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Hike #33 – Poll Knoll

Poll Knoll Trail
Poll Knoll Trail

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

  • Drive 30 miles east on 260 past the Hon Dah casino, routes 473 and 273.
  • As you start down the hill, see the sign for Pole Knoll on your right, and turn right into the access road.
    • For Option 2 (see below), drive straight ahead 50 yards and park in the space on the left.
    • For Options 1 and 3 (see below), drive the paved road around to the right and park in the large paved lot where you will find a rest room and picnic tables.

Pole Knoll is one of the best hiking areas in the White Mountains. At elevations from 8,900 to 9,600 feet elevation, it is popular with cross country skiers and snow mobilers in winter. But from spring through summer and fall, it is a great place to hike from flat even terrain to steep elevation climbs to enjoy the scenery, flowers, birds, and mammals if you are lucky.

Trail: The trails are mostly gravel and dirt roads and some narrow dirt trails.

Trailhead and Directions: The Pole Knoll Area map shows all the main trails on the mountain. We have only described three short hikes but encourage you to explore the other trails. For example the Meadowlark Loop is a 2.8 mile loop off of the perimeter Poll Knoll Loop trail easily accessible from the Option 2 parking area. You can hike the Summit trail to the saddle at 9,505 feet, a distance of 1.81 miles from the main parking area. From here you can go higher out Viewpoint and overlook the meadow with Sunrise Lake below, or go over the ridge on the Summit trail and find the Elk trail on your left. This trail is rarely used but winds through thick forest where the elk are hiding during the day. The Elk trail brings you back to the Summit farther around the hill.

Poll Knoll Trail Aspens
Aspens at Poll Knoll
  • Option 1: Walk from the parking lot due south a few feet past the restroom and find an old logging road with signs that this is the Pole Knoll Loop (easy) trail. Go right and walk until you reach the junction of the Redtail trail. Turn left and walk back to the south east until you come to the Osprey trail. Turn left again and walk downhill to the northeast to the Raven trail. Turn left again and follow the Raven trail to the Pole Knoll Loop and turn left again. Follow this to the inlet road but turn left uphill just before that road on the trail and hike to the south of the road on a narrow trail through the bunch grass back to the Trailhead.
  • Option 2: You are parked only 50 yards from SR 260. The trailhead is the blocked road between your car and the entrance on the east behind the barrier to automobile traffic. Walk the cinder-covered road for about 0.3 miles and turn right on the Raven Trail. Walk this dirt trail ignoring the turn to the right on the Osprey Trail, up the slight incline until the trail bends to the left. Continue on this road through the aspens until you reach the Pole Knoll Loop Trail. Turn left and follow the road back to your car.
  • Option 3: This hike starts from the rest room and main parking lot. Walk to the Poll Knoll Loop Trail and turn right (west) walk to the Redtail trail and turn left OR you can continue a little farther and turn left on the Summit trail. If you turned on the Redtail, walk southeast to the Osprey trail and turn right. Walk up the Osprey to the Summit trail and continue up the hill. Continue until you see the sign for the Elk trail on your left. Walk the Elk trail, a narrow dirt trail, through the aspens for as far as you wish and return either down the Summit to the Pole Knoll Loop or down the Osprey to the Redtail and back to the parking area.

Access: Hiking, bicycles, horses. No motorized vehicles (except authorized by USFS). Not handicapped accessible except in the paved parking area and inlet road.

Distance: Option 1. The loop is only 1.5 miles. Option 2. As far as you wish. Option 3. The whole loop as described is 2.48 miles.

Difficulty: Option 1. Easy walking, moderate as there is a slight climb and descent and some narrow trail through the grass. Option 2. Easy walking on the old logging road, but the middle portion of the trail is up a continuous incline. Option 3. Easy walking on the gravel roads, but the climb up the lower part of the Summit trail might be strenuous. Once on the Elk trail, it is a very gradual climb.

Features: The trails all run through a mature open Ponderosa Pine forest with scattered Douglas fir, White Fir, Limber Pine, and lots of Quaking Aspen. Elk and deer are here but rarely seen. Red Squirrels and chipmunks are common. The best birding is in the upper section of Option 2 on the Raven trail and Option 3 on the Elk trail through the thick groves of aspen trees. Yellow-rumped Warbler, Western Wood-pewee, Western Tanager, juncos, jays, woodpeckers, and sometimes Red-naped and Williamson’s Sapsuckers, are often seen. We saw a Northern Goshawk here once. Flowers are few in spring but many species after the monsoon rains, like fleabanes, Silvery Lupine, Purple Locoweed, Indian Paintbrush, many composites, MacDougal’s Verbena, and others can be found. Southwestern White Pine that closely resembles Limber Pine is higher up the Summit trail at about 9,200 feet.

Connections: None directly but you are not far from the Railroad Trail and all the trails in Greer.

Poll Knoll Area Map

Poll Knoll Area Map
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Options 1 and 3

Poll Knoll Options 1 and 3
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Option 2

Poll Knoll Option 2 Map
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