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Hike #7 – Pintail Lake

Pintail Lake
Pintail Lake

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

  • Drive west on 260, 2.7 miles to the traffic light at Porter Mountain Road.
  • Turn right on to Porter Mountain Road and drive 7.8 miles to the traffic light at SR 60.
  • Go straight ahead across 60 and you are now on SR 77 heading for Taylor and Snowflake.
  • Drive only 3.5 miles and look for the brown sign on the right for Pintail Lake.
  • Turn right on the cinder Pintail Lake Road and drive 0.3 miles to the parking area at the end.

Trail: The main trails are paved (bright green on map). However, you can walk around the marsh (dotted yellow lines) where there is no marked trail in the dirt, lava rocks, and vegetation.

Trailhead and Directions: The trail exits the parking lot through a swinging gate. Close the gate behind you. The paved trail goes for about 0.1 mile and then splits. If you go left, you will come to a covered and paved observation blind with small windows allowing you to see the few birds in the water. If you go right, you will come to an observation platform with a bench where you can sit and watch the ducks. If you want to walk around the lakes, go back to the covered observation blind and walk down on the right side to the level of the marsh and continue along the margin to the south. There is a large elevated dike that separates two main sections of the lake. On the right (west) side is a large open lake with a few islands and no reeds or cattails. Sometimes this section is filled with water and other times it is completely dry. Most of the water comes from Show Low waste water. You can scope across the whole lake. On the left (east) side of the dike is an extensive marsh filled with reeds and cattails. Walk across the dike and left around the first set of ponds. Usually you can walk on one of several small dikes or berms for about half a mile to a fence that crosses the lake system. That is why the yellow dotted route stops to the southeast. An alternate route is to return to the north across a second wide berm, circle to the west around the northern part of the lake back to the paved path. You could walk to the east along the north side of the lake but we have never done that.

Access: Hiking, no motorized vehicles past the gate, wheelchair accessible for the first tenth of a mile to the observation blind and the platform. Hunting for ducks is permitted in season.

Distance: One tenth of a mile on pavement, then by foot around parts of the lakes as far as you wish inside the fence to the east.

Difficulty: Easy on the pavement; moderate when walking the rocky ground around the lakes.

Features: Many species of ducks can be found here at different seasons. Nesting Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Ruddy Duck, and Canada Geese are common as are Spotted Sandpiper, Common Yellowthroat and Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Great Blue Heron, White-faced Ibis, Pied-billed Grebe, Common Merganser, Sora, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Juniper Titmouse, Western Meadowlark, Western Wood-pewee, and other common species may be seen around the marsh or in the One-seed Juniper trees along the paved path. Peregrine Falcon, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Bald Eagle, and Osprey may be found here. In fall migration look for shorebirds like American Avocet, Willet, and Wilson’s Phalaropes. This is a good migration stop for Sora where we have found over 50 on some walks.

Connections: None.

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