The trail begins in a meadow but soon plunges into the forest, dominated by ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir trees. If you are lucky, you will see elk and deer browsing along the edges of the meadows. The trail is wide and graveled, providing good traction for bicycle tires and boots alike. After about a half mile, the trail forks. The right fork continues on the main route, while the left fork takes you to the Big Lake lookout tower.
The trail leading to the tower is steep and not really suited to mountain bike use, so be prepared to carry your bike if you bring it. The tower is staffed regularly through fire season, which in this part of the world is May, June and July. You do not need to be in the tower itself to enjoy the panoramic views. Excellent views are to be had from the tower steps or from the rock knob. NEVER climb a lookout tower when lightning is striking nearby and always ask the person on duty if it is okay to come up.
Back on the main trail, you will soon come to Spillman Springs, which is distinguished by a series of dugout logs. The troughs have been in use since at least 1950 and are believed to have been constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression. The road soon drops down and crosses Forest Road 24. Take care as you cross this road; it can be busy at times. The trail soon merges with an old road, passes Indian Springs, and gives way to an old railroad grade. This is the remnant of the Apache Railway Company's Maverick Line, which transported logs to the mill in McNary from the 1940's to the early 1970's. Here the trail opens up to lush meadows bordered by trees. The railroad grade has a slight uphill incline which is steady but no killer. The traction on this old cinder bed is very good.
About 2.5 miles from Indian Springs, you will come to the spur trail that connects this trail to the West Fork Trail #628. If you choose this route, you will add another seven miles to your trip. If you find yourself short on time or energy, continue on your way and ignore the turnoff. In about another half mile, you will leave the railroad bed and cut through a strip of forested land before entering a long meadow. In the late spring and through the summer, this meadow is bright with wildflowers of all sizes and hues. From the meadow, the trail crosses the 249E road, where it rises and dips near a rock ledge. On the other side of the ledge is Rainbow Campground, which is connected to the trail by a spur trail which comes off of loop D. The main trail soon crosses the 249E road again to finish up at the parking area.
Parking and Trail Access
The trailhead is southeast of Big Lake, on the sought side of Forest Road 249E.