More than 2 million acres, more than 400 species, and 4 distinctly unique wilderness areas, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest is your idyllic escape.

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

Freshly fallen snow greets the morning’s blue sky laced with puffy clouds above the town of Pinetop-Lakeside.
Photographer: Judi Bassett

Though technically two separate forests, Apache and Sitgreaves are managed as one

Sitgreaves National Forest was named for Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves, a government topographical engineer who conducted the first scientific expedition across Arizona in the early 1850s, and Apache National Forest was named for Native American tribes that lived in the area. The elevation of the region ranges from 3,500 ft. to nearly 11,500 ft. at the summit of Mount Baldy.

Though technically two separate national forests, the USDA Forest Service manages the 2.76 million acres along the Mogollon Rim and the White Mountains in east-central Arizona as one unit.

The forest has four wilderness areas, three of which—Bear Wallow Wilderness, Escudilla Wilderness, and Mount Baldly Wilderness—have been officially designated by the United States Congress as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The fourth, Blue Range Primitive Area, was designated as a Primitive Area by the Secretary of Agriculture in 1933, and has been managed under the highest level of forest service protection to maintain its wilderness qualities.

There are five ranger districts—Clifton, Alpine, Springerville, Lakeside, and Black Mesa—which span nearly 300 miles from Clifton, Arizona, in the east-central portion of Arizona to the eastern boundary of the Coconino National Forest in north-central Arizona.

The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest shares western and northern borders with the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, which extends into Greenlee, Apache, Navajo, and Coconino counties in eastern and east-central Arizona, and Catron county in western New Mexico.

Though there are many small lakes and streams not inconsequential, there are eight notable cold water lakes and more than 680 miles of rivers and streams. This includes Aker Lake, Big Lake, Woods Canyon Lake, Willow Springs Lake, Black Canyon Lake, Chevelon Canyon Lake, Luna Lake, Bear Canyon Lake, Crescent Lake,  and Blue River. The Black River, Little Colorado River, and San Francisco River’s headwaters are also found in the White Mountains.

The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest is a popular draw for visitors from the desert valley who come to enjoy the cooler weather, lakes, snow, fall colors, and all the activities one would expect to find in such an agreeable climate.