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Hike #36 – White Mountains Grassland

Location: From the Pinetop Post Office on SR 260, drive 40.6 miles east on 260 and turn left on CR 4128. This is about 0.8 miles past the South Fork Road turn off on the right, and the sign ahead of 4128 says Refuse Transfer Station. Drive this paved road north and then west for 0.6 miles where the paved road turns to the north again. Slide off to the left on a gravel road. There is a sign asking you to not drive off the road. Drive an additional 2.8 miles on this one lane road over the hills through a gate into Arizona Game and Fish (AZDG&F) property and park in the large lot on the left.

Trail: The first section of the trail is dirt with many rocks. The second half is on a gravel road.

Trailhead and Directions: The trail begins behind the kiosk/bulletin boards and leads up the hill. Keep left at the Y. This part of the trail is currently covered with weeds and is rocky. Soon the trail crosses a wooden bridge over a wash and climbs a steep hill to the to of a saddle, then descends through junipers down to the flats. Once you come to the old wooden buildings, you can walk on the gravel road all the way back to the parking area. Or you can continue east up the side of the hills and come back to the south to the parking area. That whole trail is 2.6 miles long.

Access: Hiking, bicycling and perhaps horseback. No motorized vehicles. Not handicapped accessible. This area is open for hunting when the season is open for elk, deer, doves, or pronghorns. Most of the hike is in the open so bring water and use sunscreen as needed.

Distance: Hiking up over the hill and down to the buildings, then back along the gravel road is 1.86 miles.

Difficulty: The walk is moderately difficult because of the short steep climb up to the saddle and then the descent on the other side. Otherwise, it is easy.

Features: The whole area is wide open rolling hills that after the monsoons is brilliant green with scattered flowers. The trees on the hillside are One-seed Juniper and Two-needle Pinyon Pines. Down around the buildings are Arizona Walnut and Box Elder. You might see pronghorns, coyote, jackrabbits, prairie dogs, javelina, and elk depending on season and time of day. The AZDG&F have installed many Burrowing Owl artificial burrows using large white PVC pipes as entries, but the owls did not like the artificial burrows that are now occupied by prairie dogs.

We found a large flock of Pinyon Jays working the fresh pinecones, Bullock’s Orioles and Blue Grosbeaks are around the buildings, and a large flock of Horned Larks was on the drive in. Say’s Phoebes, American Robins, Mountain Bluebirds, Chipping, Lark, and Vesper Sparrows, Lesser Goldfinch, Spotted Towhee, Northern Mockingbird, Western Scrub-Jays, Common Ravens, American Kestrels, and others are present. The most evident flowers are Colorado Four-O’clock, Sanddune Wallflower, Purple Locoweed, Indian Paintbrush, James’s Buckwheat, and many types of bunch plants, most without flowers.

Connections: None.

White Mountains Grassland
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