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Hike #22 - North Fork White River

North Fork White River
North Fork White River

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

  • Drive 4.7 miles East on 260 to the junction of SR 73 on the corner of the Hon-Dah Casino.
  • Turn right on 73 and drive south down the hill for 6.5 miles to Roberts Ranch Road on the left.
  • Turn in on the initially paved road. Where the pavement ends at about 0.3 miles and the road bends to the left up hill, look for a gate in the fence line on the right and a road that runs down the hill.
  • Park just beyond the gate on the right. There is a “man gate” to the left of the car gate. Lift the wire loop off the post and step through, closing the gate behind you.

Trail: Dirt road, then bushwhacking, and a narrow dirt trail.

Trailhead and Directions: From the gate, walk down the hill until the road levels off and find a wide opening on the left with a few metal fence posts but no fence. Beyond this point you will see the road continuing into an open field with old buildings in the distance. Turn left between the green iron posts and walk down the hill following the old roadbed that is almost hidden by plant growth. There is no trail here, but you can make your way down towards the river bearing slightly to the right. If you stay to the right, the slope to the river is gradual. If you go straight, it will be steep. Once down to the river, walk the river bank to the east (left). You will eventually come to a rock outcrop that prevents you from passing. Walk a short distance back west and find an old rocky roadbed that leads steeply back up the short hill. Walk to the east up and down the terrain near the river bank only a few 100 feet and find a trail that leads down a steep rocky access to the river again just past the rocky outcrop that blocked your walking along the river edge. This trail continues about a third of a mile through Arizona Cypress trees and a sumac groves, finally dying out beyond where a pine tree blocks the main path. You can go around the lower end of this fallen pine and about 100 feet farther across a wash and to a steep hillside with several downed trees that have fallen into the river. From here, you would have to wade across the river to continue.

Access: A day use Apache Reservation permit is required. Foot traffic only. No handicap access.

Distance: From the gate down the hill and to the farthest point of the trail and back again is about 1.7 miles.

Difficulty: The trail is moderately difficult as you have to find your way through the brush to reach the river and then climb up and down again along the trail. Then you have to have the energy to walk back up the long hill to the gate and your car.

Features: Birding and fishing are good all along this stretch of the river as few people come here. Trees include Ponderosa Pine, Arizona Cypress, Douglas-fir, Engelmann Spruce, Arizona Alder, Coyote and other Willows, Arizona Walnut, and Stretchberry.

In spring and early summer you will find all the usual forest birds as well as Painted Redstart, Red-faced Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, House and Canyon Wren, Lazuli Bunting, chickadees, nuthatches, juncos, and other common birds. Great Blue Heron and Belted Kingfisher are often seen. Rarely Mallards and Common Mergansers are in the river. American Dipper is a possibility but is not expected.

In mid to late summer, flowers are abundant. The following are some of the common species: Pony Beebalm, Pineywoods Geranium, Narrowleaf Cologania, Pinos Altos Mountain and Gray’s Bean, Fendler’s Ceanothus, Narrowleaf Plantain, Sweet Four-O’Clock, Scarlet Beeblossom, Smooth Sumac, Missouri Gourd, Slender Goldenweed, Bird’s foot Morning-glory, and many more.

Connections: None. There are many places to access the North Fork of the White River that runs at least from east of Horseshoe Cienega Lake west to SR 73 and then south to join the White River in Whiteriver, AZ. This spot is one of least visited and therefore the most interesting. Other hikes near the North Fork in this group include #23 Lower Log Campground, #25 Paradise Creek (that is really the North Fork), and #27 BIA 59.

North Fork White River
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