South of Alpine in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the Mainstem Black River Trail is a scenic 19 mile route. Below Buffalo Crossing the Black River and the road part company as the stream begins to drop more steeply toward its confluence with the White River deep within the Fort Apache and San Carlos Apache Indian Reservations. The river enters a large canyon here, and the streambed becomes more rocky with fewer pools and longer riffles. Forested slopes close in to narrow the streamside riparian zone and access becomes more limited. The scenery is great and theres a good chance youll see some interesting wildlife, including black bear which are relatively plentiful here.
0.0 Buffalo Crossing, trail heads downstream.
5.0 Bear Creek confluence.
11.0 Centerfire Creek confluence.
11.4 Junction with Fish Creek and Fish Creek Trail.
12.9 Wildcat Bridge
15.0 Junction with McKibbons Pond route.
19.0 San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation Boundary.
To reach the hiking trailhead from Alpine, drive south from Alpine 14.5 miles on US 191 to Forest Road 26 about 9.5 miles to Forest Road 24. From this point you can turn left (southwest) about 1.5 miles to Bear Creek for that access route, or turn right (northwest) 3 miles to Forest Road 25 where you ll turn left 1.5 miles to Buffalo Crossing and access to the un-maintained trail that follows the river downstream. Forest Road 25 continues west 12.8 miles to Wildcat Bridge.
The only road that leads directly to the river in this out-of-the-way area is Forest Road 25, which crosses the mainstem of the Black at Wildcat Bridge. Fish Creek Access Trail serves as the sole developed and maintained trail into the area, but there are a number of unmarked and un-maintained paths used regularly by trout anglers and other riverside recreationists that provide additional access.
Streamside paths extend down river from Buffalo Crossing and both up and downstream from Wildcat Bridge. These trails are more regularly used and easier to find near their departure points. Farther from those points, the canyon floor defines the route. Shorter access to areas deep within the canyon is provided by paths leading from points where forest roads come reasonably close to the canyons inner reaches. One such path follows Bear Creek from Forest Road 24 about a mile to a point on the Black about 5 miles downstream from Buffalo Crossing. Additional access from the south is provided by the Fish Creek Access Trail #320, from the end of Forest Road 25B (see the Fish Creek access page for more detailed information) and the McKibbons Trail off the McKibbons Pond Road off Forest Road 25.
From the north side of the river, access is available via a trail from the end of Forest Road 25G, the road to the Kettle Holes area. This mile-long route follows the Centerfire Creek drainage to the river. All except Fish Creek and Fish Creek Access trails are better described as routes rather than established trails.
Overall, Mainstem Black River Trail is the 31st most popular hiking trail of all 49 hikes in Arizona.