Ok, so this trip was originally posted as the New Year Snowshoe for The Thompson Trail #629. However due to a few unexpected events, I am modifying with this posting. Please note that snow conditions have been mixed at best and we may not even have enough snow in some areas to snowshoe…that said, if you don’t have snowshoes, hell…come on out anyways! We’ll have a blast!
The biggest reason for the change is that I want to make this as accessible as possible to as many as possible, yet with just getting into all of the winter fun, I don’t want to over-do it…not this weekend at least!
One reason for the change is that with the 273 closed at Sunrise, there would have been significantly more mileage to cover…instead of hiking the few miles from the 273 and 116 junction, we would have to hike a total of 14 miles just to get to the trailhead. Granted, the trail is short and the spot I was thinking of camping at is just 1.5 miles in, which would still leave us with a whole 15.5 miles to hike out on Sunday…and then the drive back to the valley.
Another reason for the change is that with the snow reports mixed at best, we are going to have the best chances of finding suitable bedding for our snowshoeing at a bit of a higher elevation. The West Fork segment that we will hike is 1,000ft above the Thompson Trail area…so we are that much more primed for good (at least better) snow.
We’ll get together Friday evening and proceed to the Sunrise Ski area just outside of Greer. This usually takes about 4 hours from the valley, but with it being winter, you never really know. That said, I know I will be driving the 87 up to Payson, then taking the 260 into Show Low, then cutting through Pinetop/Lakeside to get to the area. I prefer this way vs. going the 60 and having to go through Salt River Canyon in winter conditions.
Once we turn onto the 273, we will drive as far down as we can (there’s a gate if memory serves me correctly), and conditions permitting, we will park right here. As a backup, we may have to park at the actual ski area and then hike a little bit longer on the 273.
Anyways, Friday night we will start out on the 273 and after we go past the closure, we’re going to hike just a bit to get to a suitable camping area. Yes, this will be at night…have your headlamp and all that good stuff easily accessible. This will not be bad though, as we will be on the 273, and will only be hiking just over half a mile, just until we het to a nice flat spot along Hall Creek.
Saturday we will get up, break camp, and continue on the 273 for almost 4 miles, then we will come to the Mt. Baldy Wilderness Boundary, where the West Fork of the Little Colorado River Trail begins. From here we will just be hiking a few short miles until getting to a nice, wide basin area just below Mt. Baldy itself.
Because of where we will be camping, and the reduced hiking distance, after setting up camp Saturday we can even do an optional summit of Mt. Baldy. I figure if we’re already all outfitted for winter, what the hell?!?! Could be fun!
Sunday we will have a nice and easy 7.5 miles out and back to the cars, we can stop for brunch/lunch in Pinetop/Lakeside if there’s interest, and then head back to the valley…super simple!
The topo map of our route can be found at: http://hikearizona.com/map.php?MY=5660&M=6