Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests
Alpine Ranger District
Portions of this area were impacted by the 2011 Wallow Fire. While parts of the forest did burn, much is still intact, and wildlife viewing opportunities are not diminished.
This 45-mile gravel road loop through the Apache National Forest provides a high probability of seeing several species of large mammals and a wide variety of other wildlife.
Parts of this route pass through good examples of old-growth forest. Watch for elk and mule deer in the forest and along meadow edges. Pronghorn antelope can be found in the large grassland flats in summer.
Look for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep where Forest Road (FR) 24 crosses Beaver Creek, along grassy slopes and on side drainages on the north side of the Black River, and especially where FR 25 descends from Wildcat Point down to Wildcat Crossing.
Abert’s and red squirrel, Merriam’s turkey and coyote frequent this loop area. There’s also a possibility of seeing an occasional Mexican gray wolf or black bear. Osprey are common in the Black River drainage.
Peregrine falcon can be seen in late spring and summer from Wildcat Point and the Wildcat Crossing bridge. Mountain bluebird, broad-tailed hummingbird, gray-headed junco, red-tailed hawk and northern goshawk are also among the many birds seen here.e
Some short, side jaunts will add to the scenic viewing experience of the Black River area. At the junction of FR 26 and 24, drive north on FR 24 for a quarter-mile and look for a two-track dirt road (unsigned) turning left from FR 24.
Park here and walk this side road the quarter-mile to the canyon rim overlooking the Black River.
Osprey often nest in the tops of trees in the river bend, and bighorn sheep are sometimes seen on the grassy slopes. At Buffalo Crossing, a turn right onto FR 276 allows you to follow the East Fork of the Black River to Diamond Rock, seven miles up the road.
As you pass the numerous campsites maintained by the Forest Service, look for bighorn sheep and mule deer along the slopes or for smaller mammals and birds in the riparian habitat in the canyon bottom. FR 416 meets FR 25 at Wildcat Point, about 12 miles west of Buffalo Crossing.
FR 416 is not suitable for passenger cars, but one can park and walk the one mile to the canyon rim for a breath-taking view overlooking the Black River. From here, look for peregrine falcon, osprey, Merriam’s turkey, mule deer, elk and bighorn sheep. Binoculars and camera are strongly suggested.
Habitat: River riparian, ponderosa pine, mixed conifer, grassland
Seasons: Spring through fall.
- From Alpine, go south 14.7 miles on State Highway 191 to the FR 26 turnoff.
- Turn right and proceed 10 miles on FR 26 to the intersection with FR 24.
- Turn right onto FR 24 and go 3.2 miles to Buffalo Crossing.
- Just beyond the bridge, turn left onto FR 25 and drive 15.5 miles to the Wildcat Crossing bridge.
- From Wildcat Crossing, follow FR 25 back to Highway 191, approximately 16 miles.
Access: The all-purpose gravel road is suitable for passenger cars in good weather.