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The Best Hikes in Apache - Sitgreaves National Forest

3,073 Triplog Reviews in the Apache - Sitgreaves National Forest
Most recent of 1,029 deeper Triplog Reviews
11.43 mi • 548 ft aeg
 I was going to meet up with a friend at Larson Ridge for a cookout, so I planned a hike I thought I could finish by early-afternoon. He had to bail, but I went ahead with the hike anyway.

None of Haz's three topos completely agree on the route, nor with that marked by the Boy Scouts 50 years ago. @The_Eagle and @Tortoise_Hiker added another route 10 years ago. I tried my best to find the middle road. So to speak. 🤔

When my wife and I arrived in Forest Lakes, I drove her on a scouting trip down Rim Road to FR 487. The going was very slow, as my SUV’s shocks are shot. (It’s going into the shop on Monday.)

I finally started hiking at 10:00 a.m. It was cool, with winds up to 15 mph. There were still a few small patches of snow. I wore my hoodie. Other than taking the hood off, or adjusting the zipper, I did not remove it all day. Even though the temps gradually increased to about 60℉, and the wind died down, I never got sweaty. The sky was sunny, a brilliant blue, all day.

After ½ mile, on the right is rusty corrugated metal tube and an unmarked carbonite post. That is where the General Crook Trail supposedly splits off FR 9316. There was no use depression, but I gave it a shot. Pine forests are normally open, but the brush was dense.

I got back on FR 9316. My recommendation is to simply stay on FR 9316 to FR 300, then follow that south.

I searched for 10 minutes and could not find anything with “V82” on it, or which looked like it might have once had “V82” on it.

Because crossing canyons slowed travel, could break wagon axles, and made excellent Apache ambush sites, the trail / FR 300 follows a ridge’s high line from Forest Lakes, 15 miles southeast to FR 51. There are views down Hangman’s Draw, Gentry Canyon, Big Canyon, Bull Flat Canyon and northeast in the general direction of Overgaard. The top of the ridgeline is mostly heavily wooded, and there are downslope clusters of trees, but the Rodeo-Chediski Fire so thoroughly burned them recovery has not yet begun even 20 years later.

My wife surprised me at the apparently unstaffed Gentry Lookout. I scarfed the other half of her ham sandwich, she told me the pit toilet was locked, and I headed back out.

I found both the otherwise unmarked V85 and V89 posts.

Despite the bad shocks, my wife was able to meet me at FR 487. While drinking my recovery V-8, I found the reason my toes were sore: Not from blisters, but being cut up by untrimmed toenails. :doh:

Hike Video:

A few western spring beauty, one cluster of short-sepal bitter-root, and scattered dwarf lousewort (which look like milkvetch).
14.72 mi • 3,163 ft aeg
 Unfortunately, gpsjoe is no longer able to defend the name of this route, but using Super and Plus in the title seems redundant and a little silly. Don't get me wrong, this is a nice route, but I'd usually save Super for routes that are greater than twenty miles and I'm not sure what the plus means. Anyway, getting to Promontory Butte wasn't much trouble, but I couldn't enjoy my first beer there because it was so cold and windy. This actually was a blessing because once hiking north away from the rim, the snow was 3-4 feet deep in many places and as Chumley stated in a recent trip report, "annoying to cross". However, since we'd picked a colder day and started early, we lucked out and most of the drifts were still frozen solid. The snow coverage seemed to increase as we made our way north through the squishy forest roads. I was betting that once reaching FR300 the hike would get easier. It did, so I celebrated by drinking a beer and dried out some in the sun. The road was still very snowy, but something had drove over it and had packed down two tracks (snowcat?) that made the hiking easier. The descent of Horton Springs was fast after stopping for a snack and another beer. Horton Creek was turbid and raging, but I think more water was originating from the east tributary than the spring. The trail is damaged (eroded and rocky) in many places and there is a lot of deadfall now. The final crossing near the campground takes some skill to cross without getting wet. Four star route Joe, RIP.
5.9 mi • 590 ft aeg
 Nice quad and side-by-side ride down Juniper Ridge with the fam. Beautiful area, even if there is still some burn present. The lookout tower is closed to traffic, and the actual tower is still closed too. After you pass the tower itself and travel further East, you come across a MONSTER Juniper, sadly didn't get a picture of it. On the way back nearly ran over what I believe was a gopher snake, but I'm no expert. Good fall color, not too much on the ground yet but a ton of acorns!
13 mi • 1,500 ft aeg
 Did Chumelys' 2016 route with some modification for camping. Followed this route last year but hit the area too late. This year I arrived a bit early. Bummer, maybe next time. Temps were in the low 60s for our hike and cooled to the low 40s overnight.

Side note - a 24' toy hauler was in the quiet area. ](*,) Hunters (maybe forest?) not sure... Never saw or heard anyone and the trailer was being surveilled by trail cams.

Most of the aspens are not quite ready or went from green to drop. However, there are pockets of change. Just go exploring. Only saw one gamble changed. Maples were the star of the show with most near peak. Probably this weekend for better results.
13.06 mi • 2,123 ft aeg
See Drew Loop
 Camped near the lookout tower up on the rim and started down See in the morning. No alarm clock needed, 4:15AM and those birds were on one. The descent didnt seem that steep at all, was pretty easy going down. About 1/2 mile down the bugs were real bad. Cant see ems in swarms, every time I brushed up against some leaves, it seemed like another hundred joined the main swarm as it continued down the canyon with me. At some point, you just give in and accept the uncomfortableness. Passed through some beautiful fern areas where the sunshine got to come though the trees and cliffs finally and you get that deep forest smell. It felt perfect. Christopher Creek was flowing nice the whole way. Lots of deadfall along the trail, I lost count of how many trees I hopped over. Passed the only other hiker I saw all day near See Spring. The highline section was awesome. LOTS of bear tracks. Beautiful trail. For the most part flat ground and soft dirt. More bear tracks. Great views once it climbs up out of the trees. The climb up Drew was very steep as expected, but nothing a few 30 second breathers couldnt get through and I felt very strong. The road walk back was uneventful and a little toasty but I did take a break on the edge of the rim becasue that's what you do. The lookout tower was all chained up but I could see the windows were open up there. Ill be back up here in a couple weeks for a real adventure.
6.8 mi • 1,069 ft aeg
Ol Buck Leonard
 A pleasant little leg stretcher in a new section of some of my favorite “Mellow Mogollon Canyons”.
Little warm weather in the morning made for a much enjoyed lunchtime swim complete with sandy shores and beverages.
Complete solitude besides dog company from Mr. Mellow himself who seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself as well.
A blessed day in the high country heartland.
6.6 mi • 1,666 ft aeg
 Been trying to find other spots in Arizona for extreme fall colors besides Lockett Meadow. I will flat out say this is almost better! The first 1 mile of the trail is blanketed in mature & baby aspen. Hardly any conifers whatsoever. The drive in from the 180 is about 5 miles. With the final 2 being complete aspen groves. I’m fully amazed at this place & how it will look in about 5 years once the aspen are reaching 15’+ in height. Once we get to that point, this will be better than Inner Basin. High clearance needed. Probably second best spot for aspen / fall colors in Arizona. West side of Mt. Baldy has sections too, but they are undiscoverable due to tribal closures.

Primetime right now. Probably will last until this weekend.
9.5 mi • 1,387 ft aeg
 After work hike while working in the area. Started late afternoon and moved quickly up the trail. Perfect weather, puffy clouds and cool, with no monsoon threat. Stopped to enjoy the view from atop the hoodoos and then pressed on to the 10,500 contour or so on the last big climb. Too late to summit, though I considered it. Lots of interesting mushrooms and fungi to be seen. Decent wildflowers in the meadows. A few deadfall trees were blocking the trail along the ridge. Passed a couple of small groups of backpackers ascending at sunset while on my way down. Giant mosquitoes at the trailhead. Saw a good many elk grazing along the shoulders of highways 273 and 60 on the drive out at night.
55.74 mi • 6,888 ft aeg
White Mountains Tour
 I had originally planned a long (5+ day) backpacking trip in the Greer area for early July, but the forest closures ended up cancelling that. In looking for a replacement trip I ended up deciding to do the Tahoe Rim Trail in September. The prep for that trip includes some new gear and new packing discipline along with the physical challenge of the trail itself (180 miles in 11 days). I decided to modify my original plan for the White Mountains and use it as a shakedown for the Tahoe trip.

Day 1 - 17 miles - Greer to West Fork of the Black River
This day started out at the Government Springs trailhead around 7:00am. I was a bit concerned about the condition of the trail as I couldn't find a lot of information on it. I was pleasantly surprised to find a fairly well-traveled trail which looks to be somewhat actively maintained (i.e. deadfall has been cut and cleared). There were some overgrown spots where I was concerned about stepping into something I couldn't see, but aside from from water and mud there weren't any issues.

I continued following the river up to Sheeps Crossing where I got onto the West Baldy trail which I followed to its intersection with the Baldy Crossover trail.

The crossover trail was a nice change after the muddy river walk, but the dry trail only lasted for so long. After the first mile the skies opened up and out came the rain gear. The rain was never hard and it only lasted for 30 minutes or so. A new item on this trip was a rain kilt and as ridiculous as it looks I have to say that it's sooo much better than rain pants.

After the crossover trail ended I headed up the East Baldy trail for a bit. The intention here was to replicate a route posted by @Oregon_Hiker which followed the West Fork of the Black River to connect the East Baldy trail with the Thompson trail. I was able to find the headwaters of the Black River without too much trouble, but the condition of the canyon had changed significantly since he posted his triplog last year.

From his photos I expected a reasonably straightforward trek through a sparsely forested canyon. What I encountered was an overgrown mess which made it very difficult to find footing. On top of that there was an incredible amount of deadfall which looked like some jumbo-sized game of pickup sticks. I tried following the canyon a bit above the river and had better luck but it was still slow going. I eventually found the reservation boundary fence but it was in every orientation but vertical and mostly pinned down under massive deadfall. This was very different from last year's photos and description.

Then the thunder and lightning started.
Then it started raining again.
Then it started hailing.

After the storm I started moving again only to be slowed down by even more rain then stopped by more impressive thunder and even bigger hail. This trip was quickly running the risk of transitioning from type 2 to type 3 fun.

While waiting out the storm I decided to abandon the river walk and cut over to FR402D. Once the storm stopped I made my way over to the road and followed it to the point where it diverged from the stream. From there I stuck with the stream and made my way through the meadow to FR116 which I followed to the Thompson trail.

The Thompson trail was beautiful and similar in overall theme to the Government Springs trail at the beginning of the day. There were a lot of marshy sections and a lot of mud. While I had hoped to keep my feet from getting any wetter that just wasn't in the cards.

My intent was to camp near the intersection of the Thompson and West Fork trails, but when I got there I couldn't find a good spot. As the clouds in the sky were getting more ominous looking I decided to backtrack to a site I saw about 0.5 miles prior.

The weather was quickly turning and once I got to the site I raced to get my tent setup. This was comical as it was a new tent and although I had set it up in my yard a few times I had never done so in the wild under duress of an impending storm. Somehow I managed to get the tent pitched, my gear sheltered, and myself into the tent before the skies opened up again. This time it rained hard for over an hour. Fortunately my new tent kept me and my stuff dry.

After the rain stopped I got my stuff better organized, had some dinner, and hit the sack. As I fell asleep a thunderstorm raged several miles to the west. Two hours later and every two hours after that I was awakened by my air mattress having deflated enough to put some part of my body in contact with the ground.

Day 2 - 18 miles - West Fork of the Black River to East Baldy Overlook
I awoke to 46 degrees and 100% humidity. It was actually a very nice morning if it weren't for all of the condensation all over everything. Fortunately, I stayed dry overnight and by some sort of miracle (and a well-designed tent) didn't end up with any moisture on my quilt.

After taking care of my morning routine and packing up a very wet tent (inside and out) I headed back down the Thompson trail to the West Fork trail. I crossed the river and headed up the canyon wall to the plateau above. Everything was wet and muddy. Not just muddy, but suck the shoe off your foot muddy. I don't have much to say about the West Fork trail as it was pretty unremarkable. I'm sure it was much more interesting before the fire, but now it's just a lot of exposure.

From the West Fork trail I took FR68 north to FR249C which roughly parallels the canyon edge. Not much to report from these roads other than the fact that they were rutted and muddy messes in places. Lots of sun exposure and slow going in spots. I had planned a stop a Deadman Spring to get some water and dry my tent, but upon arrival I found a pond with what appeared to be a pretty healthy bloom of blue green algae. Not wanting to test my theory I backtracked a bit to a flowing spring I had passed by earlier and took my break there. In retrospect perhaps Deadman Spring had that name for a reason :)

After my break I continued my walk through the mud bog that was FR249C. Eventually I made it to FR249E, the FR116, then 402 then 8037 which I followed over Burro Mountain to AZ273. This section featured some great views from Burro Mountain, but was otherwise a long and tough slog. The sun was blazing and having learned my lesson descending the Rincons in May I was carrying a sun umbrella which I attached to my pack for some portable shade. This turned out to be a lifesaver as there's nothing worse than broiling your brain in the sun.

After cutting through the Gabaldon campsite I got onto the East Baldy trail and started making my way up the hill. Knowing that I would have a dry camp I grabbed water at the last possible spot before the trail started ascending. The Easy Baldy trail is beautiful and although I was tired I was loving the scenery.

I made it to the overlook about midway up the trail and found a perfect spot to pitch my tent between a couple of boulders. Took in the views, made some dinner, and hit the sack early. As I didn't have time to track down the leak in my mattress I went through the same cycle of interrupted sleep.

Day 3 - 20 miles - East Baldy overlook back to Greer
I woke up early and had just enough time to make some coffee before the sun came up. Enjoyed the display and then got on with my day.

The remainder of the East Baldy trail was beautiful and in retrospect one of my favorite parts of the trip. There was some deadfall to deal with, but nothing too bad. I stopped at the spring near the plane wreck to camel up and continued on. The area around the wreck was completely overgrown with ferns and cornlilly to the point that the tail section was barely visible.

Made it to the junction with the West Baldy trail and took a side trip up to the accessible summit. The views were great, but there was some haze in the air which limited visibility.

From the summit I started down and once I got to the shallower grade in the last 4 - 5 miles I hauled a** to the trailhead. I was feeling great and making great time so, stupid me, thought that the last 7 miles would be a fast walk back into town. I should have known better as the West Fork trail was a nightmare.

Once I found the West Fork trail I was treated to 4 miles of rutted and muddy terrain with nearly zero redeeming qualities. I'm guessing that without the mud it would have been more enjoyable, but in its current state I was really regretting my decision to take this trail. Fortunately the last 2 miles were through a beautifully forested area which almost made up for the prior pain.

Once at the trailhead I was ready for my day to be over, but I still had a 1.75 mile road walk through Greer to get to my truck. What energy I had left was sapped out of me by that walk. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday afternoon and the restaurants I passed were all either closed or not serving. I had been looking forward to a celebratory piece of pie, but that wasn't meant to be.
While quite different than my original plan of a leisurely stroll through the area I think that the fast approach that I took was more appropriate. The overall area is beautiful, but the beauty is punctuated by burned areas and, in the case of this trip, a lot of mud. I imagine that I would have gotten rather bored and frustrated if I had spread it out over any more days. In the future I may make another trip to focus more on the Mount Baldy Wilderness and unburned sections of Burro Mountain but I think I've had my fill of the area SW of Big Lake.
7 mi • 2,364 ft aeg
 Started at Greer trail head Sunday morning and hiked to Sheep's Crossing Bridge where we set up camp. Very few people out on the trail once we were away from the parking area. Good tread. Pretty cold that night camping in the open area before the bridge - our water was frozen to a slushy with chunks of ice! Little Colorado was flowing nicely and water was easy to filter. Monday we headed up the trail and camped just under 2 miles from the trail junction with East Baldy. Warmer up there away from the water!! Although the mountain is steep along the trail, there are spots where it levels out enough for good camping. Ran into a day hiker who was doing some recon for a future backpack trip. Jimmy - if you read this - from our camp it took Tina and I 1 hour, 15 minutes to make it up to the trail junction, so you must have been close when you turned back! There was water running in 3 drainages and plenty of water in the West Fork Tributary. Lots of color from the aspen made for spectacular views. Tuesday morning we left our camp and hiked up to the East / West trail junction. Ran into a pair of backpackers who had slept up at the junction. Came back, packed up camp and hiked out to Sheep's Bridge and our shuttle. Good trail, good water and great weather.

Aspen were gorgeous!

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