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Hike #40 – Scott Reservoir

Scott Reservoir
Scott Reservoir

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

  • Drive west on 260 to the traffic light at Porter Mountain Road, 3.5 miles, and turn right.
  • Drive Porter Mountain Road north 1.3 miles and turn right into the signed Scott Reservoir access road.
  • Drive 0.5 miles and turn right into the campground.
  • Drive to the end of the road near the lake and park next to the restrooms or across the road in any vacant space that is not a campsite.

Trail: The trail is dirt, somewhat rocky in places.

Scott Reservoir
Coreopsis Flowers at Scott Reservoir

Trailhead and Directions: From the restrooms walk on the cinder roads about 25 yards west of the paved launch ramp, go under the gate, and walk south along the earthen dam. If the water is very high, you will have to cross the concrete dam at the south end of the earthen dam, but usually it is not that high and you can drop down onto the lakeshore and continue south and east to the southern lakeshore. Walk this trail along the lakeshore to the east. The Ice Cave trail will join your trail in a short distance where you will see blue diamonds on the trees. Continue along the lakeshore and keep left where the Ice Cave trail with the blue diamonds veers to the right and goes up the hill into the woods. At this point you have only walked half a mile. Continue around the lake margin on the trail and proceed north along the far side of the lake. You can continue about three-quarters of a mile if you wish, but you cannot walk around the lake by the shore because there are rocky cliffs that come down to the lake. We usually go about one-half mile and rest on a log to enjoy the lake and then return the way you came to the parking area.

Access: Hiking, bicycling, horses. No motorized vehicles. A wheelchair might be able to make it along the earthenware dam, but otherwise the trail is not handicapped accessible.

Distance: Two miles round trip, unless you choose to go farther down the eastern shore.

Difficulty: Easy walking on the dirt trail but watch out for rocky spots. No elevation gain. Moderate difficulty if you have to go across the narrow cement dam as this requires good balance or a hiking stick to give extra support and assurance.

Scott Reservoir
Scott Reservoir

Features: The trail borders the lake for its entire length and on the southern and eastern shore you will pass through an open Ponderosa Pine, Alligator Juniper, and Gambel Oak forest. On the lake look for Canada Goose, Mallard, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, and other waterfowl depending on season. Ospreys are regular and nest on the north shore. Spotted Sandpipers nest and can usually be seen along the eastern shore. In the forest you will find the usual birds as chickadees, nuthatches, jays, and warblers. Western Scrub-Jays are often in the woods to the west of the dam and rarely Lewis’s Woodpeckers can be there. Violet-green Swallows and Purple Martins often nest around the lake. Juniper Titmouse is regular but hard to find.

Flowers like Gumweed, Coreopsis, Cocklebur, Showy Goldeneye, Bigelow’s Rubberweed, and many others can be abundant depending on season and lake level.

Connections: The Ice Cave trailhead is on Porter Mountain Road on the right about 0.8 miles from the light on SR 260. You can park here and walk that trail to the lake and join with the one described here. The Ice Cave trail eventually joins the Blue Ridge trail #107. About half way uphill to the Blue Ridge trail, it connects with the Osprey Connector Trail. You can take this trail to the north, a distance of about 2 miles where it crosses Porter Mountain Road and then continues to the Timber Mesa Trail #636.

If you would like a longer hike from the Scott Reservoir parking area described above, walk the trail as described around the lake and north along the eastern side. At almost any time after one-half mile north, you can bushwhack to the right diagonally up the hill through the open forest to a fence line. There is a dirt trail along the fence line that you can follow to the north that will eventually lead to a gate and the Osprey Connector trail. Turn right and walk south to the end of the Osprey Connector where it joins the Ice Cave Trail. Turn right and come down the Ice Cave trail to the lake margin and back to your car. This distance is probably over 3 miles total.

Scott Reservoir
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