Thursday, September 5, 2019

Experience the Coronado Trail

Experience the Coronado Trail blog cover image

The Coronado Trail makes up the ninety miles of US 191 in Arizona between Clifton and Alpine. The views as the highway progresses are breathtaking. A slew of campgrounds, hiking trails, picnic areas, scenic viewpoints and detours to other areas just off the highway, make the Coronado Trail a road trip for anyone seeking the ultimate adventure experience.

looking down toward the city of Clifton from the Coronado Trail

Route 191 is a National Scenic Byway winding through the mountains just above Clifton in Arizona. It is part of the historic Route 666 better known as “The Devil’s Highway.” The portion of US 191 that runs between Clifton and Alpine is known as the Coronado Trail. It is named for the Spanish conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s journey through the area in 1540. The Trail is a beautiful scenic drive that boasts elevations between six thousand and nine thousand feet, with huge forested areas of land dotting the volcanic mountains. These forests are made up of Mexican Blue Oak, tall Ponderosa Pines, and Alligator and Pinon Junipers. These forests are pristine and untouched by the Wallow Fire that occurred in 2011. The Coronado Trail runs through the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest which is a rich environment for wildlife. When driving through the area, it is not unusual to spot bald eagles, ospreys, elk, mule deer, antelope bighorn sheep, black bears, and Mexican wolves.

a shaded hiking trail along The Devil's Highway

The Coronado Trail is devoid of human habitation for the most part. There are very few human inhabitants and services such as gas and food stops are few and far between until reaching Alpine. If you are not planning to make a stop at the Hannagan Meadow Lodge, there are plenty of scenic viewing points and campgrounds along the trail to stop and enjoy a packed lunch. When driving the Trail, expect to climb rapidly through rugged mountain topography. The peak elevation of the trail is just over nine thousand feet close to Hannagan Meadow. It is not unusual to come across snow and ice while driving even in the spring and fall months. The Coronado trail is paved, but narrow.  Thought the Trail is only ninety miles, prepare to be on the road for three hours due to the tight hair pinned turns and blind curves of the highway. There have been sightings from those driving this lonely stretch of road of packs of demon dogs, psychotic truck drivers, and ghosts. Whether your goal is to view the beautiful scenery and wildlife or investigate the sightings of ghostly apparitions, the Coronado Trail delivers the adventure of a lifetime.

the sun setting behind the mountains of Arizona

Though driving the Coronado Trail in itself can be a rewarding adventure, there are several spots along the trail perfect for detouring and adding to the experience. In order to fully experience the landscape, consider extending the trip into a whole weekend and continuing on US 180 east of Alpine over the New Mexico border. As the elevation declines and the pine forests give way to the desert, the highway runs along the San Francisco River. Popular scenic views on this stretch of highway include the San Francisco Box Canyon, the White Mountains of Arizona, and the San Francisco Hot Springs. The highway runs all the way back into Clifton where the journey started.

a narrow paved highway winding through the mountains

Clifton itself offers insights into its mining past through its historically preserved buildings and museum exhibits. The Greenlee Chamber of Commerce is housed in the old 1913 train depot just off of US 191. The train depot also houses the Copper Head Locomotive which is open for study by those wanting to learn more. The Greenlee County Historical Museum contains exhibits on the surrounding areas and the mining past of Clifton. Morenci Mine is located a bit outside of Clifton and is worth a look as it is one of the largest holes made by man in the world. As the Coronado Trail continues out of Clifton and Morenci, there are plenty of other stops for extending the journey. Reserve, New Mexico off of US 180 offers gas, restaurants, and groceries. The Alma Grill located in Alma, New Mexico is a popular stop for those traveling the circuit for any meal of the day. Mogollon is a ghost town that can be explored during the summer months. It lies at the end of a petrifying one-lane road winding up a mountain.

There are several areas along the Coronado Trail itself that are worth exploring. The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest sits at the one hundred- and seventy-seventh-mile mark. The Trail winds up through a series of hairpin turns and rhyolite cliffs. Though there aren’t many places to pull off, the view of the road dropping away behind the vehicle through the rearview mirror is spectacular. There are several hiking trails along the Coronado Trail, such as the Painted Cliffs Trail, Spur Cross Trail, HL Canyon Trail, Trail 14, Hogtrail Saddle Trail, Robinson Mesa Trail, Hot Air Trail, Hagen Trail, and Forest Trail 70. The views are worth stopping and taking in at the many pull-off lots along highway. Rose Peak is located at the two hundred- and sixth-mile marker. On the east side of the Coronado Trail, a parking area leads to a hiking trail. The trail is half a mile and ends at a lookout tower. The tower sits at an elevation of eight thousand seven hundred feet and offers a magnificent view of the Mogollon Rim. One view not to be missed is Blue Vista. Blue Vista sits at an elevation of nine thousand two hundred and twelve feet and offers fantastic views to the east, south, and west. It makes the perfect stop along the Coronado Trail to eat a meal, with its restrooms and picnic area on ridge edge. Several converging trails can be hiked from this area.

The Coronado Trail offers an unbeatable experience for all who travel it. The rich mining history in Clifton, the beautiful hiking trails and scenic viewpoints along the route offer adventure to anyone who willing to brave it.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The 8 Best Things To Do in the White Mountains of Eastern Arizona

8 Best Things To Do in the White Mountains of Eastern Arizona blog cover image

When you think of Arizona, two words come to mind: hot and dry. If it’s summertime and you’re in Phoenix or the surrounding valley, that's an accurate description. But due to its dramatic elevation changes, Arizona doesn’t have to be a place to avoid during the hotter months. Just a tank or two of gas gets you to The White Mountains of Eastern Arizona. This is not the land of cowboys, cactus, and scorpions. The White Mountains boast four seasons of fun activities for visitors. The Arizona White Mountains are strikingly beautiful, with plush forests and a range of elevations from 6,500 feet to over 11,000 feet.

Let's look at the things you can do to leave the cactus and dirt behind:

a father leading daughters while backpacking

1. Hiking

There are over 180 miles of developed trails within the White Mountain system. There are trails for all levels of hikers, but the best part is that all trails are connected by forest roads or connector roads that will allow you to hike or bike the entire 180 miles as a single endeavor; not that you would!

Bordering central Arizona’s dramatic Mogollon Rim, hikes in the Payson area provide surprising greenery. The trails climb pine filled slopes, rippling streams and clear springs. From the sensational Mogollon Rim, intimate lakes and astounding views surround you.

bundled up skiier using poles for balance

2. Skiing

If skiing is your passion, you have many options for winter fun in the White Mountains of Arizona. You might try Sunrise Park Resort; it’s Arizona’s largest ski resort and has been in operation for almost half a century. Not only can you enjoy wintertime activities like downhill skiing, snow tubing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing; don’t avoid Sunrise Park Resort in the summer. Disc golf, horseback riding, and other activities are available. It’s not just skiers who get a free ride on the lift either. Even bike riders get to take the lift to the top of the hill. No worries if you forgot your bike, you can rent one there.

For the slightly less skilled snow lover, another site for winter fun is Williams Valley Winter Sports Area. It offers cross-country skiing, sledding, toboggans, and tubes. Williams Valley provides restrooms and has no fees. It’s considered one of the finest year-round recreation areas in the White Mountains.

a fisherman's hands on the rod at the lake

3. Fishing

With more than 50 lakes in the area, the White Mountains are a fisherman’s paradise. The cool summer temperatures provide a comfortable place to cast your line. Most likely you’ll catch some form of trout; rainbow, brown or brook trout will likely take your bait. But other species can be found here. An experienced angler also has a pretty good shot at large and smallmouth bass, or the occasional catfish. For the more hardcore year-round fisherman, Willow Springs Lake also offers ice fishing during the coldest months.

Whether the fish aren’t biting because they’re not hungry, or you’re just not offering the chef’s special of the day, the scenery and pristine atmosphere of the White Mountains are reason enough to be there. Just know that as long as you have a stick in your hand and a hook in the water, you need to have your paperwork in order. An Arizona fishing license is required at all state lakes and streams.

a couple on a rowboat at sunset

4. Boating

It’s generally inconvenient to get your boat into an ocean from Arizona, but the White Mountains offer more than enough lakes to suit your boating needs. Among the popular lakes, you can visit for boating are Knoll Lake, Woods Canyon Lake, Lyman Lake, and Rainbow Lake to name just a few. There’s no shortage of information online to steer you toward the one that will become your favorite. You can peruse their websites for details. Here are a few of the most popular:

Knoll Lake: Thick with ponderosa pines as far as you can see makes for a breathtaking backdrop while canoeing or enjoying a small boat ride.

Woods Canyon Lake: At the top of the Mogollon Rim, you’ll find Woods Canyon Lake. Woods Canyon Lake Store and Marina rents boats and sells fishing licenses and supplies.

Lyman Lake: If a sheer size is what you’re looking for, Lyman Lake is the place. Powerboating has no motor restrictions; aside from the west end, which is a "no-wake" zone that provides safety for swimmers.

motorboat cutting through blue water

5. Water Sports

Everything not considered boating or fishing we’ll call water sports, and the White Mountains won’t disappoint. Water skiing, windsurfing, jet skiing, swimming, paddle-boarding, water rafting or anything else that puts you in or on the water. Many of the fishing lakes allow water sport activities. So when you get tired of filling up the cooler with your catch of the day, take a break and get in the water instead of floating on top of it.

lush green foothills in front of tall mountains

6. Camping

Among the many lakes and streams, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and White Mountain Apache Reservation offer endless opportunities for camping. The mountains are beautifully forested peaks that rise to elevations of over 11,000 feet. Warm temperatures don’t last long though, and campgrounds are overflowing with visitors escaping the desert heat, so this is an activity you need to plan ahead for.

7. Escapes from Nature

When you’ve had enough hiking, camping and everything else related to trees and water, nature is going to get old pretty fast, especially if you’re traveling with kids; however, the White Mountains area has a solution for this problem. At the Pinetop Lakeside, you’ll find the White Mountain Family Fun Park. Forget the scenery and nature for a bit and enjoy more kid-friendly activities such as mini-golf, arcades, and go-carts.

8. Sightseeing

If you’re more of a looker than a doer; Payson is a modern town you may want to visit. If you have time on your way back to Phoenix, stop and see the art galleries and shop for antiques at the stores on Historic Main Street.

While in Payson, visit the Rim Country Museum. You’ll get a picture of Arizona’s beginnings, like the Payson Rodeo, the history of early loggers, blacksmiths, miners, and pioneers in the area, as well as the Zane Grey Cabin.

There it is; eight things you can do on short notice to leave the heat behind. Even if just for a day. So if you used to think Arizona looked like cowboys riding off into the sunset, you’re only half right. Whether you’ve invested thousands of dollars in a luxury boat or as little as fifty bucks on a pair of rugged shoes for hiking, there’s plenty of green space and water waiting for you in the White Mountains of Eastern Arizona.