An entertaining museum, a campground, and cabins lie in the meadows and forests along the South Fork of the Little Colorado River. Turn south on Apache Co. 4124 from AZ 260 between Mileposts 390 and 391, about five miles west of Springerville/Eagar.
Little House Museum
On a tour through a series of buildings at X Diamond Ranch, including a cabin and a granary dating from the 1890s, your guide uses photos and heirlooms to tell stories of the pioneers. Working nickelodeons and other music machines from the past provide little interludes. The 90-minute tours (928/333-2286, www.xdiamondranch.com, $8 adults, $4 children) go year-round by reservation only.
The X Diamond Ranch also offers log cabins ($110–175 d, $130–225 quad, $275 for 6, $300 for 8), trail rides, rock-art tours (hiking or horseback), archaeology programs, and private fishing access (catch-and-release; fishing equipment can be rented). Turn in 2.4 miles on Apache Co. 4124, then right 0.7 mile at the sign.
South Fork Day Use Area
Tables nestle in ponderosa pines lie along both sides of the stream at an elevation of 7,520 feet. Turn south 2.8 miles on Apache Co. 4124 to road's end. You can hike farther upstream on South Fork Trail #97 from the campground.
This little town sits in a pretty valley high in the White Mountains at 8,500 feet. Settlers first arrived in 1879, then later named their community for Americus Vespucius Greer, a prominent Mormon pioneer.
Today Greer comes to life in the summer, when visitors enjoy fishing, forest walks, and the cool mountain air. Winter is also a busy season—snow worshippers flock to the slopes of nearby Sunrise Ski Area or put on their skinny skis to glide along the miles of marked cross-country ski trails just outside town. The quietest times are mid-April to early May, when the first signs of spring appear, and autumn, when days are crisp and aspens turn gold. Greer lies 15 miles east of Sunrise Ski Area, 16 miles west of Springerville and 225 miles northeast of Phoenix. From the junction on AZ 260, turn south five miles on AZ 373.
Butterfly Lodge Museum
This 1913 cabin recalls the extraordinarily colorful lives of two inhabitants. James Willard Schultz (1859–1947) came west in his youth, married a Blackfoot maiden, then later became a noted explorer, storyteller, archaeologist, Native American-rights advocate, and popular author. He wrote 37 adventure books, beginning with My Life as an Indian. Schultz set three books in Arizona, where he got to know the Hopi, Navajo, and Apache tribes. Although an outsider to the close-knit Mormon village of Greer, he enjoyed life at his cabin and hunting trips in the wilderness. His son, Lone Wolf (Hart Merriam Schultz, 1882–1970), also roamed the West before receiving encouragement from artist Thomas Moran in 1906 to take formal art training. Lone Wolf enjoyed great success by the 1920s with his Western paintings and sculpture.
Exhibits in the restored cabin tell about their lives and families. You'll also see writings of the father and artwork of the son. A gift shop sells articles, cards, and books, including On the Road to Nowhere, A History of Greer, Arizona 1879–1979, by the museum's curator, Karen M. Applewhite.
The museum (928/735-7514, http://butterflylodgemuseum.org/, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Thurs.–Sun. from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends, $2 adults, $1 ages 12–17) is half a mile south of the Circle B Market, then east at the sign.
You can fish for trout in the waters of the Little Colorado River in and near town and in the Greer Lakes, three small reservoirs offering boating (electric motors okay) and picnicking north of town; turn east off AZ 373 opposite Hoyer Campground.
Butler Canyon Trail (cross-country ski trail in winter) is a one-mile, self-guided nature trail just north of town; turn east 0.1 mile off AZ 373 at the sign for Montlure Camp and Nature Trail, 0.7 mile south of Circle B Market.
Cross-country skiers enjoy a variety of loop trails in the woods northwest of town from Squirrel Spring Recreation Area (west side of AZ 373 about half way to Greer) and Pole Knoll Recreation Area (south side of AZ 260 just east of Milepost 383); each trailhead has picnic tables and an outhouse. Aspen Trail (1.4 miles one way, "easiest") connects the two areas. You could also hike the ski trails in the warmer months. Elevations in the ponderosa pine and aspen forests range from 8,900 to 9,500 feet. Obtain ski-trail maps from local businesses or from the Springerville Ranger District office (928/333-4372) in Springerville.
Railroad Trail turns south from AZ 260 at Milepost 379 near the White Mountain Apache Reservation border and winds across meadows and forest to Big Lake in 21 miles one way. There's an outhouse at the trailhead. Snowmobilers may use the trail in winter.
Greer resorts offer lodge rooms and rustic cabins; most cabins have kitchens and cozy fireplaces.
Under $50: Circle B Motel (928/735-7540, $49 d) lies next to the market of the same name on the way into town. Molly Butler Lodge (in town, 928/735-7226, www.mollybutlerlodge.com, $55 d and $70 d), established in 1910, is the oldest guest lodge in Arizona; it's open year-round and has a restaurant.
$50-100: Greer Mountain Resort (2.7 miles north of town, 928/735-7560, www.greermountainresort.com) offers apartments ($75 d), cabins ($100 d and $135 d), and a restaurant (daily for breakfast and lunch). The Aspens (928/735-7232, $85-105 d) has cabins. Snowy Mountain Inn (3 miles north of town, 928/735-7576 or 888/766-9971, www.snowymountaininn.com, $150-180 cabins, $275-350 houses) has a restaurant (Fri-Sat. for dinner), fishing pond, and hot tubs. White Mountain Lodge (928/735-7568 or 888/493-7568, www.wmlodge.com) offers rooms ($85-145 d) with breakfast and private baths in an 1892 farmhouse, plus cabins ($95-225 d); the Little Colorado River and a beaver pond in back have fishing. Cattle Kate's Lodge (928/735-7744, $75-85 d rooms, $125 d suites) includes a full breakfast and offers a fishing pond and a seasonal restaurant.
$100-150: Greer Lodge & Spa (928/735-7216 or 866/826-8262, www.greerlodgeaz.com, $125-185 d weekdays, $150-220 d Fri.-Sat. lodge rooms, $160-295 cabins) features luxurious accommodations, a restaurant, and a private trout pond. The award-winning Red Setter Inn & Cottages (928/735-7441 or 888/994-7337, www.redsetterinn.com) features rooms in a log lodge ($150-210 d), small cottages ($265 d), and a four-bedroom housekeeping cabin ($600 per night); all guests enjoy a full breakfast.
You'll pass the two national forest campgrounds of Benny Creek ($8) and Rolfe C. Hoyer ($14) on the way in to Greer. Both lie under ponderosa pines at an elevation of about 8,250 feet with water from about mid-May to the end of September. Hoyer Campground is larger with a nature trail, showers, and dump station. Sites at both campgrounds can be reserved at 877/444-6777, www.recreation.gov.
Molly Butler Lodge (928/735-7226, daily for lunch in summer and for dinner year-round, $11-27) features prime rib along with steaks, chicken, trout, and seafood; the dining rooms have fine views of the valley. At river's edge, the Greer Lodge & Spa (928/735-7217, daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, $9-19) offers decks and large picture windows for you to take in the meadow and lake views while dining on such dinner entrees as beef filet, chicken, kebabs, and pizza; musicians perform most evenings. Greer Mountain Resort Cafe (928/735-7560, daily for breakfast and lunch, $5.50-7.50) is 2.7 miles north of town.
Services and Information
Circle B Market (928/735-7540) offers groceries, fishing gear, camping supplies, boat rentals, and cross-country ski rentals. Greer also has a post office and a library. For tourist information, you can visit the Springerville-Eagar Regional Chamber of Commerce office (928/333-2123, 866/733-2123, www.springerville-eagarchamber.com) in Springerville and check the Greer Business Association's website, www.greerarizona.com.
The pristine forests and alpine meadows of 11,590-foot Mt. Baldy present a fine opportunity to visit a subalpine vegetation zone. You'll see magnificent forests untouched by commercial logging. Engelmann and blue spruce dominate, but quaking aspen, white fir, corkbark fir, Douglas fir, southwestern white pine, and ponderosa pine also cover the slopes. You might catch a glimpse of elk, mule or white-tailed deer, black bear, beaver, wild turkey, blue grouse, or other wildlife. Mount Baldy is an extinct volcano eight or nine million years old, worn down by three periods of glaciation.
West Fork #94 and East Fork #95 trails follow the respective branches of the Little Colorado River on the northeast slopes of Mt. Baldy. Each trail is 6.5 miles long; they meet on the grassy summit ridge. The summit is another mile away, but the last half mile of trail crosses White Mountain Apache land, which is closed to outsiders. The Apache vigorously enforce this closure—errant hikers have been arrested, their gear confiscated—so don't try to sneak in! Apache make pilgrimages to this sacred peak.
Hiking season stretches from June to October, but plan to be off the ridges in early afternoon in July and August to avoid thunderstorms. The trailheads, about four miles apart by road, are easily reached from Sunrise, Big Lake, or Greer. In fact, both trails also go north to Greer, about five miles away.
The West Fork Trailhead (elev. 9,240 feet) lies just outside the wilderness boundary at the end of Forest Road 113J, a half mile in from AZ 273. The East Fork Trailhead (elev. 9,400 feet) begins near the Phelps Cabin site, 0.2 mile in from AZ 273. An all-day or overnight loop hike uses a 3.3-mile connecting trail that joins the lower ends of West Fork and East Fork trails. This trail, which may not appear on maps, goes from the West Fork Trail (0.3 mile up from the trailhead) to the Phelps Cabin site area.
Horseback riders are welcome on the trails, too. They'll appreciate the corrals at Gabaldon Campground, which offers basic camping—no water, tables, or fee—in spruce trees off AZ 273, just east of Phelps Trailhead. Trail #95 connects the campground and trailhead. The season runs about June to September at this 9,400-foot elevation.
Anglers catch brook, rainbow, and a few native cutthroat trout in the creeks. The Forest Service asks visitors to limit hiking and riding groups to 12 people and camping groups to six. Forest Service offices sell a topo map of Mt. Baldy Wilderness.
Rolling mountain meadows and forested hills of spruce and fir surround this pretty lake. Top-rated for trout by many anglers, Big Lake (575 acres) boasts a marina, campgrounds, hiking trails, and a riding stable. The marina offers rental boats, motors, fishing supplies, gas, and groceries from late April/early May to mid-November. A fish-cleaning station lies across the parking lot, and a public boat ramp is a short drive away.
Nearby Crescent Lake (197 acres) features trout fishing and a smaller marina—boat rentals and snacks—but no campgrounds. The Forest Service operates a visitor center on the main road between the two lakes; check out the naturalist programs, displays, books, and maps.
At Big Lake you have a choice of four campgrounds: Rainbow ($12–14), Grayling ($12), Brookchar ($10), and Cutthroat ($10). All have drinking water. Both RVers and tenters can stay at Rainbow and Grayling, but only tents are allowed at Brookchar and Cutthroat. Showers and a dump station are available. Camping season with water lasts mid-May to mid-September; Grayling, Brookchar, and Cutthroat stay open mid-April to Thanksgiving if weather permits. Expect cool nights at the 9,100-foot elevation even in midsummer. Reserve campsites at 877/444-6777, www.recreation.gov.
Big Lake lies about 20 miles south of AZ 260 via paved AZ 261 and AZ 273; the turnoff is at Milepost 393, seven miles east of the Greer junction and three miles west of Springerville. The Apache-Sitgreaves Forests map shows other ways in.
Vicinity of Big Lake
Mountain bikers can enjoy the marked Indian Springs Trail #627, a 7.5-mile loop south of Big Lake; the three-mile (one-way) West Fork Destination Trail branches off the loop to the West Fork of the Black River. There are many other fine rides on the forest roads as well.
Lee Valley Lake (35 acres) contains brook trout—best early and late in the season—and great scenery at an elevation of 9,400 feet near Mt. Baldy Wilderness; it's off AZ 273 between Big Lake and Sunrise. Winn Campground sits at the end of Forest Road 554, two miles in from AZ 273. Greer, Lee Valley Lake, Sunrise Lake, Big Lake, and Crescent Lake all lie within a 10-mile radius. Camping season at the 9,320-foot elevation runs from mid-May to the end of September; sites have drinking water and an $12 fee; they and Winn Group can be reserved by contacting 877/444-6777, www.recreation.gov.
East Fork of the Black River offers fishing for rainbow trout. Stay at Diamond Rock, Aspen, or Buffalo Crossing campgrounds; free, with drinking water at Diamond Rock only. The season runs from early May to the end of October. The area is nine miles southeast of Big Lake and 10–14 miles southwest of Alpine.
West Fork of the Black River has fishing for rainbow and brown trout. West Fork Campground beside the stream is free but lacks drinking water. An eight-mile hike leads downstream from Forest Road 116 to West Fork Campground. The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests map shows back roads in the area.
Wenima Wildlife Area
This riparian corridor stretches nearly two miles along the Little Colorado River. A picnic table under the trees marks the trailhead for the 2.5-mile-roundtrip Beavertail Trail that turns left downstream and the one-mile-roundtrip Powerhouse Trail that winds upstream from just over the bridge. From the US 191-US 60 junction three miles northwest of Springerville, turn north 0.1 mile on US 191, then turn east 1.4 miles on Hooper Ranch Road.
Lyman Lake State Park
Rain and snowmelt from the White Mountains flow down the Little Colorado River and fill this 1,500-acre lake. Juniper trees and other high-desert vegetation grow in the wide valley at an elevation of 6,000 feet. Though it's cold here in winter, anglers come year-round to try for channel catfish, largemouth bass, and walleye. Lyman Lake is large enough for sailing and waterskiing, and has no motor restrictions. Water skiers test their skills in a ski slalom course near the dam. Anglers enjoy a section of the west end designated as a no-wake area.
The park (928/337-4441, www.azstateparks.com, $7/vehicle day use, $3 individual or cyclist day use, $20 camping, $27–30 w/hookups, $55 cabin) lies 17 miles north of Springerville and 10 miles south of St. Johns on US 180/191 between Mileposts 380 and 381, then east 1.3 miles. Petrified Forest National Park is just 53 miles away. The contact station has photos and artifacts of prehistoric Native American sites in the area, including Rattlesnake Point Pueblo.
From the first weekend in May to the last one in September, rangers lead 90-minute tours across the lake to the Ultimate Petroglyph Trail at 10 a.m. on Sat.–Sun. and one-hour tours to the Rattlesnake Point Pueblo at 2 p.m. on Sat.–Sun.; reservations recommended. You can also visit these sites on your own, but you'll need a boat to reach the start of the Ultimate Petroglyph Trail. Fireworks on July Fourth light up the skies in a "Fire Over the Water" display. Water ski tournaments for novices run on July Fourth and Labor Day weekend.
An excellent year-round campground includes restrooms, showers, hookups, and a dump station. Boaters can also use undeveloped campsites on the shore. Campers should prepare for strong winds on the open terrain. You'll may see swallows nesting—they're the reason the campground has so few mosquitoes!
Two small peninsulas, with a protected swim area in between, jut into the lake from the campground and day-use areas. The neck of the north peninsula has a store, day-use area, group ramada area, two paved boat ramps, a boat dock, fishing pier, and 1.2 miles of hiking trails with views. The store offers groceries, snacks, and fishing supplies from about April to October. A day-use area with a fish-cleaning station lies across the road.
Petroglyph panels and views on the south peninsula attract visitors to the pair of trail loops here, totaling 1.5 miles.
Spanish explorers named this spot on the Little Colorado River El Vadito (Little River Crossing). In 1871, Solomon Barth founded a settlement along the river with his brothers and some Mexican families, then moved six miles upstream to the present site the following year. Residents named the community San Juan after its first female resident, Señora Maria San Juan de Padilla de Baca. Postal authorities supposedly refused to accept a foreign name, so it was changed to Saint John, with an "s" added for phonetic effect. Mormon settlers arrived in 1879 from Utah. Today, St. Johns (pop. 3,700) serves as the Apache County seat, 27 miles north of Springerville and 44 miles southeast of Petrified Forest National Park.
You can learn more about the area's history and see pioneer and Native American artifacts in the Apache County Museum (180 W. Cleveland St., 928/337-4737, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., closed holidays, donations welcome). Archaeological highlights unearthed in the area include tusks and a jaw from a mammoth and a leg bone from a giant camel. Out back, you'll find a petroglyph panel, jail, log cabin (circa 1882), adobe building reconstruction, and farm equipment. The St. Johns Chamber of Commerce (P.O. Box 929, St. Johns, AZ 85936, 928/337-2000, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri.) is in the museum.
St. Johns has a Budget Inn (75 E. Commercial St., 928/337-2990, $40 s, $40-46 d) and a Days Inn (125 E. Commercial St., 928/337-4422 or 800/329-7466, $55 d). El Camino (277 White Mountain Dr., 928/337-4700, Mon.-Sat. for lunch and dinner, $3-9) serves Mexican fare on the road to Springerville. George's Place Too (928/337-3425, daily for dinner, $7-25) prepares steaks, seafood, and Italian cuisine one mile east on US 191 toward Sanders.
The San Juan Fiesta in mid-June celebrates with a parade, barbecue, dances, and games. A July Fourth festival features a barbecue, games, and fireworks. Pioneer Day, on the weekend nearest July 24, has a parade, rodeo, pageant, barbecue, and dances. The Apache County Fair in September presents exhibits and horse races. In mid-December, a large community choir forms a living Christmas tree.
The pleasant city park (Second West and Second South) includes covered picnic tables, playground, outdoor pool, and courts for tennis, volleyball, racquetball, and handball; from the museum, turn south two blocks on Second West. The public library (245 W. First South, 928/337-4405) has a Southwest collection and Internet; from the museum go one block south, then turn right one block.
Arizona's 23rd Indian reservation was created in 1985, returning to the Zuni (ZOO-nee) their heaven. The Zuni believe these 1,400 acres, 14 miles north of St. Johns, to include the place where human spirits return after death. Anthropologists think that Zuni religious leaders have held sacred dances and ceremonies here since at least A.D. 900, when ancestors of the tribe began migrating from pueblos in Arizona to New Mexico.
The Zuni people, like the Hopi, still live in pueblos and maintain many of their old traditions. You can visit Zuni Pueblo, one of the fabled Seven Cities of Cíbola sought by Coronado in 1540. Zuni is in New Mexico, 58 miles northeast of St. Johns.
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