Gaze into pine-studded canyons at the end of this long, flat hike from Willow Springs Trailhead

If you’re looking for a nice, long hike with beautiful scenery on the Mogollon Rim, set foot on the trail from Willow Springs Trailhead near the Sinkhole Campground. Even though there’s no significant elevation gain, the view at the endpoint might take your breath away.

dirt hiking trail with trees on both sides

Quick take

Willow Springs Trail is nice and flat, but it’s also a long one. It takes you through a forest of ponderosa pines and aspen trees that are working hard to fill in acres of land that suffered damage from a wildfire some time ago.

Of course, you can cut the hike short and turn around anytime you’d like, but the distance to take in the prized view of Chevelon Canyon is about 8 miles, round trip.

Views like these are the reward for your efforts

Hike summary:

  • Length: 4 miles one way, 8 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate due to length and rocky terrain; the trail is very flat
  • Highlights: Spectacular views of Chevelon Canyon after you traverse a ponderosa pine forest with aspens and unexpected pools of water
  • Precautions: Rocky surface calls for sturdy shoes, 7500-foot elevation means limited oxygen
  • Trailhead: Willow Springs (adjacent to Sinkhole Campground)
  • Pass/permit required: None

Note: 1 mile = 1.6 kilometers

Video: What you’ll experience on this hike

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Don’t be fooled by the relatively flat and straight trajectory of the trail. The stubborn rocks of various sizes that make up the trail surface are like unwelcome shiatsu balls that will trip you up if you’re not careful.
Small aspen tree grove surrounded by pine trees
This grove of aspen trees is helping to fill in voids created by a wildfire.
small pool of water in otherwise barren forest
Unexpected small pools of water like this one are gems you’ll discover along the way.

If you’re lucky, you might see wild horses grazing in the lush meadows where there are no tall trees to shade out the grass. In addition to these horses, I saw two elk about a third of the way into my hike.

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Pro tip: Don’t get lost

At first glance, this trail seems pretty hard to get lost on. For the most part, it’s a very easy-to-follow trail with few directional choices to make. The first eight-tenths of a mile is a mild, packed-dirt single track. It’s where the trail merges with Road 235 Trail that you might have trouble deciding where to go. On the way out, you’ll hang a right onto a trail made by foresters’ vehicles.

On the way back to the trailhead be very careful to not pass the turnoff pointed out below. It comes at about mile 7 of the 8-mile round-trip hike.

hand points correct way to go on trail
On your return trip from the awe-inspiring canyon views, be on the lookout for this easy-to-miss cutoff back to the trailhead. If you stay on the beaten path, which veers right, you’ll end up a couple of miles from where you want to be.

Map to Willow Springs Trailhead


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