“If you wish to advance into the infinite, explore the finite in all directions.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The Eastern High Country includes the mountains of east-central Arizona, roughly from Payson eastward to the New Mexico border and south to the Gila River. It features the White Mountains, Baldy Peak, Lyman Lake State Park, Sunrise Ski Resort, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the White Mountain Apache Reservation, the San Carlos Apache Reservation, copper mines, the Blue Range Wilderness Area, and the Salt River Canyon. Towns found in this part of Arizona include: Show Low, Pinetop, Lakeside, St. Johns, Springerville, Eagar, Greer, Alpine, Whiteriver, Globe, Miami, and Superior.
Points of Interest:
Apache Trail – Theodore Roosevelt called this winding scenic drive “the most sublimely beautiful panorama nature ever created.”
Salt River Canyon – This spectacular canyon on Highway 60 north of Globe is often called Arizona’s mini-Grand Canyon. Salt River rafting trips begin here.
Sleeping Beauty – Between Globe and Miami off highways 60 and 188, above and behind the Cobre Valle Country Club, is a mountain that resembles a giant sleeping woman. It is now the site of a large open-pit turquoise mine.
El Capitan Pass – There is a breathtaking view of the pass a few miles south of Globe on Highway 77. As you drive this scenic highway, try to imagine what it was like back in 1846 when Kit Carson led Kearny’s army through this pass on their march to California to fight in the Mexican War.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum – Explore a large collection of arid climate plants at this arboretum just west of Superior on Highway 60, at the base of towering Picketpost Mountain. The Arboretum brings together plants from the Earth’s many and varied deserts and dry lands and displays them alongside native Sonoran Desert vegetation. An important function in the Arboretum’s mission is its commitment to education. This is truly a 320-acre living classroom.
Tonto National Monument – Situated within rugged terrain in the northeastern part of the Sonoran Desert, these well-preserved cliff dwellings were occupied during the 13th, 14th, and early 15th centuries.
Copper mines – There are many opportunities to see copper mining in and around the towns of Clifton and Morenci, Globe and Miami, Superior, Ray, and Winkleman.
Morenci Mine – Located at the southern end of the scenic Coronado Trail, an overlook about five miles north of Morenci provides a spectacular view of Arizona’s largest mining operation. The Morenci mine, the largest copper mine in North America and one of the largest open-pit mines in the world, produces over 800 million pounds of copper a year and has moved over 1,000,000 tons in a day!
The Mogollon Rim
Pleasant Valley – Site of the infamous Graham-Tewksbury feud, which began in the 1870s and lasted 15 years. It claimed dozens of lives and ignited tempers between cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers for years to come.
Springerville Volcanic Field – Near the junction of U.S. 180/191 and U.S. 60 is the Springerville Volcanic Field. On the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, it covers a total area larger than the state of Rhode Island, and is spread across a high-elevation plain similar to that of the Tibetan Plateau. Six miles north of Springerville on U.S. 180/191 are sweeping westward views of the double volcanoes called Twin Knolls. As you travel west on U.S. 60, Green’s Peak Road and various south-winding Forest Service roads make for a leisurely, hour-long drive past St. Peter’s Dome and a stop for impressive views from Green’s Peak, the topographic high point of the Springerville Volcanic Field. A free, detailed driving-tour brochure of the Springerville Volcanic Field is available from the Springerville-Eagar Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Pinetop-Lakeside – At 7,200 feet, the communities of Pinetop-Lakeside border the world’s largest stand of Ponderosa pine forest.
Sunrise Park Resort – This 800-acre ski resort is located near the town of Greer, in the White Mountains of Eastern Arizona. Three mountains (Sunrise Peak @ 10,700 ft, Apache Peak @ 11,100 feet, and Cyclone Circle @ 10,700 feet) offer 65 runs for all levels of expertise, as well as separate areas for snowboarding, cross country skiing, tubing, and sleigh rides.
Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area – This 1,362-acre wildlife area of wetlands, meadows, grassland, piñon pine, and juniper woodland contains wildlife of all kinds. While elk can be found here throughout the year, but fall and winter are the best times to see them. Winter is also the best time to see bald eagle perched in trees around the reservoirs. Waterfowl are readily seen during the migration periods of fall and spring. A variety of raptors, including osprey, American kestrel, hawks, golden eagle, and peregrine falcon, can be spotted throughout the wildlife area. In summer, rufous and broad-tailed hummingbird, Lewis’ and acorn woodpecker, and mountain bluebird are easily found. The best birding location at Sipe is along Rudd Creek and in the orchard and tall trees around the visitor center. Other wildlife to look for are gray fox, striped skunk, badger, coyote, mule deer, Merriam’s turkey, pronghorn antelope, and a variety of ground squirrels, chipmunks, and bats. There’s a high probability of seeing elk and antelope at sunrise and sunset. Recreational opportunities include wildlife viewing and photography, picnicking and hiking, biking and horseback riding. A small visitor center is also located at the site. From the traffic light in Eagar, take State Highwy 260 (the designation changes to U.S. Highway 180/191 at the rodeo grounds) east towards Alpine five miles. Look for turnoff signs at the top of the mesa at milepost 404.7. Follow the graded dirt road, suitable for passenger cars, file miles to the wildlife area.
Hannagan Meadow – Looking so green and pastoral at a 9,500-foot-plus elevation, it’s hard to believe this meadow is in Arizona! Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and his party supposedly came through here on their 1540 expedition to find the Seven Cities of Cibola. Hannagan Meadow is home to elk, deer, range cattle, and wild turkeys.
Blue Range Primitive Area – A designated recovery area for the endangered Mexican gray wolf, the Blue Range provides access to miles of untouched wilderness and beautiful rugged terrain.
Coronado Trail – This 127-mile stretch of U.S. 191 (renamed from U.S. 666) was long referred to as the Devil’s Highway. Historically, the road follows the route taken by Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado on his search for the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola more than 450 years ago. The Coronado Trail is renowned for its twists and turns, as well as its transitions of spectacular scenery over a dramatic 5,000-foot elevation change — from mountain meadows to spruce- and pine-covered forests, through piñon pine and juniper stands, then down into rolling grasslands and cacti.
Buffalo/Bison – A small herd of buffalo is located at the entrance to Lyman Lake State Park near St. Johns.
Did You Know…? Mexican gray wolves are now roaming the White Mountains and Blue Range Primitive Area as part of the reintroduction of this endangered species to the region of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.