Railroad Grade Trail (AZ)


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Railroad Grade Trail (AZ) Facts

States: Arizona
Counties: Apache
Length: 19 miles
Trail end points: SR 260 northeast of SR 273 and Big Lake
Trail surfaces: Cinder
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6015192
Trail activities: Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking, Walking

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Railroad Grade Trail (AZ) Description

The entire route of the Railroad Grade Trail follows a historic railroad corridor, offering gentle climbs and stunning views. The railroad formerly hauled logs from various parts of the Apache National Forest and Fort Apache Indian Reservation and later hauled tourists from McNary on a tour of the White Mountains.

A unique feature of the trail is an 80-foot-long trestle bridge that was reconstructed in 1998. The trail also features trailheads at 4 locations, giving users the option to enjoy the entire trail or separate the visit into more manageable portions.

Parking and Trail Access

Each of the 4 trailheads has a vault toilet and a parking capacity for at least 10 vehicles. The trailheads are located at Railroad Cove at Big Lake, Lightning Ridge, Sheep Crossing and at the northern endpoint on State Route 260 (northeast of SR 273).

Railroad Grade Trail (AZ) Reviews

My wife and I have riden the entire trail on Mt. Bikes a couple of times. We have not encountered other riders on the trail. I suspect that the main reason is the tread is loose cinders, which are coarse in texture. The water crossings are commonly plated with cinder clods that are fist sized, and difficult to traverse. Much of the northern 1/2 of the trail is covered with bunch grass. The managing agency, Apache/Sitgraves NF, recently realigned/rebuilt a section of the trail, and again plated the tread with loose cinders, that do not pack down and provide poor traction, think riding in deep, loose sand. This could be a great trail to ride, it just needs a firm tread, and a little maintenance. With a firm tread, elimination of the fist sized cinders in the crossings, and bunch grass invasion, this trail would rate 5 stars.

The photos on this page are not from the Railroad Trail near Big lake in eastern Arizona. The photos are from Canyon Lake outside Phoenix.

"Last week we rode the Apache Rail Trail from Rt260 to FR87. The scenary in mid-October is beautiful, but the trail was a BIG disappointment. It is very rough and unpleasant for biking. I won't ride the trail again until it is improved and I don't recommend it to other bikers. Too bad - - it could be a great ride.



This trail is simply not suitable for mountain bikers. In fact the trailbarely exists in most places simply being a spot with fewer weeds than the surrounding area. Arizona should be ashamed to have such an under developed trail. There is so much potential here yet our state does nothing with this resource.

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