Things to Do in the Blue

In the Blue Range Primitive Area, transportation is limited to horseback and by foot. This land offers hikers tough challenges but also rewards them for their effort. For those ready for the challenge, here are 10 things to do in and around the Blue.

Blue Range Primitive Area
  • 1. Fish

    Looking for a fishing spot that has a little less competition and a little more nature? Then fishing the Blue River in the primitive area is right for you. Where the river enters the primitive area, you’ll find a sizeable river with holes and eddies, perfect for fishing rainbow and brown trout. Just remember to bring along your Arizona fishing license. From Alpine, go south on U.S. Route 191 for about 25 miles to the North Fork KP/KP Rim Trailhead sign. For more information, call (928) 339-5000.

  • 2. View Petroglyphs

    After camping along the banks of the Blue River, take a walk on the footpath behind the Blue Crossing Campground. Go through the gate and follow the path until you find a rock outcrop. There, you’ll see a series of petroglyphs. From Alpine, go east on U.S. Route 180 for 3.2 miles to Blue River Road (Forest Road 281, across from Luna Lake). Turn right (south) onto Blue River Road and continue 19 miles to Forest Road 567 (Red Hill Road) Turn right (west) onto FR 567 and cross the river. The campground entrance is immediately to the right after the river crossing. For more information, call 928-339-5050.

  • 3. Watch the Sunrise From Your Car

    If you are driving, visit the Carlton Overlook at Forest Road 567 (Red Hill Road). While the stop isn’t anything to write home about (it’s just a gravel pullout), the views are. You’ll be able to take in the entire Blue Range and, in the distance, the Mogollon Mountains.

  • 4. Watch the Sunrise on Foot

    About 2 miles from the Horse Ridge Trailhead, you’ll come over a saddle with a view, but if you continue on the 4-mile trail, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views all the way down to where the Horse Ridge Trail meets the Foote Creek Trail. From Alpine, go south on U.S. Route 191 for 15 miles. The trailhead is on the east side of the highway and is marked by signs a half-mile past the junction of forest roads 567 and 26 at Beaverhead. For more information, call 928-339-5000.

  • 5. Go Horseback-Riding

    Located just outside the Blue Range, the Hannagan Meadow Recreation Area offers access to the primitive area. The recreation area includes historic Hannagan Meadow, campgrounds and views of the Mogollon Rim. Across from the lodge, horseback riders can find a series of trails to make a loop. From Alpine, go south on U.S. Route 191 for 22 miles. For more information, call 928-339-4370.

  • 6. Stay a Night at Hannagan Meadow Lodge

    The historic Hannagan Meadow Lodge boasts the three S’s: wonderful sights, sounds and smells. Located just west of the Blue Range Primitive Area, the lodge offers meadow views, smells of aspens, and much-sought quiet. From Alpine, go south on U.S. Route 191 for 22 miles. For more information, call 928-339-4370.

  • 7. Enjoy a (Day) Hike

    7. Enjoy a (day) hike. Take a loop up Bear Mountain via the Telephone Ridge Trail, a steep connector trail that serves as a shortcut between the Largo and Sawmill trails. This 0.9-mile hike will allow you to enjoy scenic country views on the way up to Bear Mountain’s summit and lookout tower. This trail has no direct road access. The Telephone Ridge Trail may be accessed via the Largo Trail (No. 51) and the Sawmill Trail (No. 39). For more information, call 928-339-5000.

  • Cabin at Northwood's Resort

    Northwood's Resort

    Located at 165 East White Mountain Blvd. in Pinetop

    Northwood’s Resort has been family owned and operated since 1978! In the last decades the landscape sure has changed quite a bit… What hasn’t changed is our commitment to offer our guest the warmest, most inviting places to stay in the White Mountains.  Whether you are looking for hiking, horseback rides, skiing, hunting, kayaking, fishing, enjoying several of our town’s finest eateries or just escaping for the weekend to the beautiful pines, we have the place to lay your head after you are done!

    Read More

  • 8. Take a (Longer) Hike

    To enjoy Bear Mountain with no shortcuts, hike the WS Lake Trail. The 8.8-mile trail offers aspens and mixed conifers, as well as the usual ponderosa pines and Gambel oaks. After the Bear Mountain summit, the trail leads through a high-desert area to Bear Spring, the hike’s only reliable water source. This trail is accessible only via other backcountry trails. The eastern terminus of the WS Lake Trail is located at its junction with the Franz Spring and Bonanza Bill trails, near WS Lake. For more information, call 928-339-5000.

  • 9. Stargaze

    It might seem obvious that the Blue Range would offer great stargazing. But if you’re looking for a set spot, check out KP Cienega Campground, right on the edge of the Blue. At 9,000 feet, it’s one of the highest campgrounds in the state and boasts a cool climate. From Alpine, go south on U.S. Route 191 for 27 miles, past Hannagan Meadow Lodge, to a sign that points the way to KP Cienega Campground. Turn left (east) onto the access road and continue 1.3 miles to the campground. For more information, call 928-339-5000.

  • Slaughter Ranch by Mark Lipczynski

    Slaughter Ranch

    Near Douglas

    John Slaughter spoke softly and carried a big stick long before Teddy Roosevelt made it cool. Elected Cochise County sheriff in 1886 — five years after the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral — Slaughter patrolled the streets of Tombstone wearing a pearl-handled .44 and packing a 10-gauge shotgun. He politely asked troublemakers to leave town. And he didn’t ask twice: Legend has it the lawman killed at least a dozen men “who had it comin’.” Slaughter is credited with helping to tame the Arizona Territory, and after four years as sheriff, he retired to his ranch east of Douglas. During its peak, the ranch employed 150 people, controlled 100,000 acres in the U.S. and Mexico, and supplied beef and produce to area towns and military posts. And, except for when Pancho Villa’s men showed up, no shotgun was necessary. Ranching continued for nearly six decades after the Slaughter family left the property. Today, it’s officially known as San Bernardino Ranch and is adjacent to San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge. Its centerpieces are a large pond, built by Slaughter and fed by natural springs, and the restored ranch house, now a museum that gives visitors a glimpse of ranching the way it used to be.

    DIRECTIONS: From Douglas, go east on 15th Street, which turns into Geronimo Trail, for 16 miles to San Bernardino Road. Take a slight right onto San Bernardino Road, a well-maintained dirt road, and continue 0.6 miles to Slaughter Ranch Museum, on the left. The ranch is open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays; a $5 donation is requested for adult visitors, and children are free.
    CONSTRUCTED: 1893 (ranch house; approximate)
    BUILDER: John Slaughter
    INFORMATION: Slaughter Ranch, 520-678-7935 or www.slaughterranch.com

    1884: John Slaughter, a Louisiana native who previously ranched in Texas, buys a 99-year lease on 65,000 acres along the U.S.-Mexico border.
    1887: The ranch’s buildings are destroyed in a magnitude-7.6 earthquake. The quake’s epicenter is in Sonora, Mexico, about 20 miles southeast of the ranch.
    1891: A U.S. claims court rules that only 2,300 acres in the U.S. belong to Slaughter, though he later buys and leases about 100,000 acres on both sides of the border.
    1893: Around this year, Slaughter completes the adobe ranch house that stands today. Its hipped rooflines and wide verandas recall Slaughter’s Southern roots.
    1915-16: Pancho Villa, a leader of the Mexican Revolution, conducts raids on American and Mexican settlements near the border, including the Mexican side of Slaughter Ranch. The U.S. cavalry builds a small outpost on the American side of the ranch; its remains are still visible today.
    1922: The Slaughter family leaves the ranch, leasing it to various tenants before selling it in 1937.
    1966: Slaughter Ranch (officially San Bernardino Ranch) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    1982: The Johnson Historical Museum of the Southwest buys the property to turn it into a museum. The restored ranch house opens in 1985.

  • 10. Dine at Bear Wallow Café

    The family-owned-and-operated café offers American and Mexican classics. But, really, you’re going to want to stop here for the pie. The handmade pies — offered in a variety of flavors — are baked by co-owner Nataani Harper and are the rustic diner’s claim to fame. Bear Wallow Café is located at 42650 U.S. Route 180 (at the junction with U.S. Route 191) in Alpine. For more information, call 928-339-4310.

    — Kirsten Kraklio

    Photo: The evergreens of Eastern Arizona’s Blue Range Primitive Area frame a view of New Mexico’s Blue Range Wilderness to the east. While New Mexico’s portion of the Blue Range has received wilderness protection, Arizona’s remains a primitive area — the last such area in the U.S. | Jack Dykinga

  • Painted Desert Inn by Mark Lipczynski

    Painted Desert Inn

    Petrified Forest National Park

    Stock-market turmoil took a toll on construction projects in the 1930s, but the Painted Desert Inn was an exception. In 1936, the National Park Service bought the original inn, built 12 years earlier, with the intent of rehabilitating it and adding running water and electricity. But that building was later deemed a lost cause. It wasn’t politically correct to fund new construction during the Great Depression, so the Park Service proceeded under the guise of “rebuilding,” even though little of the original structure was preserved. And when crews gathered wood for the inn’s roof from national forests, the Park Service called it “forest thinning” to avoid scrutiny. Lyle Bennett designed the new structure, which features the adobe façade and pine-beam ceilings typical of the Pueblo Revival style. The inn hasn’t hosted overnight guests since the 1950s, but today, the Park Service operates it as a museum and gift shop, and it endures as one of the few Depression-era structures in America’s national parks.

    DIRECTIONS: From Holbrook, go east on Interstate 40 for 26 miles to Petrified Forest National Park (Exit 311). The Painted Desert Inn is located along the main road through the park. There is a fee to enter the park but no additional fee to visit the inn.
    CONSTRUCTED: 1937-40
    BUILDERS: Civilian Conservation Corps and National Park Service
    INFORMATION: Petrified Forest National Park, 928-524-6228 or www.nps.gov/pefo

    1924: Herbert Lore builds the original Painted Desert Inn, also known as the Stone Tree House, using local petrified wood held together with a mud mortar.
    1936: The National Park Service purchases the inn. Over the next four years, it replaces the Stone Tree House with the new Painted Desert Inn, which features six small guest rooms with corner fireplaces.
    1940: The new inn, managed by the Fred Harvey Co., opens to the public. It later closes during World War II before reopening in 1946.
    1947-48: Fred Harvey architect Mary Jane Colter redesigns the inn’s interior and commissions murals by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.
    1963: The Fred Harvey Co. abandons the inn.
    1975: After a public campaign prevents its demolition, the Painted Desert Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Eleven years later, it becomes a National Historic Landmark.
    2006: The restored Painted Desert Inn reopens as a Park Service museum.