Field Trip Friday: A Trip To The White Mountains

Looking for a rustic getaway? Arizona is the home to Pinetop and the White Mountains that will...
Looking for a rustic getaway? Arizona is the home to Pinetop and the White Mountains that will make you feel like you aren't in the desert any longer. This Field Trip Friday, we spent time around both places and it will inspire you to load up the car and head out for an adventure.(Arizona's Family)
Updated: Jun. 26, 2020 at 3:00 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Looking for a rustic getaway? Arizona is the home to Pinetop and the White Mountains that will make you feel like you aren’t in the desert any longer. This Field Trip Friday, we spent time around both places and it will inspire you to load up the car and head out for an adventure.

Exploring Pinetop with Gina Maravilla

Bike Riding around Pinetop

Biking is a great way to enjoy the outdoors here in the White Mountains. So for our Field Trip Friday, we went directly to the experts at the Pinetop Bike Shop. Andrew Olsen and his wife Madison are both avid cyclists. They moved to Pinetop from the Valley.

They opened a coffee shop attached to their bike shop. You can enjoy a drink on the patio before you rent a bike from them and head out to enjoy the beautiful terrain and scenery in the White Mountains, where there are hundreds of miles of trails.

Olsen says whether you are a beginner or experienced mountain biker, they have something that will meet your needs. Safety is the first priority. Helmets, arm and knee pads, along with gloves are all available and included with your rental.

Riders test out their bike in the parking lot to make sure the bike is to their liking. From there, you can actually ride to trails right from the Bike Shop’s door step.

“It is Arizona so there are rocks on the trails, but we can definitely recommend some trails for you,” explains Olsen, “A lot of the free trail map apps, they rate the trails. There are literally trails where you can just jump on a bike from the shop and just go, less than a half a mile you’ll be on the trail.

Olsen led my friend, Kristi, and I on a ride to and around Woodland Lake, just behind his shop. There are paved paths and dirt trails as well, depending on what you want and where your skill level might be.

Olsen says he also stocks cruisers for those who do not want to hit the trails, but just want to ride around town.

This time of the year is perfect for exploring the White Mountains on a bike. “Even if it gets in the upper 80′s, it’s still cool here all year round,” explains Olsen. “In the winter there’s not as much riding because of the snow, but we take advantage of it in the summer.”

Having a Bite To Eat in Pinetop

In the Pinetop/Lakeside area, there are great restaurants to eat, depending on what you’re hungry for.

We visited several different places, taking us from our morning coffee, to brunch and lunch and into dinner.

Our first stop was Cycleolgical Coffee. Owner Jeryl Detmer merged his two loves of bicycling and a good cup of joe by bringing together his bike-themed apparel company and unique coffee brews. He just opened Pinetop’s newest coffee gathering spot a few months ago.

Cycleogical Coffee also has a fun yard out back, where visitors can sip their drinks under the pines while playing games like cornhole.

Next, we stopped in at Darbi’s Cafe. THE Darbi is a local herself, having grown up in Pinetop and graduating from Blue Ridge High School.

Her menu is chalk full of great comfort foods. From six or seven different varieties of eggs benedict, a Monte Cristo made with french toast, and their famous cinnamon roll that can easily feed two to four people.

When asked how big the cinnamon roll actually is, Darbi replied, “We don’t even know. We hand make them. So they come out how they come out each day, and that’s how they come out.”

During our time in Pinetop, as the sun set, we headed to The Lion’s Den. The view from the outside the restaurant can be deceptive. A crowded parking lot may make visitors think it’s a packed house. But a huge, open yard in the back of the property allows for a lot of people to be able to social distance. There is a stage for live music (FYI--a favorite venue for Roger Clyne), and games outdoors.

Owner Jay Charnholm told us: “My wife and I over the years have bought the property surrounding us and developed it to make it a more family friendly place where we can do live music, and especially at this particular time, we’re able to provide social distancing for everybody. We’ve got the activities for families. We’ve got the Jenga, cornhole boards, ping pong.”

Charnholm showed off some of the Lion Den’s most popular dishes, including the fish and chips, their famous wine burger, fried pickles and the pastrami sandwich.

Paddleboarding around Pinetop

There are so many beautiful lakes in the White Mountains. That is why activities on the water are so popular in this area. From fishing to kayaking to paddle boarding, we went to Fool Hollow Lake.

With the help of J&T Wild-Life Outdoors, were were ready for some fun in the sun. They are located right at the shore of Fool Hollow. They have everything from paddle boards, to kayaks to canoes and fishing boats all for rent. They will outfit you with a life vest, give you a quick tutorial, then launch you into the water.

I decided to make a mother/son day of it with my son Taylor, along with another mother/son pair: Marcus and Kristi. All four of us started out on paddle boards.

“This is the perfect lake to paddle board in,” explains Trisha Spear, the “T” in J&T. “it’s normally pretty calm with the winds. It’s a beautiful, cool lake to be on with the paddle boards and kayaks. It’s just real peaceful here, and this sport has gotten really popular. It’s probably one of my biggest demand--the paddle boards.”

After the paddle boards, the boys tried their hand at kayaking. They shared a tandem kayak, though J&T also has single rider kayaks. They also have fishing boats available.

“We have a ton of fish in this late, all different kinds, from trout bass, wallike, pike, anything you can think of is in this lake,” says Trisha. “Game and Fish does stalk this lake. So we have our motor boats. It is a 10 horse power or less lake so it’s pretty calm out there for people to go out there a fish.”

J&T also has a pontoon boat they use to take visitors on a historic tour of the lake. It includes an explanation of the city of Adair, a town that is beneath the surface of lake. They also point out petroplyphs in the stone along the shore.

“They have been dated over 2000 years old,” says Trisha, adding that many are surprised and interested by the whole history of the lake.

A Trip Around the White Mountains with April Warnecke

Town of Greer

Just off Highway 260, about 30 miles east of Show Low is the 373. This road also known as “the road to nowhere,” leads through the tiny mountain town of Greer.

Nestled in a beautiful Valley, with the Little Colorado River running right through it, it’s a perfect respite from the Valley heat during the summertime. Part of the hillside was charred in the 2011 Wallow Fire, the state’s biggest wildfire in history. But the green is starting to take over, and the area is as lush as ever.

There’s only one store in town for getting things you may have forgot from home, like a toothbrush. The Lazy Trout is a great stop for souvenirs and fishing tips too. It’s not a grocery store though, so be sure to bring all of that from home.

The centerpiece of town is the Little Colorado River, and it runs right through the middle of town. You’ll see people fishing all along it.

No trip to Greer would be complete without a stop at Molly Butler’s Lodge. It’s been there since 1910, making it the oldest lodge in Arizona. They’re well-known for not just their history, but their hospitality, food and giant deck that gives you a perfect view of the Valley.

Another favorite spot to eat is the Rendezvous Diner. Always a popular patio, it’s your lucky day if they haven’t run out of their famous cobbler yet.

Cabins dot the road through Greer and there are many options for where to stay. But be sure to check out the recently renovated Red Setter Lodge. You can rent the 9-bedroom lodge or any of their individual cabins. The best part? The river runs right through it, so you can fish from your own porch!

White Mountain Fishing

The White Mountains offer some of the best fishing in the state, especially when it comes to trout. In addition to the rivers and streams, dozens of lakes dot the landscape.

For Field Trip Friday, we headed to River Reservoir, which is the largest and deepest of the three Greer Lakes. We ended up catching a few fish during our afternoon shoot. The breezes were picking up and it was fairly warm for the mountains. We had much better luck when we headed out the next few days during the early morning hours.

“Get out during either the first three or the last three hours of daylight each day,” was the advice from my dad. He’s the one who taught me to fish. We caught about a dozen medium-sized rainbow trout each of the days we were there fishing. The fish seemed to like power bait, but we had a bit of luck with worms as well.

The Greer Lakes include Bunch, Tunnel and River Reservoirs and are not too far from each other near the town of Greer. They’re about a 45-minute drive from Pinetop-Lakeside. The lakes all have rainbow trout, and River Reservoir also has brown trout, carp and yellow perch.

The daily limit at the Greer Lakes is 6 fish per person, and you do need a license. That’s pretty easy to get at Arizona Game and Fish’s website.

You need a special license to fish at the nearby lakes on the reservation, but those are currently closed due to COVID-19.

Big Lake is also nearby and is one of the White Mountains’s best fishing lakes. It’s about 30 miles south of Springerville and Eagar.

West Baldy Trail

There are hundreds of miles of great hiking trails in Eastern Arizona. Whether you’re a serious hiker looking for a peak to scale, or you just want to stroll through a meadow and see some wildlife, the White Mountains have it all.

My favorite hike in the area is rated as a moderate to hard hike, but my family never gets to the hard part. We hike only the first mile or two of the West Baldy Trail, but the entire trail is 15 miles, with a 2100 foot gain in elevation. This hike is in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and it’s simply stunning.

After about a mile on the trail, you head downhill to a rambling river and giant meadow. A long portion of this trail runs along the Little Colorado River. We usually stop and eat lunch here, and often see several anglers trying to catch their lunch.

Mount Baldy actually contains the headwaters of the Little Colorado and the Salt River. It’s the highest peak in the White Mountains at more than 11-thousand feet.

If you want to hike all the way to the top, you’ll find the wreckage of a 1940′s plane crash. But you need a permit to do that since the peak is on sacred tribal land.

Whether you’re planning for an all-day trip or just a few miles like we usually do, check the forecast before you go, and keep an eye on the skies. Because this is one of the most active parts of our state during monsoon season, and the thunderstorms roll through here like clockwork each afternoon.

Directions and more info on the West Baldy Trail, click here.

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