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Hike #31 – FR 117 to Carnero Lake & Greens Peak

Carnero Lake
Carnero Lake

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

  • Drive east on 260, 27.2 miles to FR 117 on the left.
  • Drive the gravel road 117 2.7 miles to 117A on the right.
  • Turn and drive the gravel road 117A, 2.4 miles to 117B on the right, a one-lane dirt road that leads to the Lake in 0.4 miles. There are some side roads so stay on the main road. In the parking lot, pull in straight ahead towards the lake and park.

Trail: Rough dirt and gravel roadway (Option 1), and bunch grass and rocky landscape (Option 2).

Trailhead and Directions:

  • Option 1. From the parking lot on Carnero Lake, walk north (left) to the fence and around the right end of the fence nearest the lake margin. The narrow dirt trail leads through the pine forest for about 0.4 miles. Turn left and find the straight dented old vehicle tracks that head west towards the road (117A). Walk about 0.4 miles to 117A, turn left and walk south on the gravel road to the entrance of 117B in about 0.4 miles. Then walk the entrance road back to your car (0.4 miles).
  • Option 2. From the parking area, walk south (right) above the lake margin following cow paths as best you can until you come to a small stream bed. Find some rocks to jump across and walk up on the dike. Follow the dike near the lake or back on the old vehicle tracks and cow paths along the eastern side of the lake. You can cut across to a bulge in the lake but there is a wet lowland in between. Continue around the northern end of the lake and find the well-worn cow and fishermen path that leads south back to the parking area.

Access: Hiking, bicycling, horses, no motorized vehicles past the parking area. Not handicapped accessible except around the parking area, which is about 100 yards long.

Distance: Option 1 is about 1.5 miles but we did not measure it. Option 2 is 1.65 miles.

Difficulty: Easy on the main trail and the road. Moderate where there is no trail and the walking is rough.

Features: Carnero Lake may be very full or almost dry depending on winter rains. Usually there is plenty of water to support a small population of local ducks, mostly Mallards, large numbers of American Coots, a few Pied-billed Grebes, maybe a Great Blue Heron, and sometimes Sora. The forest and road on the north side has the usual Ponderosa and Limber Pine, White and Douglas Fir, Engelmann and Blue Spruce forest birds like chickadees, nuthatches, Steller’s Jays, Plumbeous Vireo, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Hermit Thrush, Dark-eyed Junco, and Brewer’s Blackbirds. There may be swallows over the lake. In good years, there is a pair of Bald Eagles and Ospreys. Fishing can be good (artificial lures only, day limit 2 trout). Dry camping is available.

The whole FR 117 road complex from shortly north of 260 at least to the road leading up to Greens Peak is a very popular RV camping area on holidays and weekends in summer. Many of the dirt roads are good to hike on week days where you can get back into the trees and out in the meadows. All the local high elevation birds (9,300 feet) are here, the most prominent being Mountain Bluebirds.

Greens Peak - From 117 you can reach Greens Peak, one of the highest “peaks” in the area. Drive 117 as described above but do not turn on 117A, go straight ahead. You will soon come to a narrow one-lane road that runs up the hill and the main 117 road continues to the left towards Vernon on SR 60. Go up the steep hill to a switch back, then around the hill and on up to the summit. Here you will find a U.S. Forest Service fire lookout tower that you can climb and view the area when a lookout person is on duty. There is a restroom at the base and limited parking.

Birders try to find Dusky Grouse here as they nest in the forest just below the summit on the north side of the hill. You have to climb down a very steep slope on a marked Powerline Trail and search the woods left and right. In May, the grouse may be courting up by the lookout tower but otherwise they are hard to find. Listen for their clucking calls.

If you drive to the south end of the summit among all the antenna towers and buidings and park, you can find a trail that goes down the hill in an open meadow for some distance. We have hiked this and it is much less steep than the north and west sides of the hill.

Connections: No other trails, just the road system.

Carnero Lake & Greens Peak
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