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Hike #25 - Paradise Creek Loop

Paradise Creek
Fishing in Paradise Creek

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

  • Drive east on 260 past the Hon-Dah Casino and through McNary to SR 473 that leads to Hawley Lake, a distance of 15.7 miles.
  • Turn right on to 473 and drive only 0.5 miles over the river to the first left turn. This is BIA route 59 or 620 on some maps, but it is not marked.
  • Turn left and drive the very rough road up hill for about 100 yards. On the left find a parking area with mounds of cinders. Park here.

Trail: Part of the trail is an old fisherman’s dirt track along the west bank of the North Fork of the White River that we call Paradise Creek. The trail may require some rock hopping if the water is high. The second half of the trail is on the gravel road.

Trailhead and Directions: From the parking area, find the opening in the fence at the start of an old roadbed heading to the south down towards the river. Walk down the old roadbed and swing left where there is a large log along the left side of the “road.” Work your way down one of the old roadbeds to the bank of the river. Walk south along the river, hopping over a small drainage, and then along old fishermen trails through the pine, spruce and fir woods. You will soon come to a narrow dirt trail that leads down towards the water. Soon there is a steep hillside on the right with old fallen tree roots near the hillside with the trunk crossing the river. You can get around these easily. Then there is a large rock in your path. You will have to dance around the left side. If the water is low, it is easy to get around. If the water is high, you may have to get your feet wet for a quick step around this large rock. The trail continues and after about one-half mile, you will see an easy way to get up to the road if you want to make only a short hike. Otherwise, follow the dirt trail to the south as it climbs a slight elevation to a large pine, then dives down back to the water. There is a marshy area here, and it is best when the river is low, to step out onto the river gravel and continue south for a few feet before coming back up on the river bank. Continue south through lots of gooseberry brush to a large park-like area with scattered big trees (about 0.8 miles from your car). Large long logs are laid out parallel to the river. Have a rest here. You can continue south if you wish by walking towards the road and finding cow trails that lead over side streams that may be dry or wet for another few hundred feet south. The road climbs high above to the right so it is best to go back to where the road and the area where you rested are nearer the same level. Climb up to the road and walk the dirt road back to the car.

Paradise Creek Road
Paradise Creek

Access: An Apache Reservation day use permit is required. Hikers only on the narrow river trail. No handicap access except along the road. The river used to be popular with fishermen but I do not think that is stocked with trout any more. We rarely see anyone here in early morning. Families with children come down to play in the water later in the day or weekends and holidays.

Distance: The whole loop as described is about 1.9 miles.

Difficulty: Mostly easy, but there are difficult spots in two places as described above.

Features: In summer, the whole area is filled with Cutleaf Coneflower and Owl’s Claw flowers with many Atlantis Fritillary and other butterflies. Many other flowers are here and all along the trail. Look for Osprey, Mallards, Common Merganser, Spotted Sandpiper, Belted Kingfisher, and American Dipper along the river. Red-faced Warblers and Common Yellowthroats nest here along with chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, Olive-sided Flycatchers, both kinglets, house wrens, rarely Virginia’s, MacGillivray’s and other warblers, siskins, and goldfinches. Great Blue Herons are possible. Cattle may be using the area but disburse quickly (unless there is a bull). Elk, deer, chipmunks and red squirrels, and possibly coyotes can be here. Wild Turkey, Dusky Grouse, and many other birds can be found from the road on the walk back. It is easier to hear bird calls along the road without the rush of the water close by. This is one of the most beautiful spots easily accessible in the White Mountains.

Connections: None. See trails 22, 23, and 27 for other spots along the North Fork of the White River.

Paradise Creek
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