“The premier scenic loop in the White Mountains.”
— C R John
This is a fun loop through aspen and pine forests to get a break from Arizona summer heat or a chance to see some fall colors.
Need to Know
As is typical with TRACKS maintained trails, blue diamond trail markers are used, with solid blue diamonds indicating loop trails, blue diamond with red dot showing vista points, blue diamond with green dot showing connector trails, and blue diamond with yellow dot indicating shortcut trails.
Of the many trails in the Apache-Sitgreaves forest, Los Burros Trail is one of the favorites. When the southern half of the state is baking each summer, the White Mountains of Arizona have frequent afternoon or evening thunderstorms from July through September. The greenery and wildflowers can be quite stunning some years. The combination of slight rockiness of the trail and forest floor humus keeps the Los Burros Trail from becoming a muddy mess that can plague other trails during the rainy season.
The trail can be accessed from the Los Burros campground just off the McNary-Vernon Road. Head through the campground, passing the two, century-old building remnants of the Los Burros Ranger Station, on to the southern end to arrive at the signed trailhead. A mild, slightly rocky, up-and-over trail takes you through a gate to connect with the power line road. Most prefer to head right on a counter-clockwise loop, which after a short uphill sends you down the power line road offering a chance to get a little bit of air off of the built-up water bars. As you spin through the easy-rolling, lightly forested meadow, remember this is open range country, so expect to see some grazing cattle. During the wetter late summer months, this section is a chocolate, singletrack ribbon winding through a green carpeted meadowthe stuff mountain biker dreams are made of.
Things become a tad rockier and you'll start the one major climb. The switchbacks are cut wide, making for easy turns on your ascent, so although the trail is not especially technical, the high altitude can leave the visiting lowlanders gasping for air. There will be more hills as you continue, but smaller up-and-down stuff rather than the grind-it-out climbs. A little less than half-way will be a bailout shortcut that takes you right back to where you started the loop for those wanting a shorter ride.
In addition to the variety of spruce, pine, fir, aspen, and oak trees, wildlife sightings are a possibility, as elk, mule deer, turkey, and coyotes are common in the area, but rolling through the bracken fern-covered forest floor may have you looking for Ewoks. When the fern forest thins out the wildflowers such as penstemon, columbine, lupine, Indian paintbrush, daisies, and so forth add beautiful color. Generally route-finding is very easy, but occasionally the trail can become a bit faint, or it may cross or briefly merge with a forest road. Be on the lookout for the blue diamond markers on the trees to help keep you on track.
It the scenery hasnt been enough of a reward for your climbs, you'll get almost two miles of downhill on the northern portion of the trail. The descent down the old road has some built-up jumps that are loads of fun, not to be outdone by the ensuing twisting singletrack through the pines. There are two very short and steep sections that less-experienced riders may prefer to walk, but otherwise the trail is mostly easier intermediate stuff.
History & Background
The trailhead starts at the site of the old Los Burros Ranger Station built in 1909. The ranger's house and barn are all that remain.