Summer trip to Arizona's cool country

Enjoy alpine trails, wildlife tours, and small-town charm in Pinetop-Lakeside
Nora Burba Trulsson

Perched at a cool 7,000 feet, Pinetop-Lakeside is the perfect summer playground, with its pine-scented mountain air, easy access to adventure, and instant tranquility, as well as the delightful discoveries found only in small towns like it.

Spend your days hiking, biking, or horseback riding in the surrounding wilds of the 1.6 million-acre Apache reservation and 2 million-acre Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, and your nights dining and dancing at the local steakhouse.

Include a wildlife safari at dusk for a chance to see black bears, bald eagles, and the elusive Mexican gray wolf.

TRAVELING TO PINETOP-LAKESIDE

Pinetop-Lakeside is about 200 miles northeast of Phoenix on State 260 (also called White Mountain Blvd.). For more information, contact the Pinetop-Lakeside Chamber of Commerce (800/573-4031).

DINING

Charlie Clark's Steak House. Prime rib followed by drinks and, often, dancing in the orchard. $$$; lunch and dinner daily; Barn Bar at the Orchard Wed-Sun (call for music schedule). 1701 E. White Mountain Blvd.; www.charlieclarks.com or 928/367-4900.

Eddie's Country Café. Best BBQ in town, inside Eddie's Country Store: babyback ribs, chicken, and tri-tip, grilled to go in the parking lot. $$; lunch and dinner Fri-Sun. 1753 E. White Mountain Blvd.; 928/367-2161.

The Tuscan Glass Wine Bar & Restaurant. $$$; lunch and dinner daily. 1450 E. White Mountain Blvd.; 928/367-7400.

SHOPPING

The Burly Bear. Cabin-style furnishings, plus owner Trent Penrod's chainsaw-cut creations. Closed Sun. 1665 E. White Mountain Blvd.; 928/367-2327.

Harvest Moon Antiques. Navajo jewelry and tribal masks. 392 W. White Mountain Blvd.; 928/367-6973.

Honey Bear Antiques and Collectibles. Two-story log cabin with vintage tableware and other furnishings. 2251 W. White Mountain Blvd.; 928/368-4414.

 

HIKING

For maps and trailhead information on any of the trails listed, as well as others in the area, turn to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests' Lakeside Ranger Station (2022 W. White Mountain Blvd.; 928/368-5111), or Pinetop-Lakeside Parks and Recreation Department (928/368-6700). The White Mountain Apache Reservation is open only for tours with Backcountry Safaris & Tours.

Here are our favorite area trails.

Ice Cave Trail 608. Moderate 3.5-mile trek (one way). The name refers to a cold lava tube ― a cavity where molten lava once flowed ― that's belowground (and inaccessible). White Mountains Trail System.

Mogollon Rim Interpretive Trail 615. Partly paved 1-mile loop with Mogollon Rim views. Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.

Panorama Trail 635. Moderate 6-mile uphill loop with broad vistas. White Mountains Trail System.

Woodland Lake Park Loop Trail. Easy 1.1-mile lakeside walk. Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.

ADVENTURES

Backcountry Safaris & Tours. Tours explore the remote White Mountain Apache Reservation. From $59, from $49 for ages 2-14; reservations required. 1450 E. White Mountain Blvd.; 928/521-3646.

Porter Mountain Stables. Daily rides through Sitgreaves National Forest. From $27 for 1 hour. 4048 Porter Mountain Rd.; 928/368-5306.

FESTIVALS

Contact www.pinetoplakesidechamber.com or 928/3657-4290 for more info.

16th Annual Bluegrass Music Festival. 9-5 Sat, 9-4 Sun; $10. Hon-Dah Resort Casino fairgrounds (at State 260 and State 73).

31st Annual Fall Festival Arts & Crafts Show. 9-5 Sat, 9-4 Sun; $2. Mountain Meadows Recreation Complex (off Woodland Rd.).

LODGING

Pinetop-Lakeside is filled with folksy B&Bs and moderately priced chain motels, but we love these classic cabins.

Lake of the Woods. Traditional log and chalet-style cabins ringing a private stocked lake. 34 cabins from $99. 2244 W. White Mountain Blvd.; www.lakeofthewoodsaz.com or 928/368-5353.

Northwoods Resort. Pine-shaded clapboard cottages complete with fireplaces and decks. 14 cottages from $99. 165 E. White Mountain Blvd. (State 260); www.northwoodsaz.com or 800/813-2966.

Whispering Pines Resort. Cabins with knotty-pine (or modern) interiors, some with spa tubs, all with cozy fireplaces. 38 cabins from $89. 237 E. White Mountain Blvd.; www.whisperingpinesaz.com or 800/840-3867.