Early morning dew settles on a
spider web at Hannagan Meadow in
Eastern Arizona's White Mountains.
© Larry Lindahl
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Editor's Note click to expand
For more scenic
drives, pick up a copy
of our book, The Back
Roads. Now in its fifth
edition, the book
($19.95) features 40
of the state's most
To order a copy, call
or click here.
Red Hill RoadThis rustic road, which winds from Beaverhead to Alpine via the Blue River, offers a visual feast, but drivers are encouraged to keep their eyes on the road.
By Jill Schildhouse
If the hustle and bustle of summer has you yearning for an escape, it's time to take the drive from Beaverhead to Alpine via the Blue River. And an escape is exactly what you'll get — think aspen and fir trees, wildlife, crisp air and unexpected rock formations, all with a mountainous backdrop. In fact, this area is so remote, you might not even come upon another traveler, let alone a gas station, your entire trip.
This 37-mile drive through the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, on the eastern end of the White Mountains, begins on U.S. Route 191, roughly 8 miles north of Hannagan Meadow, at an elevation of about 9,000 feet. Look for the turnoff on the east side of the highway. Forest Road 567, or Red Hill Road, requires a sharp right turn when you approach from the south. Don't be disheartened by the cautionary "Primitive Road" sign you'll immediately encounter. Although the narrow road is made of dirt and you'll negotiate several hairpin turns, a slow and steady approach will keep you out of harm's way. Take extra caution if it's rained recently — any moisture can make the road slippery.
The next sign you'll notice explains that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chose this largely unpopulated area as a place to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves in 1998. Have no fear — you're much more likely to spot a deer, squirrel, cow or elk than a wolf. Once you pass an open meadow and a few private property signs in the first mile, you'll come to several clearings where it's possible to set up camp about 500 feet back from the road, but to explore these offshoots, you'll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
As you continue, the road slowly winds, rises and falls as it meanders out of the forest. Mile 4, however, marks the beginning of the sharp curves you'll maneuver over the next 9 miles. Although the unlucky driver of this trip won't have much of an opportunity to enjoy the views while concentrating on the road, passengers will be treated to the majestic mountain peaks — on a clear day, you can see ridges in nearby New Mexico — and rugged terrain on one side of the vehicle, deep canyons on the other. Just after the 7-mile mark, you'll begin a winding descent that leads to a pull-out, perfect for looking up at a rock formation reminiscent of Sedona's Cathedral Rock.
After a few more miles of twists and turns, you'll come to Mile Marker 12 and the long-anticipated Blue Crossing. The crossing is firm and water flow is usually light — barring a recent rain or melting snow — so while most vehicles will have no trouble crossing, a high-clearance vehicle is recommended.
After crossing the river, you'll come to Forest Road 281. Turn left and take this wider dirt road 24 miles to Alpine, the nearest community, or turn right to explore more of Blue River country. Whichever way you choose, it'll be many miles until you find a much-needed carwash.
Tour Guideclick to expand
Note: Mileages are approximate.
Length: 37 miles one way.
Vehicle requirements: A high-clearance vehicle is recommended.
Information: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, 928-333-4301 or www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf/
Travelers in Arizona can visit www.az511.gov or dial 511 to get information on road closures, construction, delays, weather and more.