East of Show Low/Pinetop, Sunrise Ski area and the Mt. Baldy Wilderness lies countryside so wild and pristine, you'd think you were in Yellowstone National Park. Along with the Ponderosa Pine we are all accustomed to seeing around Payson, this piece of heaven in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest hosts vast meadows, big sky and deep forests that also include Douglas Fir, Blue Spruce and the ever so beautiful Aspen that bring fall colors to our State.
The forests are abundant in wildlife. Black Bear, Mexican Grey Wolves, Cougar, Bighorn Sheep, Elk, Deer and Turkey (to name a few) flourish in this wilderness. In our recent campout at the Aspen Campground along the East Fork Black River we came across this 75-100 pound black bear.
The bighorn below were hanging out across the river from our campground along the cliff wall.
This turkey (with babies) and Heron were hanging out right along the forest road.
The fishing is great along the East Fork Black River. The kids spent most of their time in or around the river catching rainbow trout, snakes and crawdads.
These mountains are a great place to recharge and find solitude. Driving the forest roads around Big Lake and the Black River wilderness yields plenty for the eye and the soul.
These ancient paths have been used by explorers, ranchers, hunters and Native Americans for hundreds of years. Check out that primitive wagon from 2004 below...
Anyone interested in camping in this wonderland will find plenty of designated camp sites with facilities along the East Fork Black River and the Big Lake Recreation Area. Tent and trailer camping seemed plentiful. We chose the Black River so the kids could play in the shallow water all day and then finished the trip with a fishing excursion (boat rental) to Big Lake on the way home. Be prepared to drive upwards of 5+ hours from Phoenix - with that distance, 2-3 nights minimum make the most sense. Remember half the drive is sight seeing and wildlife viewing!
Wide open spaces for some target practice with the Browning Lever Action 22 Rifle (BL-22).
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The three maps below show the routes to Big Lake and the Black River area campgrounds.