Top 3 White Mountain Treks

No, not the famously wind-whipped peaks in New Hampshire. Explore some of the country's lesser-known Whites with these accessible spring summits in Arizona, New Mexico, and Alaska.
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No, not the famously wind-whipped peaks in New Hampshire. Explore some of the country's lesser-known Whites with these accessible spring summits in Arizona, New Mexico, and Alaska.

White Mountains, AZ | White Mountains, NM| White Mountains, AK

WHITE MOUNTAINS, AZ

Hike the southwest's mildest climate



Photo by Jon Mancuso

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This eastern Arizona range gets enough snow to merit the name, but it was explorer James White who supplied the moniker for these peaks–which soar 10,000 feet higher than nearby Phoenix and stay 30°F cooler year-round. Starting in May, it's T-shirt time. Park at East Baldy Trailhead and pick up the easy 3.5-mile Crossover Trail. You'll climb southwest along the trout-laden West Branch of the Little Colorado River. Pitch a tent near a big meadow four miles up trail. The next day, climb 2.5 miles to the West Baldy Trail and a saddle 200 feet below Baldy's 11,403-foot cone. The summit itself, on the White Mountain Apache reservation, is off-limits. Then drop six miles down East Baldy Trail to your car. (928) 333-4372

Refuel

Recharge at the Molly Butler Lodge in nearby Greer, where the chefs butcher the prime rib for their "Hot Dang" Chili on site. mollybutlerlodge.com

The Way

From Phoenix, take U.S. 60 east to AZ 260 (156 miles). Turn right on AZ 260, then right on AZ 273 and follow it 10.9 miles to the trailhead.

White Mountains, AZ | White Mountains, NM| White Mountains, AK



Photo by Patitucciphoto

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White Mountains, AZ | White Mountains, NM| White Mountains, AK

WHITE MOUNTAINS, NM

Blaze into alpine tundra

This 48,366-acre swath of alpine country, located 75 miles west of Roswell, was home to myriad silver mines a century ago. Its new treasure: 50 miles of trail climbing through aspen stands and lush meadows rife with elk and deer. From FR 108 west of Bonito Lake, climb 1,500 feet on the Turkey Trail to the Crest Trail for the region's most scenic 15-mile loop. Gain the grassy 9,000-foot ridge and look northwest to see the black scar of the 125-square-mile Malpais Lava Flow. Cruise five miles south to Barber Ridge, where you'll find level tent sites and a burbling spring. The next day, zig-zag up to 10,255-foot White Horse Hill and pick up the Aspen Canyon Trail (#35) for a 4.6-mile descent to the trailhead. (505) 434-7200

Refuel

Scarf a slice of Mountain Harvest Pie–a jumble of fruits, berries, and rhubarb–at Can't Stop Smokin' Bar-B-Q in Ruidoso. cantstopsmokin.com

The Way

From Albuquerque, take I-25 east 85 miles to U.S. 380. Go east 73 miles, and turn right on NM-37. Drive 13 miles; bear right onto USFS Road 107; go 8 miles to the trailhead.

White Mountains, AZ | White Mountains, NM| White Mountains, AK

White Mountains, AZ | White Mountains, NM| White Mountains, AK



Photo by Jerry & Marcy Monkman

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WHITE MOUNTAINS, AK

Cruise a breezy ridge to a quiet shelter

Voracious mosquitoes and thawing muskeg can make foot travel hard-duty in low-lying, inland areas during Alaska's warmer seasons. The Summit Trail, an hour north of Fairbanks, is a pleasing alternative. It's a 21-mile out-and-back along a breezy ridge of black spruce, almost entirely above 2,000 feet (high for Alaska's interior). Boardwalks cover the few damp spots, making it an ideal early-season hike–or any time between June and September. Day-trippers should turn back after 3.5 miles at Wickersham Dome, a broad bald rising above the spruce. This is prime caribou-sighting territory (and aurora borealis in the darker months). For an overnight, add seven miles of easy ridgewalking to reach the first-come, first-served Summit Trail Shelter. It sleeps four on wooden bunks and has an outhouse that's, um, relatively clean. (800) 437-7021

Refuel

Slake your thirst with a Cooper Creek Amber Ale at The Silver Gulch Brewery, a roadhouse north of Fairbanks, in the town of Fox. silvergulch.com

The Way

From Fairbanks, take AK 2 38 miles north to the trailhead.

White Mountains, AZ | White Mountains, NM| White Mountains, AK