Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

Wenima Wildlife Area

This Is One Of Arizona's Best-Kept Secrets

Just a bit north of Springerville is an amazingly cool place that you may never even have heard of. It's the Wenima Wildlife Area and it consists of 357 acres of habitat along the Little Colorado River.

We visited in late September and the days were still a bit warm, but cloud cover and rain cooled things off considerably. There are two great, easy hikes at Wenima, both of which are very kid-friendly.

The day we were there, we met only one other group of hikers during the entire morning. It was like having paradise all to yourself!

Easy To Overlook

Unless you know about it, the Wenima Wildlife Area would be very easy to overlook. The turn-off is about a quarter of a mile north of the junction of Highways 60 and 180/191. Go north on 180/191 and watch for a graded dirt road going northeast.

After a mile and a half, the road drops down into the Little Colorado River canyon corridor. There is a designated parking area with a restroom and an information kiosk, but the tables and trailheads are down the road a bit.

There is a map at the kiosk, but we still didn't realize that the trailheads were down the road, so we started out across the field on the north side of the road. There were mule deer munching peacefully in the tall grass, and the remains of an old jeep trail that we assumed was the hiking trail.

After following this old road for a while, I suddenly noticed an information sign off to our right, so we went over there and -surprise! - there was a very nice, wide graveled hiking trail there that followed the river. Talk about feeling silly.

Birds And More To See

There are lots of beautiful birds to see, and plenty of places along the trail to sit and watch for them. Strategically placed benches make it easy to wait quietly, which makes it much more likely that you will see something.

We are also pretty sure we saw a beaver, but it was a fleeting moment and mostly splash, not fur. We also noticed old ruins of walls on the other side of the river in a couple of places.

Beavertail Trail

The trail that we were on is the Beavertail Trail, the one that goes north from the road. If you walk down the road from the parking area toward the river, you will see the Beavertail trail off to the left just before the river.

The other trail, the Powerhouse Trail, begins closer to the bridge that crosses over the Little Colorado. Past the bridge is private property and you are not allowed to go there.

The Beavertrail trail is flat and mostly level, and at first it seems as if you are in a tunnel of vegetation. Every now and then the branches part to give you a glimpse of the river. Later on, you see the river much more, and the surrounding country is absolutely beautiful.

You get to maneuver through three of those little v-shaped openings in fences as you hike along toward the end of the trail. I can't find out what they are called, so if you know, I would appreciate your telling me!

They are like a narrow V, with the fence going deep into the v. So you walk in toward the inside point of the v, then turn and go the opposite way out and you're on the other side. It's fun, but a bit of a squeeze if you are wearing a backpack!

At the end of the Beavertail Trail is a reward - it's a cabin with a windmill and a pretty stone wall. By the time we reached it, it was raining pretty hard so we were happy to duck under the tin roof of the open-walled shed and take cover.

What a fun place to explore. The trail is out-and-back and it's about 2-1/2 miles to the cabin. But, it's an easy walk.

Powerhouse Trail

The Powerhouse Trail is about half that length at 1-1/4 miles long. It's an out-and-back trail also, and it ends at an abandoned shed. We also took a stroll through the fields that were south of the parking area and we saw a lot of gorgeous birds there, including a spotted towhee and kestrels.

The fields were covered in yellow flowers and the whole place was just incredibly lovely. Take your kids there for a day trip sometime – you can picnic under the trees by the Beavertail Trailhead, let them burn off energy on the trails, and see some glorious country.

All the rain we've had this year has made the wildflowers amazing, so this is a wonderful time to hike.

Spending Time In This Area

If you want to spend more time in the area, there are plenty of hotels and motels in Springerville and Eagar, plus many beautiful campgrounds in the National Forests nearby. Greer isn't far away, either. There are lots of places to park an RV or pitch a tent, and lots more to do in the area as well - fishing, hunting, biking - you name it. I'll be telling you about some more special places in this area next month.


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