The cool ponderosa pine forests atop the Mogollon Rim here offer many opportunities for camping, fishing, hiking, and back-road travel. In winter, pullouts along AZ 87 and County 3 will be plowed for people to play in the snow. The region centers on Clints Well, where County 3 meets AZ 87. Mogollon Rim Ranger Station (HC 31, Box 300, Happy Jack, AZ 86024, 928/477-2255, www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino, 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri.) is on the right northeast 9.5 miles from Clints Well on AZ 87; from Winslow, head 43 miles southwest on AZ 87.
Geologists have not decided whether the circular depression that holds this unusual lake is an old volcanic crater or a sinkhole. Although the lake can dry up during droughts, anglers have landed record yellow perch catches along with pike and sunfish. The lake has a picnic area and boat ramp but no campground. To reach Stoneman, either take the I-17 Stoneman Lake Exit 306 (34 miles south of Flagstaff) and go east nine miles on mostly unpaved Forest Road 213, or head south on Lake Mary Road eight miles past Mormon Lake, then turn west seven miles on Forest Road 213.
West Clear Creek Wilderness
The transparent waters of this year-round creek wind below pretty canyon walls on the way to the Verde River. Of the many canyons in the Mogollon Rim, West Clear Creek's has the greatest length—40 miles. Cross-bedded patterns of ancient sand dunes in Coconino Sandstone show clearly on the sheer cliffs. The creek offers excellent hiking, swimming, and fishing, though it may be difficult to entice the trout onto a hook. The warmer months are best for a visit to this canyon. There isn't much of a trail, so you'll be wading and swimming much of the time. In spring, snowmelt can raise the stream level too high for hiking, as can very heavy rains in any season. Water is always available from the creek; purify first. Hikers should remember that trails out can be difficult to spot.
Maxwell Trail #37 and Tramway Trail #32 lead into the upper reaches of West Clear Creek, from which you can also explore the tributaries of Willow and Clover Creeks. Each trail is less than a mile one way and drops about 700 feet. To reach the trailheads, go 21 miles south of Mormon Lake on Lake Mary Road, then turn west and south on unpaved Forest Roads 81 and 81E, following signs and your map. Roads to the trailheads are rough and require high-clearance vehicles.
Adventurous hikers could spend a week traveling downstream to Bull Pen Ranch or Clear Creek Campground, though many deep pools, including one a quarter mile long, must be crossed. Allow plenty of time for a trek all the way through the canyon, as the rugged terrain and pools make for extremely slow going. Flotation vests are recommended for such trips because inflatable boats, tubes, and air mattresses are easily punctured. It's easy to forget to drink water in the cool depths, but one does need to drink a lot because of the exertions.
Natural springs here, a rarity in the region, have long been a stopping place for travelers. They were named for Clint Wingfield, an early pioneer. Lake Mary Road (County 3) meets AZ 87 at Clints Well; turn left for Winslow, right for Payson and Mesa. The small Clints Well Campground near the end of Lake Mary Road is free but lacks water. Turn a half mile south on AZ 87 from the junction for Long Valley Cafe (American food daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, $5–12), and a grocery store/service station. Two miles north of the junction on Lake Mary Road, Happy Jack Lodge & RV Park (928/477-2805 or 800/430-0385, www.happyjacklodge.com) offers cabins ($89 d, some with kitchens), RV sites ($25 w/hookups), and tent camping ($12), along with showers ($3), laundry, a small store, and a dump station. A restaurant (Fri.–Sat. for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Sun. for breakfast and lunch, may close in winter, $9–16) prepares American food.
Great views at the edge of the Mogollon Rim lie just a short walk away from this small campground; no fee or water. Aspen and oak trees put on a colorful display in autumn. From Clints Well, go southwest 3.3 miles on AZ 87, then turn left on Forest Road 147 to the Rim Road (see the Coconino Forest Map). These roads tend to be rough and dusty, but they should be okay for passenger vehicles in good weather.
Blue Ridge Reservoir
Hemmed in by the canyon walls of East Clear Creek, this skinny lake offers good trout fishing—best in spring and autumn—and great scenery. Trails lead to the water's edge, but steep terrain makes fishing easier from a boat. The popular Rock Crossing Campground nearby offers good views; it's open with water and an $8 fee from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends. From Clints Well, head northeast five miles on AZ 87, turn right three miles on Forest Road 751 to the campground, then another three miles to the dam.
The smaller Blue Ridge Campground is open during the same season with the same fee; trailers are limited to 16 feet. From Clints Well, go northeast nine miles on AZ 87, then turn right one mile on Forest Road 138. Sections of Moqui Group Area, on Forest Road 138 before Blue Ridge Campground, can be reserved through Mogollon Rim Ranger Station. Anglers use Blue Ridge Campground as a base for Blue Ridge Reservoir, East Clear Creek, and Long Lake.
Catfish and northern pike are the fish most commonly pulled from this two-mile-long lake, but the waters harbor trout, bass, walleye, and panfish as well. You can camp in the area and use the primitive boat ramp; outhouses are the only facilities. Soldier Annex Lake and Soldier Lake lie to the west; electric motors only.
Turn northwest three miles on Forest Road 211 from AZ 87 near Blue Ridge Ranger Station, then head north 12 miles on Forest Road 82 to Long Lake. Or, from County 3, head eight miles east on Forest Road 211, then turn north 12 miles on Forest Road 82. The turnoff for Soldier Annex Lake is a mile farther north, then left half a mile. The Coconino Forest map shows Forest Road 82 continuing another 12 miles to Kinnikinick Lake, but this section is extremely rough and makes for slow going.
Cabin Loop Trail System
This trail network connects three historic guard stations—General Springs, Pinchot, and Buck Springs—in a land of shallow canyons and forest ridges between Blue Ridge Reservoir and the Mogollon Rim. You could hike one of the segments with a car shuttle or make a variety of loops. An 8-mile segment of the Arizona Trail follows the trail system northeast from General Springs Trailhead, then turns north to Rock Crossing Campground.
A rocky island in the middle gives this lake its name. Knoll Lake is in Leonard Canyon, several miles north of the Mogollon Rim. There's a campground on a hill near the lake; sites have water and a $10 fee during the Memorial Day to Labor Day season. A road and hiking trail lead down to the boat ramp. Anglers come mostly to seek out rainbow trout. Getting here involves about 28 miles of dirt road from either AZ 87 or Woods Canyon Lake off AZ 260.
On to Black Mesa Ranger District