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Name: Indian Springs Trail Author's Rating: (the scenery makes this an outstanding trail)
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: Bike Difficulty: (Medium). Technically easy, but the elevation shouldn’t be taken lightly
Time: 2 - 5 hours Region: NE Arizona
Length: 7 miles Elevation gain/loss/change: +700 / -700 ft / +0 ft (loop)
Type: Loop Avg Elevation: 9000 ft
Best time to go: summer, fall, spring Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Medium Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating:Low Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: August, 2009
Short Description: A technically easy, all singletrack trail through some absolutely gorgeous scenery in the White Mountains
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area. White Mountain Railroad. Lookout Below
References / Contact Information: White Mountain Trail System; Apache-Sitgreaves National forest
Points of interest:Big Lake (nice campground camping, fishing). Tons of cool hiking, biking trails. The West Fork River (fishing). Camping
Special Considerations: Although this is a technically easy trail, the elevation can make it very difficult for some people
How to get there: The trailhead is near Big Lake in the White Mountains. From Tucson, I drive up 77 and 60, through Globe, Salt River Canyon and Show Low. Take 73 out of Show Low, then 260 at the big casino. I believe ADOT has finished working on 273, so I would take a right on 273 at the Sunrise turnoff. Keep on 273 past Sunrise Ski Resort. This will turn into 261 and go to Big Lake. Go past Big Lake for about half a mile then take a right on 249E. The trail head is about another half mile on the left. It takes about 5.5 to 6.5 hours from Tucson to get to the trailhead. Only about the last mile or two are on well-graded dirt roads. Park at the trailhead (Waypoint IS01). Here are the map directions from Tucson. One word of caution, you can go the eastern route (through Morenci and Hannagan Meadow) which is the shortest route, but much of the road is 10 to 15 mph along the way and it takes much longer time wise.

Trail Description

August 2012 Update: Although this trail was badly damaged by the Wallow Fire in 2011, I just heard that it's been repopened. Much of the surrounding area was burned, but regrowth has started and approximately 40% of the trail was untouched by the fire. Great news for one of my favorite trails in Arizona!

This is one of my favorite summertime bike trail in Arizona. It’s WAY up high in the White Mountains and with cool air, big pine trees, elk, deer and a long, fast downhill, this trail’s hard to beat. I try to make this ride at least once a year. I believe Indian Springs (#627) is part of the White Mountain Trail System (WMTS) and is just plain awesome!.

General Information and History

The Indian Springs trail is part of the White Mountain trail system. It’s a short loop of about seven miles that is one of the technically easiest trails I’ve been on, but don’t let that fool you. At about 9000 feet in elevation, you still might suck some air if you haven’t been doing much high altitude training in a while.

The trail is well maintained, wide and extremely beautiful. Still, it’s rare that you’ll encounter any other hikers or bikers on your ride. It begins with a steady climb up near Big Lake Lookout before a two-mile awesome downhill. After a ride along a creek (which may or may not be flowing depending on recent rainfall), you’ll head back up a 2.5 mile hill on the old railroad track bed. The entire trail is single-track (I include the railroad track bed as single track).

I’ve seen elk, deer, coyote (or a young wolf) while riding on this trail. I’ve also found there are TONS of flowers near Indian Springs and along the creek during my rides in August (though this also depends on rainfall). I’ve also done this ride in mid to late October. While it may be slightly cool, the trees have turned and are beautiful during late fall.

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The Trail

I recommend going clockwise around the loop. Start from the parking area, heading east from the trailhead. Almost immediately, you start a series of short, not too steep hills as you climb your way toward Big Lake Knoll and the lookout tower. Although these wouldn’t be too hard down in Tucson, I find myself sucking wind and have to stop a few times to catch my breath. Don’t worry, even though the two and a half mile uphill climb on the track bed is longer, these are the hardest hills on the trail.

After half a mile (Waypoint IS02), you’ll come to the trail that leads uphill to Big Lake Knoll and the lookout tower. The forest service fire lookout is perched on top of a steep hill. If you have the time, you might want to make a side trip up there, the rangers usually let you climb up and the view is spectacular. The lookout can be reached by car or by trail. The trail is steep and has lots of big rocks. I’ve only hiked it. Lots of hike-a-bike if you decide to try and ride it. Maybe lock your bike up to a tree and hike it?

Anyway, keep going straight at this intersection to stay on Indian Springs trail. A nice spot on the trail is a very small bridge and tree trunk cattle tanks (I believe it’s at Waypoint IS02A). After another half mile, you’ll start the downhill section (Waypoint IS03). Not too steep, but it’s long and some tight turns. At Waypoint IS04, you’ll have to ride across a dirt road to rejoin the trail.

Indian Springs is at Waypoint IS06. Take a break, see if there are any butterflies on the flowers. The trail continues along the creek for about half mile. At Waypoint IS06A, you’ll start the long uphill along the railroad track bed. There’s a dam across the river here. If I put my bike in a low gear, I can grind my way up the entire hill without stopping.

At Waypoint IS08, you’ll see the West Fork Trail (#628) leading off to the left. This is also a nice trail that takes you all the way down to West Fork River. It’s about four miles (if I remember correctly) roundtrip, but is more difficult than Indian Springs. The steep decent down to the river is laced with loose rocks and I usually leave my bike up at the top and walk down. Anyway, I’ll have a post on West Fork soon with all the details.

Keep going straight at the West Fork Trail intersection. Continue climbing until you reach Waypoint IS09 and take a right on the single track. At Waypoint IS10, you’ll cross the dirt road you drove in on. The trail is straight across. The first hill on this section is fairly long and steep (comparatively) and can be a little hard if you’re tired at this point (like I usually am). Near the top of the climb, a trail leading to the Big Lake Campground leads off to the left. Keep going straight to finish the ride with a short downhill, cross the road again and back to the parking area.

Wasn’t that fun? A great escape from the desert heat. Next time, take a spin on the West Fork Trail.

Have fun and be safe!

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Member Comments

August 2012: Trail Reopened

Matt, while your website noted that Indian Spring trail is closed it is actually open. We biked it today. The trail up to the lookout turnoff wasn't burnt. But after the turnoff the area was badly burnt. Was a disgrace, I can't imagine why anyone would leave a campfire. Anyway, the grasses, shrubs and flowers are coming back so actually it is still a nice ride. A little after you get on the railroad bed you are back in the green forest, although there are still patches of burnt trees. The last section, once you get off of the railroad bed, was saved. The single track is still nice, although in some areas it is getting overgrown, probably since no one is biking. Heartbreaking to think that it will never be the same again in my lifetime ( this was my most favorite ride ever), but with about 40% untouched by the fire it is still a beautiful ride.

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