I spent Veteran’s Day weekend up north with the family on the Mogollon Rim enjoying the frigid northern Arizona temperatures and ponderosa pines. As always, I pack the bike along. I usually ride the Highline Trail from the 260 Trailhead either up the Military Sinkhole or down to Christopher Creek. I haven’t found much singletrack in the area that compares with the Highline.
I’ve been searching for new singletrack in the area but have only found rolling double tracks that end up being perfect for endurance high altitude training. Such is the Willow Springs Lake trail. I first read about the trail in Paul Beakley’s bookand then more recently read Paul’s description on the MTBR forum. So I decided to give it a ride.
I started from the Forest Lakes Trailhead, rode 1/2 a mile up the new ATV trail 237b to the Forest Road 237.. Then rode a couple of miles south and found the Willow Springs trail head at Forest road 236 Marked with a large gate and a small little brown bike sign with a 0 mile marker. No mention of Willow Springs but I set out anyway for an adventure…
About a quarter mile in you get to make your first decision. You can stay right and ride counter-clockwise or veer left to ride clockwise. If you choose to stay right, about a mile or so down forest road 236 you make a left turn onto 236a, which is a nice rolling double track not technical at all, but hardly smooth. I saw one other set of tire tracks but mostly it looked like this trail goes unridden. I was able to maintain a good speed powering through the temperate terrain and staying mostly in the big chain ring. I was actually able to enjoy the scenery without fear for my life (unlike Military Sinkhole or Drew).
The trail was marked fairly well, with little blue diamonds nailed to the trees and the occasional little bike sign. I did lose my way twice and ended up backtracking to find the trail. I went a total distance of 20 miles (Twenty miles at 7,700 feet sure feels like 40!). Overall I enjoyed the trail. Next time I’ll ride it clockwise to see which way I prefer. I’ll also bring my fishing pole as there is a sweet spot to fish at the northern tip of the lake, right near the dam.
Local Bike Shop in Payson: Hike Bike and Run
Not to be confused with Willow Springs Canyon in the Goldfields