White Mountain Scenic Byway
The White Mountain Scenic Road/Byway travels for about 123 miles, mostly along Arizona Highway 260 between Hon Dah and Eagar. About half of the route is on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, then you enter the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and travel through Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir highlands all the way to Eagar.
There are a number of commercial offerings available on the reservation, including the boat rentals, fishing and camping at Hawley Lake. McNary used to be the site of a busy sawmill, with up to 20,000 people living in town during the 1950's. In 1979, the sawmill burned down and Southwest Forest Industries never rebuilt it. Today, the population of McNary is down to about 500.
Just before you leave the Indian Reservation, there'll be a turnoff to the right (south) that leads down by the Sunrise Park Ski Resort and the Mt. Baldy Wilderness. Mt. Baldy (11,490') is the second highest peak in Arizona but the actual summit is on tribal land and you'll need permission to climb that last hundred yards or so near the top.
In the White Mountains area of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, you're liable to come across some of the largest elk in North America. Elk were hunted to extinction in the early 1900's but the Fort Apache Tribe imported a herd of elk from the National Elk Refuge near Yellowstone National Park, 50 years ago, and set them loose in the woods. In order to help that herd multiply, Arizona adopted very strict elk hunting regulations. Today, many of the elk wandering these mountains are old and large and have never been shot at. The best way to get one is to hire one of the local guides on the reservation...
Sunrise Park Resort is owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache tribe and boasts of 65 ski-runs with separate areas for snow-boarding and cross-country skiing. Sunrise Park Resort is probably the largest ski resort in Arizona. If you make the drive to climb Mt. Baldy, this road passes the trailheads for both East Baldy Trail and West Baldy Trail. Then the road heads east to the Crescent Lake and Big Lake Recreation Complex. This is where you'll find some of the best trout fishing in Arizona. From there you can head northeast on Arizona Highway 261 to Eagar.
The last 10 miles of the route are across a lush grassland with only a few trees and little shrubbery. Then you come between juniper-forested hills into the open meadows of Round Valley, home of Eagar and Springerville. The White Mountain Scenic Byway begins/ends at the junction of Arizona Routes 260 and 261, just west of Eagar.
White Mountain Scenic Byway area map