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Hike #42 – Big Springs and White Mountain Nature Center

Big Springs
Big Springs

Location: From the Pinetop Post Office on SR 260 (map):

  • Drive west 2.0 miles to the traffic light at Woodland Road.
  • Turn left and drive south 0.5 miles and turn left into the dirt parking lot. Park here. An alternate is to continue down Woodland Road another 0.3 miles and turn in to the White Mountain Nature Center (WMNC) parking area and park there.

Trail: The Big Springs trail is dirt covered in places with a layer of cinders. Some of the cinders are large and round that can make walking difficult. The rest of the trails are dirt with some large rocks.

Trailhead and Directions: From the first parking area, the trailhead is on the southeast corner near the trashcan. There is a viewing platform on the right but the views are obscured by vegetation. Walk down the hill and across the wooden bridge over Walnut Creek. The trail forks and you can take either fork as this trail is a loop. The lower (right) fork trail goes along the rise with the meadow and creek on the right. There is an alternate trail that runs in the meadow that you can take if it is dry. The meadow trail meets the other one at the spring (pond). Walk either trail to the Big Spring pond. From here you can either walk up the hill and follow the upper trail back to the bridge and your car. Or you can walk down by the lake to the south and follow this trail up to a second loop on the White Mountain Nature Center property. This trail also makes a loop and brings you back to the lake. If you parked at the WMNC parking area, walk east through the gate and follow the loop around and back to your car.

Access: Hiking and bicycle only. No motorized vehicles. Not handicapped accessible.

Distance: If you walk both the Big Springs and the WMNC Loops the total is about 1.2 miles.

Difficulty: Easy hike but be careful on the cinder portion of the trail and watch for the large rocks embedded in the dirt trails.

Features: Both trails are used for educational purposes and contain interpretive panels. The Big Spring lake is fed by a constantly flowing spring that drains to the north into Walnut Creek. It is bordered by cattails and reeds where Mallards, American Coots, Pied-billed Grebes, Soras, Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and Common Yellowthroats nest. There may be muskrats in the water. Mule Deer are sometimes seen, rarely Elk or Gray Fox, but Abert’s and Rock Squirrels are common. The woods support the usual forest birds. The marsh of the WMNC has a viewing platform but there is little open water. Flowers are abundant in season with Nodding Onion, fleabane, gumweed, Pineywoods Geranium, Four-O’-Clocks, Sand Dune Wallflower, Bird’s foot Morning-glory, Field Bindweed, several species of Asteraceae, ragweed, Soaptree Yucca, willows, cottonwoods, and many other species.

Check out the WMNC on their web site: www.wmnature.org.

Connections: From the upper part of the Big Springs loop you can connect to the trails that go back to Woodland Lake and are part of the Tracks trail system. From the WMNC trail, you can walk south along the fence line and over a bridge to open areas and ball fields to the south where there is a Frisbee golf course.

Big Springs and White Mountain Nature Center Trail Map
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