Blue Peak is the highest point in the Blue Range Primitive Area of eastern Arizona, tucked way far from civilization in northern Greenlee County. Sitting at the end of a ridge emanating off of the Mogollon Rim, Blue Peak is surrounded on three sides by deep-cut canyons and cliffs, while the ridge itself allows for relatively simple access via a fun, high-clearance road and trail network. Blue Peak is one of the highest points in Greenlee County (missing the highpoint by only 90 feet), and arguably the highest peak in the county that actually feels like a summit. Lookout fans will enjoy the decrepit, abandoned Forest Service lookout that still stands on the summit, although perhaps not for long. A short trail through gigantic ponderosa pine and slopes of quaking aspen makes for a fun half-day outing, while those with more rabbit in their legs can make a trip to Blue Peak as part of an all-day or multi-day backpack by utilizing the myriad of trails that snake throughout the area.
Blue Peak is rarely visited: the register, placed in 2004, has less than 10 parties signed in as of May 2007 (we were the first since Oct 2006). The register at the trailhead showed us to be the first visitors in 16 days, and the second since 2006. Granted, not everyone signs in, but even then, this suggests you will very likely not see a soul on your hike. Enjoy!
The Northern Greenlee County high country is a wonderful land of verdant forests, peaks, canyons and trails, with something for everyone, all times of the year. In summer the area is pleasant with lovely camping possibilities. Winters are harsh but offer snowshoeing and cross-country skiing possibilities as well.
Blue Peak just may be the highest point directly on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona. I haven't pored over all the maps to ensure this but I feel pretty (98%+) strong that it probably is. The Mogollon Rim is the southern terminus of the gigantic Colorado Plateau, the giant raised highland platform that essentially includes all of northern AZ, eastern UT, Colorado, northern NM, etc. It is a dramatic band of cliffs, running nearly unbroken across Arizona into New Mexico for almost 200 miles. Below the Rim, after the foothills, is the desert.
Blue Peak Lookout.
Greenlee County is far from everywhere, so plan on some driving.
South approach via US-191 from Clifton:
From Phoenix follow highways US-60 to Globe, US-70 to Safford to US-191, and on into Clifton, roughly 230 miles. Then go north about 65 miles to the Mogollon Rim and the signed turn-off (on the right) to Apache National Forest Road 84. This will be between mileposts 224 and 225. You will see Blue Peak on your drive in.
North Approach via US-191 from Springerville/Alpine:
From Phoenix follow highways AZ-87 to Payson, AZ-260 through Show Low to Springerville, US-180 to Alpine, then US-191 south about 30 miles to the turn-off.
Forest Road 84 runs 4.2 miles to a wide turn around and parking area at the signed trailhead. The road is a two-track, but fairly nice to drive on. You'll need high clearance, but not 4wd if conditions are good. Passenger vehicles might make it if you go slow. On our visit, we had deep ruts in one section, a downed snag that limited vehicle heights to 7 feet at one point, and some sections of rocks.
Gas, food, provisions:
Gas up in Alpine or Clifton. There are no towns between Alpine and Clifton. Hannagan Meadow Lodge has gas (expensive, best for emergencies only) and a very limited store. They also have a restaurant and cabins as well. We stayed there in 2004 and highly recommend the place. Be sure to pet Hannah the kitty when visitng the store.
Springerville has a big supermarket. Alpine has groceries but is a bit limited. Clifton has the usual amenities but is not geared for tourism in any way. It's a mining town, through and through. Still, it's a neat place to drive through.
We would suggest that you drive the entire length of US-191 through Greenlee County for one of the most impressive scenic drives in the state!
The road in...
No fees are required. Blue Peak is in the Blue Range Primitive Area, which is identical to the modern "Wilderness" designations. This means foot travel only, and leave-no-trace ethics.
Primitive Areas were common in the Forest Service before all were renamed as Wilderness areas in the past 30-40 years. This is the only remaining "Primitive" Area in the country. It has applied to be renamed as a wilderness area, but for whatever reason, has not been made official as of yet.
Blue Range Primitive Area Information
The high country area around Hannagan Meadow has three Forest Service campgrounds: Hannagan Meadow CG
, KP Cienega CG
, and Strayhorse CG
. All are convenient to Blue Peak and other high country places.
Hannagan Meadow CG is just south of the Lodge at about MP 229-230. KP Cienega CG is at the end of a two-mile road at MP 226-227. Strayhorse is below the Rim at about MP 219-220. All are well signed. We stayed at KP Cienega and enjoyed the amazing views.
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
The view from KP Cienega Campground.
External LinksBlue Peak Trip Report (May 26, 2007), www.surgent.net