Hills, knolls and mountains
Murray Basin Recreation Area is one of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest most recent projects. So recent, in fact, that it's not mentioned on the official website; and the people who answer the phone at the Springerville Ranger District know next to nothing about it.
Murray Basin and the surrounding hills, knolls and mountains appear to occupy about 5,000 acres of pinon and juniper forest and grassland just south of the conjoined communities of Eagar and Springerville. The basin itself lies at about 7,200 feet elevation, and Flat Top Mountain, the highest point reaches above 8,100 feet. The trail system comprises three trails - Homestead, Windmill and Murray Basin - and, possibley, a fourth to the top of Flat Top Mountain, totalling about fifteen miles.
All or portions of these trails can be combined into various loops; but the terrain is so gentle and the land so open that it's possible to walk a great many miles here without using a trail at all. Long views in all directions are available from the summit of oft-mentioned Flat Top Mountain, otherwise the scenery is pretty close in with a preponderance of sky. The trails pass a couple ruined homesteads dating from the early twentieth century, but human occupation of this area extends back many centuries, as evidenced by nearby Casa Malpais, and Spanish settlement began locally not too long after Coronado came this way. Pot sherds litter the ground in some places; but remember, this is strictly catch and release country, so after you look at it, drop it and let someone else have the pleasure of discovery. The bad news is this is not a good rainy day hike, as the soil is mainly clay and becomes slick and sticky when moisture is added. The good news: Murray Basin is completely free of ATV depredation. Why? Because it abuts the Saffel Canyon OHV area, and all the crazies with ATVs go over there to get their thrills.
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