Noah Austin

There’s so much natural beauty in the White Mountains that it’s easy to overlook the reminders of pioneer life also on display in this part of Eastern Arizona. This route, which runs from State Route 260 near Greer to the Vernon area, will give you hearty helpings of scenery and history — and it’s suitable for any SUV or truck in good weather.

From SR 260, head north on Forest Road 117, which passes through a grassy meadow beneath rounded volcanic peaks studded with evergreens and aspens. You’ll enter a forest of tall aspens and ponderosa pines, then cross more meadows before reaching an intersection at the base of Greens Peak at Mile 3.7. Turn left onto Forest Road 61, the main road for this drive.

Spruce and Douglas-firs later join the ponderosas along the road, and at Mile 5.5, you’ll pass through yet another meadow and head back into thick forest. The road, smooth and wide to this point, gets rougher and narrower here as it starts an overall downhill course. The forest closes in on both sides, and just before you exit the trees at Mile 8, look through the tree trunks for an old, tin-roofed cabin on the left as the road turns to the right.

You’re looking at CC Cabin, which dates to the early 1900s and was used by the U.S. Forest Service until the 1960s. It’s still in good shape, which is why it’s often occupied by campers or hunters. From the same time period, and more likely to be deserted, is Thode Cabin, which is less than a mile up the road and can be reached via a short walk down Forest Road 8458. About all that’s left inside is an old bed frame and some broken glass, but you can still explore the cabin, a nearby barn and a spring that’s still flowing.

Continuing on FR 61, you’ll dive back into the pines before reaching a “T” intersection at Mile 9.5. The reward for going straight and taking Forest Road 64F (and later Forest Road 65) is a roughly 3-mile trek to the crumbling concrete remains of a sawmill once operated by the Whiting family. Be warned, though: Like most forest roads that have a letter after the number, FR 64F is a challenge — the whole way, you can expect sharp rocks, ruts, washouts or all of the above. Four-wheel-drive and all-terrain tires are highly recommended for this side trip.

After you backtrack to FR 61, you’ll pass through the best meadow of the trip, then a thick grove of aspens, before traversing an area that burned in a 2014 wildfire. The aspens fade away by Mile 20, leaving only tall ponderosas. Here, keep an eye out for elk, which can often be seen bounding across the road. And around Mile 22, the road merges with another forest road and transitions to gravel before entering an expansive grassland dotted with junipers and piñon pines — a welcome change of pace after a drive full of tall trees.

Enjoy the views of tree-covered knolls on the western horizon before you leave the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests at Mile 24. Here, the road becomes County Road 3261, which will take you a mile and a half to Vernon-McNary Road, the stopping point for this drive. Turn right to make the short drive to Vernon or left to head back to SR 260 at McNary. In either direction, there’s plenty more history — and scenery — along the way.

tour guide 

Note: Mileages are approximate. 

Length: 25.3 miles one way (from State Route 260, including side trip to Whiting Sawmill site)
Directions: From Eagar, go west on State Route 260 for 16 miles to Forest Road 117. Turn right (north) onto FR 117 and continue 3.7 miles to Forest Road 61. Turn left onto FR 61 and continue 5.8 miles to a “T” intersection. Go straight, onto Forest Road 64F, and continue 0.8 miles to a “Y” intersection. Bear left to stay on FR 64F and continue 2.3 miles to a “T” intersection. Turn right, onto FR 65, and continue 0.1 miles to the Whiting Sawmill site, on the right. Backtrack 3.2 miles to FR 61 (which later becomes County Road 3261), turn right and continue 9.4 miles to Vernon-McNary Road south of Vernon.
Vehicle requirements: A high-clearance vehicle, such as an SUV or truck, is required for the main route. Four-wheel-drive and all-terrain tires are recommended for the side trip to the Whiting Sawmill site.
Warning: Back-road travel can be hazardous, so be aware of weather and road conditions. Carry plenty of water. Don’t travel alone, and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
Information: Springerville Ranger District, 928-333-6200 or

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