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Hike #4a – Juniper Ridge - Two-Gate Loop

Juniper Ridge
Juniper Ridge

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

  • Drive west on 260 for 9.2 miles and turn left at the traffic light before the gas station on Woolford Street.
  • Drive 1.2 miles on Woolford to the four-way stop and turn left on Whipple Street.
  • Drive about 0.8 miles on Whipple to SR 260.
  • Turn left on 260 and immediately get in the right lane.
  • Turn right at the traffic signal on 260 and drive 9.7 miles to Farnsworth Ranch Road on the left.
  • Turn left and drive 1.4 miles on the first paved then gravel road, down the hill to Juniper Ridge Road.
  • Drive the rough dirt road about 1.4 miles.
  • Where the main road veers left and goes up the hill, stay straight on a less used road and note two large circular black cattle water tanks on the right. You can go about 0.1 mile past the tanks and park on the right before the road bends to the left. If you have a four-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle, you can go farther but the road is very rough.

Trail: The trail follows dirt, logging roads created after the Rodeo-Chedeski fire in 2002. Some of the road is very good and other parts have been washed out. Since there is little use, some of the roads have grass growing over much of the tracks.

Trailhead and Directions: Walk from your car along the dirt road for about 0.4 miles (from the cattle tanks) and find a fork in the road. Take the right fork. Most of this section was burned in 2002 leaving a few scattered large standing snags and lots of dead and down wood. The road continues up a long hill finally reaching a gate across the road. From the parking area, this is about one mile. Open the gate and close it after you, walk the dirt road ahead and then circle to the left. There are blue diamonds on this section as part of the Juniper Ridge Trail #640 that goes over six miles to the fire lookout tower on the ridge visible to your left after you pass the gate. Walk down the road keeping to the left where the main road and blue diamonds go right. Follow the road down across a dry wash and up and along a fence line for a total of about 1.1 miles from the first gate. Find the place where a branch of the dirt road goes through the fence. Find the gate there on your left with the opening on its right end, close it after you get through, and walk the road to the left. Continue on this winding road down and across a dry wash, past the dry cattle tank on the left, and out into the open for another mile until you come to the original fork. Continue about one–half mile back to your car.

Access: Hikers, bicyclers, horses, and four-wheelers. Not handicapped accessible.

Distance: 3.56 miles. A shorter hike would be up to the first gate and back for a total of about 2 miles.

Difficulty: The dirt road is easy walking except for occasional rocky areas and washouts. The first mile is uphill and the degree of difficulty would be moderate.

Features: You will get a panoramic view of the damage that the Rodeo-Chedeski fire did in 2002 and how little revegetation has taken place. The area was all Ponderosa Pine forest and now will become an oak-juniper forest. The pines have to regenerate from seeds while the junipers can grow from runners. Look for Lewis’s Woodpeckers, Black-throated Sparrows, and Spotted Towhees in the burn area. Spring flowers include many New Mexico Groundsel, a small Gila Milkvetch, Mexican and Fineleaf Woolywhite, Bigelow’s Rubberweed, Hairy False Goldenaster, Common Chicory, Hill’s Lupine, Arizona Mule Ears, Indian Paintbrush, Mt. Graham Penstemon, Fleabane, Prickle Poppy, Butterfly and Spider Milkweed, and other species in season. The rest of the trail passes through a mature Ponderosa Pine forest with some juniper and oaks. Plumbeous Vireos, Western Wood-Pewees, Mountain Chickadees, Pygmy Nuthatches, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Western Bluebirds and other species are easy to find.

Connections: Juniper Ridge Trail #640. Birding can be good all along the main road up hill to the fire lookout, a distance of over four miles. A high clearance vehicle is best for most of the side roads. Elk hunting and woodcutting occur in the fall.

Juniper Ridge – Two-Gate Loop
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