White Mountains Online

Arizona's White Mountains, Scenic Drive


 Information on...
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest,
Alpine Ranger District.

Road Conditions ~ Coronado Trail ~ Hannagan Meadow Loop
East Escudilla Loop ~ Escudilla Mountain/Terry Flat Drive
Blue Canyon Drive ~ Black River Loop ~ Big Lake ~ Williams Valley

For more information, please feel free to contact the USDA Forest Service, Alpine Ranger District at 928.339.4384 or you may write us at P.O. Box 469 Alpine, Arizona 85920

Finding a scenic drive on the Alpine District is easy. Just get a map of the district, pick any road on it and you're sure to be amply rewarded with views that people have traveled thousands of miles to see. Pick another route and you'll most likely see something quite different but every bit as spectacular.

By now you're getting the picture-all drives on the Alpine District area scenic. To help you to pick a route from all this area has to offer, in this guide we've singled out a few drives that stand out in terms of accessibility and convenience as well as the scenery they provide access to. We've also tried to include at least one route that highlights each of the Alpine District’s diverse environments.

On this page and on the pages that feature write-ups on individual drives, a short description is given for each drive, including important information such as the best season for that drive, road conditions, nearby facilities, etc. The list we've included is certainly not exhaustive-we've left a lot for you to discover on your own.

The Coronado Trail was so named because it is reported to trace the course which Francisco Vasquez De Coronado followed north in 1540 in his search for the Golden Seven Cities of Cibola. The southern limit of the Alpine District is marked by a turnout along this paved two lane road which offers panoramic views that stretch nearly a hundred miles to the south and east into New Mexico.

The Hannagan Meadow Loop features a picturesque log cabin resort along with some of the most photogenic and most accessible alpine scenery on the district. This short but scenic loop passes close by a small high country pond stocked with grayling, a fish more common near the arctic circle.

SkyEscudilla Mountain, the third highest mountain in the state, provides the focus for the East Escudilla Loop and the Escudilla Mountain/Terry Flat Drive. The first of these two drives skirts the mountain’s base through an area burned by a huge wildfire in 1951. It’s a good place to see how a forest recovers from a fire of the sort that swept across Yellowstone National Park in 1988.

The Escudilla Mountain/Terry Flat Drive Loops around a huge meadow on the mountain’s higher slopes.

The Blue Canyon Drive takes you down a series of switchbacks into a deep canyon that serves as home to a cottonwood shaded stream and lined by a community of rustic ranches. Along the Red Hill portion of this drive you'll get good views of the canyon as well as the mountain of the Blue Range that forms its rims.

The Black River Loop has its share of meadows and forests too, but it stands out more for the fact that a portion of it parallels a scenic mountain stream that will have you wondering if you're strayed into Montana or Colorado. The Big Lake/Three Forks Drive take you into the upper reaches of the Black River's drainage.

Any time is a good time to come to the Alpine District to enjoy all the scenery it has to offer. Even in the winter, when many of the back roads in the high country are closed, you can still drive the Coronado Trail past winter snowscapes sparkling in the sun under a blue Arizona sky. In the spring , melting snow fills mountain streams such as the Black River and its tributaries to brimming with more water than you thought you'd ever see in a state as arid as Arizona. That’s when the meadows along the Hannagan Meadow Loop and on the road to Big Lake live up to their Spanish name—cienega which means "hundred springs."

FlowersLate spring and early summer begins the cavalcade of wildflowers that lasts right through to early fall. Grassy meadows, shaded forest openings and roadside slopes glow with hues of fiery crimson, cool lavender, bright orange and yellow. During fall, the color moves into the trees as aspens and oaks cover the areas around William’s Valley and the slopes of Escudilla Mountain with blankets of gold and amber. Down in the canyons that flow toward the Blue River the fuchsia of maples and yellow of cottonwoods last almost into November.

Road Conditions

In addition to the scenery a drive offers, another factor you may find important in picking one to follow is the condition of the roads involved. Roads on the Alpine District vary from paved two-lane highways to rocky, rutted jeep tracks. For this guide we have only included roads that are passable by passenger vehicles under all but the most severe weather conditions. We've also included a brief note on road conditions with each drive description.

Some general road condition factors you may want to take into consideration when traveling on the Alpine District are:

  • Extremely wet conditions can make forest roads slippery and muddy to the point where they can become impassable. Early spring and mid summer are the seasons when this is most likely to become a problem.
  • Very dry conditions can cause problems too. Long dry spells can coat district roads with deep layers of dust. This decreases visibility and can make following another vehicle extremely unpleasant. When the roads get dusty it's best to drive with your headlights on and leave ample room between you and the vehicle you're following. If conditions get to bad you may want to just pull over and wait until the dust clears.
  • Always be on the lookout for logging trucks, especially on weekdays. They use roads throughout the district.
  • Forest roads are not plowed for snow! Williams valley Road (Forest Road 249) to Williams Valley Winter Recreation Area is the only exception.
White Mountains Online and The Alpine Ranger District are not responsible for any incidents that may occur on these tours. Please contact the Alpine Ranger District for the current information on current weather and road conditions.
For current information of road conditions,
contact the Alpine Ranger District :
P.O. Box 469
Alpine, AZ 85920
(928) 339-4384
To go back the Alpine Trails District overview Click Here
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