As the searing desert summer drags on, most of Arizona's Valley of the Sun (Phoenix area) dwellers have
had their fill of the heat. By late July or August the heat becomes compounded by "monsoon" season humidity.
Then most sane people are looking for some relief. Destinations like Sedona, Flagstaff and the Mogollon
Rim with their elevations up to 7,000 feet do indeed provide some relief. But those in the know will head
to Arizona's White Mountains to enjoy a real high-country experience while fishing, hiking and camping at
9,000 feet. Only 200 miles from downtown Phoenix, you might need a sweater in the morning; you might enjoy
a thunderstorm where it actually rains.
From Phoenix, the high country is reached by taking Arizona-87, the Beeline Highway, to Payson,
then Arizona-260 east. Alternatively, take US-60 out of town to Globe and then up the very scenic
Salt River Canyon, which meets Arizona-260 at Show Low.
Stock up on supplies in the gateway towns of Pinetop-Lakeside, then head into the Whites by continuing
east on Arizona-260. A half-hour's drive brings you to Arizona-473, the turnoff to Hawley Lake. This
beautiful lake on the Fort Apache Reservation offers fishing, camping and cabins in a remote setting
where wildlife is abundant. The fishing is perfect for kids because no one ever comes away empty-handed
from this well-stocked lake. (Be aware that Fort Apache licenses are required to fish on the reservation.
Day-passes can be purchased at any local store.)
The heart of White Mountain country lies further east. Turn south on Arizona-273, about 30 miles east
of McNary. The first attraction is Sunrise Lake, one of the state's top trout fisheries. It is adjacent to
Fort Apache Reservation's Sunrise Resort, one of Arizona's top skiing destinations in the winter. The
lake offers excellent fishing but can get very windy in the afternoons, as it is treeless. There is a
grocery store where boats may be rented.
For those looking for cabins or bed and breakfast locales, return to Arizona-260, continue east, and
then take Arizona-373 south to the town of Greer where there are numerous opportunities for high country
lodging. The three small lakes outside of Greer offer expert anglers good chances for brown trout.
Arizona-273 soon becomes unpaved as it drops down to cross the Little Colorado River at Sheep's Crossing.
Here you will find the trailhead to Mount Baldy, at 11,590 feet, one of Arizona's tallest mountains. The
beautiful trail goes through meadows and dense forest and eventually offers outstanding vistas above
timberline. However Baldy Peak itself is considered sacred by the Apaches, and is closed to hikers.
A few more miles bring you to the Winn Campground, one of the area's best. Located where woods and
meadows meet, you will find large, shaded sites as well as pretty views. As the campground is not adjacent
to a fishing hole, there isn't much hustle and bustle. The campground does accept reservations, and they
are recommended for summer weekends.
Two miles from the camp there is fishing at tiny Lee Valley Reservoir. This lake is perfect for those
who like to fish on a float tube. It is stocked unusually, too, with the rare Apache trout, plus Arctic
Continuing south, you eventually arrive at Big Lake, the most famous and productive fishery in Arizona's
mountains. Here you will find four campgrounds, a grocery store, a boat launch and boat rentals. Excellent
fishing can be had from a boat or from shore.
South of Big Lake more high country adventure beckons. Remote Reservation Lake offers great fishing and
camping. The rough access road assures plenty of solitude most of the time. Other graded roads continue
south to the remote Black River where there are very pretty campgrounds, hiking and fishing. There are
no bad choices up here. Wherever you go, you'll find lots of trees, plenty of solitude, and always cool
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