Thursday, November 7, 2019

The 6 Best Winter Activities in the White Mountains

The 6 Best Winter Activities in the White Mountains blog cover image


Arizona is filled with fun and has more to offer than its vast desert lands. Most of the year you can enjoy boating activities, warm hikes, horse-back riding, and fishing. During the winter months, you can still enjoy various activities in Arizona, despite its stereotype. The White Mountains in Arizona are home to a whole host of winter activities including snowmobiling, skiing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and even camping. The great part about this list is that they are all in the same mountain range of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest which was first explored in the 1850s and named after the first tribes that settled there. Preserving the land is a priority to the Forest Service, but that doesn’t mean people can’t have fun in this area. This list is a compilation of the 6 best winter activities in the White Mountains.



single file snowmobile riders

1. Snowmobiling at Bear Snowmobile Loop

Snowmobiling is an exciting winter activity that you can do solo or with friends and family. The Bear Snowmobile Loop is located in the Black Mesa Ranger District. This designated trail is a 17.1-mile loop and is permitted only to snowmobilers. The Black Mesa Ranger Station is located at 2748 Hwy. 260, P.O. Box 968, Overgaard, AZ 85933, here you can find information about the different activity areas within the district. The Black Mesa Ranger station provides a pamphlet for self-guided tours through the Black Canyon. You can also enjoy fishing and camping during the warmer months in the Black Mesa Ranger District. The forest service recommends calling ahead of time to check on-road and snow conditions.



a group of snowshoers following the trail

2. Snowshoeing at Hannagan Meadow

Named after the miner and cattle rancher, Robert Hannagan, the Hannagan Meadow, near Alpine, offers 8.7 miles of maintained trails for skiing. Legend has it that Robert Hannagan was chained to a tree until his $1,200 debt was paid off. Once it was paid off by his son, the meadow was named after him. Hannagan Meadow offers solitude and a chance to experience Arizona’s National Forest. The forest service recommends obtaining a map of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest before your adventure. Hannagan Meadow is also a popular spot for snowshoeing. After your day of snowshoeing, warm up with a slice of hot apple pie and kick off your gear at the Hannagan Meadow Lodge. The Lodge also serves as the starting point for the various winter trails and activities. Perfect for a weekend get-a-way with a loved one.



a lone cross country skiier in a blanketed landscape

3. Ski at Pole Knoll

Another popular ski spot amongst cross country skiers is the Pole Knoll Trail. This trail is a 6.2-mile loop with a moderate difficulty level located near Greer. The Pole Knoll Trail is a part of the Pole Knoll Recreation Area that is made of 11 other interconnecting trails. The Pole Knoll Trail veers into two separate parts and connects again .5 miles ahead at the trailhead. Nordic ski symbols are assigned throughout the area to let skiers and hikers alike know the difficulty levels throughout the year. The Pole Knoll Trail is labeled as a blue square (moderate). The most difficult level of trails in the Pole Knoll Recreation is labeled as a diamond black. No overnight camping is allowed, and parking is limited to 6 and 8 vehicles.



an ice fishing pole standing next to a hole cut in the ice

4. Ice Fish at Woods Canyon Lake

While a boat launch is available at this small lake located on the Mogollon Rim, 30 miles east of Payson, you won’t need it during winter months! Grab your gear and get ready to catch some fish through the ice. The surrounding 5.2-mile hiking trail is rated easy to medium and takes around 2 hours to complete. The lake is rich in trout to include brown, rainbow, tiger, and brook. You can also catch smallmouth bass in this lake. Ice fishing can be tricky since the visibility is opaque but rest assured the fish are there, Woods Canyon Lake is restocked weekly from September through May. There is free camping located on the Forest Road, so once you have gathered enough fish for the day, head back to your tent and serve them up nice and hot!



a family sledding down a powdered hill

5. Sledding at Toboggan Hill in Williams Valley

Toboggan Hill in Williams Valley is a designated sledding hill located outside of Alpine. There are no fees for this fun-filled day, and restrooms are available to the public. The climb back up from the steep hill is easy enough for all members of the family. Bring a sled, toboggan, or a tube and be sure to dress warmly. Williams Valley is considered one of the most popular destinations in the White Mountains of Arizona. Other winter activities in this area are cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. If you choose to partake in a different winter activity, Toboggan Hill has over 13 miles of trails of varying difficulty levels.



a yellow tent in the snow, glowing from inside

6. Camping in Blue Range Primitive Area

Did you know camping is just as popular in the winter months as it is in the summer? The Blue Range Primitive area is home to 199,505 acres which includes a Presidential recommendation from 1971. The best campsites are free ones! Primitive camping lets you reconnect with nature. While you might miss the luxury of plumbing, you can acquire new skills camping like learning to protect yourself from wildlife, building shelters, and hunting. If you plan to hike, it should be noted that elevation can reach up to 9,100 feet along the rim. During winter months it is especially important to pack emergency supplies to include, thermal blankets, fire starters, food, water, and other life essentials. With any type of camping experience, your safety is a priority, ensure someone from home knows where you will be.



the view of a single skiier with snow-covered mountains behind

Whether your thrill is to snowmobile, sled, snowshoe, ice fish, ski, or camp, these 6 winter activities in the White Mountains will provide you with the best experiences. With hundreds of thousands of acres within the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, your options of fun are endless. Just be sure to check on ice and snow conditions before you go and be packed and prepared for whatever activity you choose.