- Some of the most spectacular scenery in the Southwest awaits the forest visitor on the two million acres of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. Elevations range from 3,500 feet in the Upper Sonoran desert life zone covered by prickly pear and yucca to nearly 11,500 feet in the Alpine life zone where you can see beautiful stands of fir and spruce interwoven with lush green meadows.
Copyright: - US Forest Service
Water makes the Apache-Sitgreaves a special place in the typically arid Southwest. The Forest has 24 lakes and reservoirs and more than 450 miles of rivers and streams - more than can be found in any other Southwestern National Forest. The White Mountains contain the headwaters of several Arizona rivers including the Black, the Little Colorado, and the San Francisco.
On the Sitgreaves, the major attractions for visitors from the hot valleys of Phoenix or Tucson are the Mogollon Rim and the string of man-made lakes. From the Rim's 7600-foot elevation, vista points provide inspiring views of the low country to the south and west.
The Apache ranges in elevation from 3500 feet near Clifton to nearly 11,500 feet on Mount Baldy. The Mount Baldy, Escudilla, and Bear Wallow Wildernesses and the Blue Range Primitive Area make the Apache one of America's premier backcountry Forests. The Apache is also noted for its trout streams and high-elevation lakes and meadows.
There are numerous scenic drives on the Forest. The Coronado Trail Scenic Byway (Highway 191) from Springerville to Clifton is an exciting 120 mile journey surrounded by the beauty and grandeur of Arizona. You will follow a route near Coronado's path as he searched for the "Seven Cities of Cibola" over 450 years ago and will literally travel from "palms to
pines" in a few breathtaking hours. Highway 260 between Eagar and Pinetop-Lakeside features high-elevation meadows and streams and lakes both on the Forest and on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. Highway 260 between the top of the Mogollon Rim near Woods Canyon lake turnoff and Heber features an extensive stand of ponderosa pine and tremendous change in temperature compared to the Phoenix area. Highway 261 between Eagar and Big Lake offers quick and easy access to the Big Lake area and also provides an excellent vista of the Round Valley of Springerville and Eagar.
Scenic Gravel roads include the White Mountain Scenic Byway from Alpine on Forest Road 249 to Big Lake and then proceed on state highway 273 past the Sunrise Ski Area to Highway 260. The Woods Canyon Lake loop is 58 miles long but its also long on scenic beauty.
There are over 200,000 acres of wilderness and primitive areas within the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. Travel is restricted to foot or horseback and mechanized equipment is prohibited. The Blue Range Primitive Area remains one of Arizona's untouched and little known jewels. This is a land of rugged mountains, steep canyons, and stark ridges that is at the same time remote and accessible through an extensive trail system. The 7,079 acre Mount Baldy Wilderness lies on the eastern slope of Mount Baldy and are the headwaters for the Black River and the Little Colorado River. Two trails pass through the Wilderness to a point near the top of Mount Baldy. Access to the top of the mountain is restricted by the White Mountain Apache Tribe. The 11,080 acre Bear Wallow Wilderness boasts some of the largest acreage of virgin ponderosa pine forest in the Southwest. Beautiful Bear Wallow Creek flows year-around providing suitable habitat for the threatened Apache trout. The 5200 acres in the Escudilla Wilderness sit atop Arizona's third highest peak, the 10,912 feet Escudilla Mountain. The 3.3 mile Escudilla Trail is well worth the climb for day trips to the fire tower and its outstanding vistas.
Recreation - The diversity in elevation and climate make the Apache-Sitgreaves a year-round recreation destination. Some popular recreation activities on the Forest include, camping, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, boating, sightseeing, scenic driving, and snow sports.
The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests offer 48 developed campgrounds that provide a spectrum of development levels from the most highly developed at Fool Hollow at Show Low to a number of
primitive sites scattered across the Forest. Primitive camping, backpacking, and recreational vehicle-style camps can be found in
many locations across the Forests and its only a matter of the camper selecting the desired site. There are a few areas, such as near Big Lake, Greer, or the Rim area lakes, in which visitors are asked to only camp in designated sites.
The high country on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest receives ample snow each year for various types of snow play. Popular winter activities include snowmobiling, cross country skiing, downhill skiing,
snowshoeing, tubing, and ice fishing. Roads that are inaccessible to other vehicles at this time of year offer many miles of ready-made snowmobile trails. One recommended snowmobile route, however, is from the Sunrise Park Ski Area to Big Lake along State Route 273, which is not plowed in the winter. Some of the finest downhill skiing in the entire Southwest can be found at Sunrise Park Ski Area between Eagar and
Pinetop-Lakeside. Ice fishing is most convenient at Nelson Reservoir since its accessible by automobile. There is an area in Williams Valley west of Alpine that is very popular for tubing.
The Apache-Sitgreaves has a number of wheelchair accessible sites, including campgrounds, fishing docks, trails, overlooks, boating stations and restrooms. Contact a Forest Service office for an updated listing of these sites.
Climate - Climate on the Apache-Sitgreaves varies greatly with elevation. The higher elevations generally receive much more precipitation and much cooler temperatures than the lower elevations. Summers on the Forest bring warm daytime temperatures with cool nights. Low elevations often experience quite hot summer temperatures. Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the summer. The late autumn, winter and early spring months bring snow and sometimes cold temperatures to the high elevations but frequent clear, sunny days. Winter brings moderate temperatures to the low elevations; a good time to experience these normally snow free areas.
The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest encompasses two million acres of mountain country in east-central Arizona along the Mogollon Rim and the White Mountains. The Forest borders the north and east sides of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. The Forest Headquarters is located in Springerville, on US Highway 60, in eastern Arizona. District offices are also located in Alpine, Duncan, Overgaard and Lakeside. US Highways 191 and 60, and State Highway 260 provide the primary access through the Forest.