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Indian Spring Trail #627, AZ

no permit
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Guide 32 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Eagar S
3 of 5 by 10
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Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 7.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,100 feet
Elevation Gain -443 feet
Accumulated Gain 970 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 12.35
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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5  2017-05-15 fricknaley
15  2016-07-08 Tortoise_Hiker
3  2013-09-02 azfamilyhike
10  2012-08-31 hikemonk
14  2012-08-04 DanaLee67
29  2012-04-21 trailzrus
30  2012-04-01 JuanJaimeiii
5  2010-09-28 michaelg
Page 1,  2,  3
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   May, Aug, Sep, Oct → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:06am - 6:15pm
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0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
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Good for rainy days
by BelladonnaTook

Likely In-Season!
Although Indian Spring Trail offers no spectacular views, does not follow the course of a mountain stream, is not physically challenging and does not traverse particularly beautiful alpine landscape, it is worth considering for a few reasons. Foremost among these is its all-weather surface. Most of the trail lies atop a cindered railroad grade or has been gravelled, making it a good rainy day choice. Its located just south of Big Lake, with a spur running up into one of the campgrounds and another branch connects it to West Fork Trail #628. And despite the concentration of people and traffic around Big Lake, elk and other game frequent the woods and meadows around the trail.

Proceeding south from the trailhead, one reaches the turnoff to Big Lake lookout in half a mile. The side trip up Big Lake Knoll is worth the effort as it presents the only steep grades of the hike, passes through a grove of aspens of considerable size and offers some nice long views toward Mt. Baldy from the tower stairs. Back on the main trail, in another mile one arrives at Spillman Spring where a series of hand hewn troughs forms a sort of flume that carries the flow from the spring to nowhere, really. This area was logged many times over so no old growth forest remains but a few second growth trees, primarily firs, along this section of trail are reaching maturity and respectable size. Three miles from its beginning the trail passes Indian Spring. If cattle were not allowed to tramp around at will, the site would probably be quite attractive; but in fact, except during the wettest seasons, water rarely shows here and it's identifiable only by the taller and greener grass. In another mile the trail joins the abandoned rail bed and turns back north for about three miles. Midway along this section a connector trail branches left to West Fork Trail. If shuttling between trailheads is possible, one can combine Indian Spring, West Fork and Thompson Trails into a single 11-mile hike that progresses through increasingly lovely terrain ending on the bank of a mountain stream in a drop-dead gorgeous valley.

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2003-09-13 BelladonnaTook
  • book
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  • 100 Classic Hikes - 2007
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    100 Classic Hikes - 2007
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
Indian Spring Trail #627
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we wanted to hike a little more so we decided to hike out to the Big Lake Lookout before driving back. the first part on the indian spring trail is very nice. the spur to the lookout is mostly scorched. the wind on the lookout was absolutely insane! nice view od big lake and crescent lake...and everything for that matter. wish the wind wasn't so crazy so we could have enjoyed it more. nice hike though :)

including some photos from Big lake and Crescent Lake, that we stopped to take along the drive back

on the drive back we saw a gazillion elk. also drove out to and explored the Hawley Lake area. beautiful and weird!
Indian Spring Trail #627
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I have done this trail quite a few times, but i wanted to show my Wife and son the fire lookout tower. We started the hike from the campground and right away there was rocks to the north of us covered with green moss it looked really bright. We headed across the road and started down the trail.

It had just rained the day before so there was a tiny stream that crossed the trail a few times. My son was having fun climbing on the logs to the right of the trail. we continued on and headed into the burned tree area :(

We headed up hill and made our way to the tower with the nice view of Mt.Baldy. We all injoyed the view for a while before heading back on the trail. This was the 1st hike we all did as a family good times :y:
Indian Spring Trail #627
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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.
Indian Spring Trail #627
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Wow it was hit and miss with the fire last year... The trail was in great shape for the first 5 miles than it dissapeared litterly..... bushwacking was the next best thing thru the tall wheat grass that the forest serviced scattered about the area which was a good idea I guess...we flused out one bear and a heard of elk on our way to the top and back to the trail .First time to the area and how nice it was I cant wait to go back next year.... Jim
Indian Spring Trail #627
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Woke up at my camp at Big Lake to a chilly 40 degrees. Packed up and drove to the trailhead just behind the lake and started down the trail. Very nice trail leading down to a series of beautiful meadows and then back out up along an old railroad bed. Towards the end of the hike I kicked up a big bull elk bedding down about 15 feet from the trail. He scared me pretty good and took off into the forest with a big hunk of branches stuck in his antlers. Happend so fast I was unable to get a picture. I really enjoyed this trail and would like to come back and see it when it's in summer prime!
Indian Spring Trail #627
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I went with a troop of Boy Scouts on this one yesterday. It was a beautiful day for a hike and this trail was an easy one for the boys. We had hoped to be able to find the lookout tower manned by the Forest Service, but unfortunately they were taking the day off :( . The trail was a nice easy one with very little elevation change. However, I wouldn't give it more than a 3 out of 5 because of the condition of the trail. Maybe it was due to last week's late Spring storms, but there were probably 100 fallen trees on the trail, making it a bit cumbersome to hike. It seemed like we were constantly going around the fallen trees which kind of got old after 6 or 7 miles. It would probably not be too fun to bike this trail in its current condition for the same reason. This trail also doesn't benefit from any outstanding views or destinations, but was still a nice one with some pretty meadows. Not a bad one for a Troop of boys, but I sure hope the Forest Service can clean it up a bit!
Indian Spring Trail #627
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First visit to the Big Lake area. Picked up an anonymous trail near the Rainbow Campground. With a couple of internet queries, discovered Skippy and I were on the Indian Spring Trail #627

Photo ops somewhat limited by the thundering monsoon as I kept my camera packed away and dry. Great way to cool off escaping that Valley heat! SR261 to the trail head is a hidden gem of a drive (a couple of vehicles come to mind that would love to negotiate those hills and hairpin curves).

Think this loop trail could be an interesting mountain bike trek during autumn colours. It's on the list for a worthy return visit to complete the loop...
Indian Spring Trail #627
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My girlfriend, myself and another friend spent Saturday fishing at Big Lake near Eagar. We didn't catch a darned thing, so it's a good thing we brought our mountain bikes.

We started the ride at the Indian Springs trailhead around 10 am. There were some idiots shooting guns awfully close to the trail. After making it known that we were in the area, we were on our way. The trail cruised uphill and within 2 minutes it became painfully obvious that we were at 9000 ft elevation. Soon we were ripping downhill on a doubletrack, and the trail turned into singletrack. We rode across some beautiful meadows and then we reached the Old Apache railbed. The railbed is rather boring, but it's a railbed so I was expecting that. After about 2 miles on the railbed we reached the West Fork trailhead. We turned on this trail and slogged uphill for a little while. Finally the trail started descending and it was fast! We kept speed in check cause there were a few other hikers on the trail. Near the bottom of the trail, a wooden bridge crosses an avalanche area. This is where the trail gets extremely rocky and technical but it is still rideable. We chilled at the Black River for a few minutes until a thunderstorm moved in on us. We started riding back up hill as the rain cooled us down. The lightning got a little close, but it wasn't too scary. Back on the Old Apache railbed, we rode for another 2 miles or so. Then the railbed ends and the trail turns into a doubletrack again. The trail rolled up and down and kept things interesting the whole way back to the trailhead.

This was a fantastic rolling mountain bike ride through the trees and some scenic meadows. It would be a great ride for seeing wildlife and it's not too technical so it's great for beginners. Most of this ride is at 9000 ft or above, so bring some good lungs!
Indian Spring Trail #627
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I hiked the Indian Springs Trail on July 8-9, 2004 as part of an overnight backpack trip that included the West Fork Trail #628 and the Thompson Trail #629. The Indian Springs Trail portion is a very suitable day-hike and is a loop, so there's no reason to turn around and head back the same way you came (always a bonus IMO).

This trail is excellently maintained by the forest service. The first 3 miles between the trailhead and Indian Spring is the most scenic part of the hike, traversing along Big Lake Knoll through fairly dense pine and lots of Aspen. The 1-mile round trip spur trail to the Lookout is definitely worth it, and while the trail isn't quite as smooth and nice as the main trail, it's easy nonetheless.

The best part of this hike is that it is at about 9000 feet. Perfect for mid-summer. We got off to an early start from the trailhead, and arrived at the lookout tower (elev. 9415) just as the forest service employee was arriving for the day. I helped her haul a couple of gallons of water and supplies up the tower, and observed as she radioed in her morning report... no rain, mostly cloudy, 63 degrees. She said it had been hovering in the low 80s on sunny afternoons.

The Nuttall Fire burning on Mt. Graham in southern Arizona was spewing smoke thousands of feet in the air and was clearly visible over 100 miles to our south. A couple of miles to the east, the charred forest left by the Three Forks Fire a few weeks earlier was clearly seen. The Lookout employee indicated that the Three Forks Fire had been a very beneficial fire to forest health, destroying primarily low-lying fuels, but not burning in the tops of the pines, so that was good to hear.

After about half an hour in the tower, we headed back down the spur to reconnect to the trail and pick up our packs which we had conveniently left behind. (Why carry all that weight 1/2 mile and up 300 feet just to return?)

The trail continued around the mountain, to Spillman Spring, providing a respite for my yellow lab, Kai, who found it necessary to use the hollowed-out-logs as his personal swimming pool. From here, the trail slowly descended until it encountered an open meadow, following an old forest road along the meadow.

This part of the trail was much less scenic, though I suspect it would be nicer in spring or late summer, when adequate moisture would make the meadow more green and lush. The fire tower employee had told us that there had been a couple of rain showers about a week earlier, but that they had totalled only about an inch of rain, so it was still quite dry across the forest.

The hike along the meadow was a slight but steady downstream grade. We stopped past Indian Springs, despite the lack of shade, cow pies, and general lack of water. Kai once again found a puddle deep enough to lay down in and cool off, but his resulting stink of cattle, and stagnant mud wasn't a good one.

The meadow condinued for about a half mile past Indian Spring before intersecting another drainage, where the trail turned upstream, along an old logging railroad grade, which I later researched and learned had been disassembled in 1976. The next three miles was a slow but steady climb along the cindered grade, but offered little in the way of views, scenery, or shade. I'm sure that wildlife can be seen here regularly, but we didn't come across any.

The trail intersects the turnoff for the West Fork Trail #628, where we turned off. For the purpose of this trail description however, I'll continue as we returned here the next day on our way back to the trailhead.

The railroad grade continues for about another mile before turning back under the forest canopy. This part of the trail continues a slight uphill grade and nears FR 249E, leaving the occasional sound of passing vehicles to interrupt your nature experience. It traverses an open meadow with great views of the lookout tower we visited earlier, before crossing FR 249E and heading north toward Big Lake.

The trail again meanders through dense Aspen and pine, and at one point comes so close to a campground at Big Lake, that we could see a couple of RVs parked through the trees. Sure enough, we cross a spur trail that leads to the campground, but continue on as the trailhead (and the best tasting beer ever) await just around the corner.

The trail descends back to the road, and the trailhead is right there. A great day trip if you're in staying in the White Mountains, and a very enjoyable overnight trip for those of us that think the White Mountains is a little far from home. As we relaxed at the trailhead, we encountered a couple of groups of hikers planning to hike at least to the lookout tower. This is a very popular hike, and I would recommend a weekday if you prefer solitude on your hikes.

Over the 4th of July weekend, over 400 people had signed the guestbook at the lookout tower - in just ONE day! That being said, except for the people at the trailhead, we did not encounter a single other person on the entire hike - on Thursday and Friday.

We did see a pair of coyotes wandering across the meadow adjacent to the trailhead at the conclusion of our trip, despite it being mid-afternoon and sunny. I was hoping they were the endangered Mexican Grey Wolf that is in the area, but wasn't that lucky.

As I said before, we hiked the West Fork Trail and Thompson Trail as part of our trip, and I've posted descriptions of those trails too.

As a loop hiked by itself, Indian Springs would probably take about 3 hours because of the great trail conditions and easy grades. (More if you visited the lookout tower...) Definitely a nice 9000-foot break from the summer heat though.

Permit $$

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike
Take highway 260 south from Show Low 35 miles to Sunrise junction. Turn right onto SR 273 and proceed 20 miles to FR 249E. Turn right and continue a half mile to the trailhead on the left side of the road.
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