Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
|Apache Trail in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (Sam Clemens/Photographer's Choice)|
Various routes can be taken to explore the Apache-Sitgreaves National. A few of the more popular forests are outlined here. Since road conditions vary considerably due to weather and traffic, it is advisable to check local conditions before setting out.
U.S. 666-Coronado Trail
The Coronado Trail extends from Springerville to Clifton. From Springerville south to Alpine the transition from rolling grasslands at an elevation of 7,000 ft. (2,134 m) into spruce-fir forest at over 8,000 ft. (2,439 m) affords a pleasant drive. Surrounding areas extend up to 11,000 ft. (3,354 m).
South of Alpine the road becomes narrow with sharp curves. The elevation drops to 3,500 ft. (1,067 m) with descent from the Mogollon Rim into the desert. The transition from spruce-fir into pinyon-juniper and desert scrub combined with the vistas afforded by the drop in elevation makes this a spectacular drive. It is a slow route requiring about four hours to travel the 100 miles to Morenci. Gas is generally not available between Alpine and Morenci during the winter months. Sections of the road may be closed following snowstorms.
State Highway 273
This loop off State Highway 260 provides the main access for both Big Lake and Sunrise Ski Area. It leaves State Highway 260 two miles west of Springerville, passes near Big Lake at Crescent Lake, winds through Lee Valley, and returns to State Highway 260 past the Sunrise Ski Area. Passing through meadows and aspen stands, it is colorful in both spring and fall. Although part of the route is not paved, it is passable by automobile. The section from Sunrise Ski Area to State Highway 260 is the only portion open in the winter.
Forest Road 300Rim Road
The Rim Road begins on the Coconino National Forest off State Highway 87 north of Payson and extends eastward across the west half of the Sitgreaves National Forest. The route winds along the Mogollon Rim through ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests offering spectacular views. Only the portion from Woods Canyon Lake to Highway 260 is paved. Much of the remainder, which is used heavily by logging equipment, is quite narrow and can become slick after heavy rains. None of the route is cleared of snow in the winter.
Forest Roads 24, 25, 26
This loop leaves U.S. 666 15 miles south of Alpine on Forest Road 26 and returns near the KP Cienega turnoff. The roads take you through ponderosa pine and mixed conifer and also across the Black River, a popular fishing stream. Although unpaved, this 40-mile route is passable by car. It is not open in the winter.
Forest Road 504
Leaving State Highway 260 west of Heber, this road travels through ponderosa pine into pinyon-juniper country to old Forest Road 34. It passes through several small canyons including Chevelon Canyon and is open year-round. The road has a gravel surface and is normally passable by car.
State Highway 260
This paved route connects Payson and Springerville through Heber, Show Low, and McNary. The road from Payson to Show Low ascends the Mogollon Rim and travels through part of the largest continuous stand of ponderosa pine in the world.
Leaving Show Low the road gains elevation as it passes through the Ft. Apache Indian Reservation with its mountain meadows and meandering streams and then descends into Springerville. This section is especially pretty when summer flowers are blooming and when the aspen turn their golden autumn hues. The road is open year-round.
Four-Wheeling, Motorcycling, and ATV Use
Although there are no specific areas provided, many forest roads are open, which allow the pursuit of these activities. Most existing trails were designed for hiking and therefore are managed for the hiker. Do not make new roads or trails to help protect the land and its vegetation. Some areas are closed to motor vehicle use. Information on closed areas as well as appropriate routes where use is authorized can be obtained from any Forest Service offices.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication