to hike all day. We were not sure to start heading east or west, everything was so brushy and "thick". There was a fairly new looking trail sign that was pointing us east, so that is the way we went. The river seamed to be flowing well, but along the bank and the trail everything was so thick. Tried the fly rod a few places where I could get in between the brush, but no luck. The trail seemed to end about a mile in, died into a big canyon wall. We back tracked to see if the trail crossed the river at some point but did not find anything. We were bummed it only went in that far, but decided to go back and try the west route. The west route was worse than the way we had just come from. After passing under the bridge there was no sign of a trail. It was just to thick, especially for the dogs. So we decided to load up and head back and do that Thompson trail hike, the sun was out and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.

    Pulled up to the trailhead and there had to be 15 to 20 cars parked there. Oh why cant I get away from the crowds UGH! Oh well, let's do this. Turned out to be a very nice "picturesque" hike. Reminded me of the Mount Baldy hike. Went in a few miles, very well established trail and an old jeep trail up top above the river, 2 choices both very easy. Thru the fly rod in a few times and stopped to have lunch by the river and just enjoyed the time with the family. There was a monsoon cloud forming above us so we decided to head back after lunch, instead of doing the whole way. I think I convinced the wife to do her 1st backpacking trip with me after doing this one. Maybe Mt. Baldy!
    Thompson Trail #629
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Probably one of the most scenic hikes I have been on in recent memory. Was a nice break from the very difficult summits I usually hike. We took our time on this one -- I brought my backpacking fishing rod & tried my hand at catching an Apache Trout...with no luck. My dog being in the water about 99% of the time didn't help that effort. We didn't see another soul on this trail, which made for the perfect hike. Was well worth the drive!
    Thompson Trail #629
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Day 3 of my Trip and still in the White Mountains with everybody...I had this Hike on my Radar and when I was told how good it was, it Sealed the Deal. The Others were going to do it that Day as well, but I planned and pretty much told them that although we may all start out together, I would most certainly lag behind with a New Trail in a New Area for me... :sweat:

    After a small Photoshoot with the local Wildlife before I even got to the TH, I arrived to find the Parking Lot pretty much full and it appeared to be almost all from one Party...So when the others got there and we got started, we opted to not get on the Trail right away and set out on the other side of the River. I'm with Angela and Kathy, not a big Log Walking Person, probably because my Balance isn't what it used to be and the Penalty can really suck at times. I found the Log slightly easier to at least get on, than the one I did at Little LO Canyon since I was stepping UP onto it, instead of DOWN...At least the Little LO one had Branches so once you were on it, you could grab them for Balance...No such Luck here... :sweat:

    I saw everyone for about 10 minutes at the Beginning and saw them again one more time when they passed me coming back... :lol: It was expected...Even with the Heavy Overcast Skies that kind of sucked for my Camera, I took a million Shots anyway...It was just a Beautiful Area and I got into a few Birds too, including a couple of very Entertaining Dippers... :D Even Angela and Jonathan got to see part of that Show...They call them Dippers for several Reasons... :lol:

    Ran into some other Birders that appeared to be Camping by the River just before I hit the Trail's End. The very large Party had only gone about a Mile and then just played there...I never saw them again after I passed them. I was surprised there weren't even more people on the Trail, given it was a Holiday Weekend, but the Weather may have scared a few off...I got on the High Road on the way back, for both Speed and a different Perspective of the Scenery...When I got back to the Parking Lot, I was the only Vehicle still left... :sl:

    Got back to 273 and find a Lone HAZer walking up the Road...Apparently Steve was set on finishing a Section of Trail and was walking up the Road to the TH to get it started. He was almost there and declined a Ride, but we chatted for a few...

    After I left Steve, I spotted a Hawk on a Fence and decided to take a few Shots at it. It actually turned into quite a Show...He flew off the Fence and landed on top of a Pine Tree and was immediately getting Mobbed by a Blackbird. I got one Photo of the start of it, but couldn't lock the Focus, so I won't Post it, it will just stay in my Sock Drawer for a Memory... :sweat: The Light was still very Poor, but I'll share a couple of the Hawk Photos anyway...

    What a Beautiful Hike this was! Definitely will be on my "Repeat" List...The Weather held off once again, so it was another good Day in the Whites... :)

    Mostly Dandelions
    Thompson Trail #629
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    After meeting up and catching up with everyone at camp, we car pooled over to the TH. I had done this hike last summer and certainly didn't mind doing it again. The weather was a bit threatening but stayed nice the whole way (though overcast). Off we went including with Daisy. Chumley decided we should walk on the other side of the creek so it was the east side for a bit.

    Then THEY all saw a log across the river and of course, THEY all walked across it like it was nothing (THEY would do this a couple times during the hike). Me on the other hand, log walking makes me a little nervous 8-[ plus I was filming at the time so Daisy and me stayed on this east side for awhile. Daisy was anxious about having her master on the other side so she eventually plunged :o across the river. I, on the other hand was doing no such thing [-( ! Just a bit further down Karl came over at just the right time to show me some rocks I could use to get across :thanx: .

    For most of this hike, the gang hugged the creek and would also hike on the trail depending on the conditions. The grass was quite deep so it made the hiking here a little more challenging while filming. At several areas THEY would stop and play around before heading down stream. BrunoP, despite walking a bit gingerly in the AM, had no problems plunging in and out of the water and then shaking on anyone nearby :lol: .

    There weren't any wildflowers to speak of except I could see many Rocky Mountain Iris leaves sprouting up from the ground. Todd somehow managed to find one bloomer on the hike back and I hiked with it the rest of the way. It was a bit windy but nothing too bad. We finally came to THE END of this trail. We stopped and had a snack and just enjoyed our good fortune in hiking and being together. Oh and the doggies even got some jerky too as both Kathy and I had some in our packs.

    Todd gathered up everybody and I got a great group shot :y: and then it was time to head back up River in about the same pattern, mostly hugging the creek on one side or the other. Todd and Bruno P stuck to the east side for most of the hike back. It's a little harder walking over there with more obstacles for part of it. We encountered Pam on the way back as she had lagged behind to find birds and take pictures. We saw about a dozen people hiking. Some were setting up camp about half way.

    Back at the TH we had a quick happy hour beverage before it started to get colder and the dust from the traffic got annoying. Kathy, Karl and I headed back to Phx. On the drive, I think around McNary, I saw meadows on each side of the road that had blooming Rocky Mountain Iris :DANCE: . I had never seen such a site; reminded me of the glacier lily fields. Also on the drive as we got closer to Payson we noticed the dense smoke both south and west of us. There was a couple rays of sunshine coming thru so I tried to get a couple pics of that. With the smoke hanging in the valleys, the mountains seemed much more pronounced.

    Thank you Karl and Kathy for dragging me up and a big thanks to Ambika for letting us borrow her home so that I could stay warm. It was a fun time at camp as usual and always nice to see everyone :D . Hopefully next time rather than picking the almost coldest spot for Memorial Weekend, we'll find something a bit warmer :) .

    Here are videos from our hike. Personally I enjoyed them watching all my fellow HAZers and that sometimes they would play along:

    Part 1:
    Part 2: was aborted during upload to youtube so I will try again. I have to do these uploads while sleeping and when at work as I can't do any other work on my computer during upload due to crashing :tt: . This afternoon I uploaded when I went to workout and finally success except then the stabilization didn't go well so I had to undo and then stabilize so NOW finally success. BUT I just found that I missed adding a few videos from my other SD card. There is an additional 3 minutes from the 12 minute mark; it's mostly of the boys hiking on the other side of the creek therefore the video is now Private until I upload the completed video

    and here it is with the additional 3 minute footage at the end:
    Thompson Trail #629
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    A good group of people staying in and around the White Mountains area over this chilly Memorial Day weekend got together for a leisurely stroll along the Thompson Trail, which parallels the West Fork Black River.

    It was in the upper 40s, but occasionally the sun came out and warmed things up for a few minutes. We took our time and headed all the way to Deadman Crossing where we had some snacks before heading back up to the trailhead.

    I hadn't been here since before the fire, and was happy to see that this is still a scenic spot, despite the significant burn damage on the hillsides above the river.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Show Low, take Highway 260 east 35 miles to Sunrise turnoff. Go 14.5 miles south on SR 273 to FR 116. Turn right on FR 116 and proceed 4 miles to the kiosk and parking lot. Walk west across the bridge to the trailhead on the south side of the road.
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