birderfrommaricopa.com

Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Greens Peak Area

Whenever the Greens Peak area is mentioned, one usually thinks of Greens Peak itself as the place to go and search for the Dusky Grouse.  The high elevation of Greens Peak and it's northern slope have given many birders their first ever views of this highly sought after and hard to find grouse.  Despite the location being productive for this bird, the Dusky Grouse are still hit-or-miss.  While the Dusky Grouse is the main target bird to see in this area, there is still a lot more outside of the grouse.  The climb to the top of the 10,120' Greens Peak is worth the trip alone.  The views of the surrounding area below are breathtaking!  Gray Jay, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Williamson's Sapsucker, Red Crossbill, Swainson's Hawk, and many more may be found in this area.  The Greens Peak area holds habitats of high elevation meadows and grassland, mixed-conifer and apsen forest, ponderosa pine forest, spruce-fir forest, and aquatic and marsh habitats at Carnero Lake.  This is an area where one can easily spend most of a day birding and exploring.

Getting to the Greens Peak Area:  The Greens Peak Area is best accessed by two roads:  Forest Road 117 and Forest Road 1325 (or Forest Road 118).  Both are accessed at a close range of each other off of Highway 260 and can be driven in a 20 mile loop drive through the Greens Peak area.  FR 117 and it's junction with Highway 260 is 4.7 miles west of FR 1325 and it's junction with Highway 260.  Forest Road 117 is at milemarker 380.2 on the north side of Highway 260 (2.8 miles east of where Highway 273 goes south from Highway 260) and is 38.5 miles east of Show Low.  Forest Road 1325 is then roughly at milepost 384.9 to 385 and is also on the north side of Highway 260.  Also, the junction of Highway 260 and Highway 373 (to Greer) is only 0.5 mile east of the turnoff to Forest Road 1325.

The Two Main Roads through the Greens Peak Area

The route through this area will be described from it's two main roads, FR 117 and FR 1325.  Take a look at the "getting to the Greens Peak Area" side-note above for specific mileages on accessing the area from Highway 260 through these two roads.  Both roads can be driven through the area easily in a loop drive that totals twenty miles.  The roads are dirt roads and are usually in great condition, which makes this route suitable for passenger cars.  Driving up the road to Greens Peak may be rough at times, but overall, this route is pleasant for driving on.  There are many side roads that veer off from these main two roads.  Only the bigger roads will be mentioned, but the others in the area may be worth exploring too.  To get a visual map overview of this area, a link to a map page is available at a link below the road descriptions.

Forest Road 117:  Forest Road 117 runs for 10.6 miles and is accessed by either Highway 260 or at the northern stretch of County Road 1325.  This road accesses Greens Peak.  If heading north on F.R. 117 from Highway 260, one will reach Forest Road 117-A after 2.8 miles.  By taking Forest Road 117-A, it heads east from F.R. 117 for 5.1 miles before it reaches County Road 1325.  F.R. 117-A accesses the turnoff for Carnero Lake in 2.5 miles east of F.R. 117.  Continuing north on F.R. 117 past it's junction with F.R. 117-A, at 3.9 miles north of 260 is F.R. 117's intersection with Forest Road 61.  This is where Greens Peak is accessed.  Take Forest Road 61 for 0.7 mile until it turns to the left (west).  Stay straight at the left turn and proceed forward (north) to climb up to Green's Peak.  The climb up to Greens Peak from here is up a rather steep dirt road that is rough in places, and it is a 1.2 mile climb after turning off of F.R. 61.  After returning to F.R. 117 after going on F.R. 61 and up to Greens Peak or staying on F.R. 117 and bypassing F.R. 61 and Greens Peak altogether, continue driving on F.R. 117 for another 6.7 miles to the northeast to F.R. 1325, which makes the total length of F.R. 117 10.6 miles from Highway 260 north to F.R. 1325.  From here, start heading south on F.R. 1325.

Forest Road 1325 (also Forest Road 118):  Forest Road 1325 (also known as Forest Road 118) is accessed on the north side of Highway 260 and is a half-mile west of the turnoff to Highway 373 toward Greer from Highway 260.  F.R. 1325 runs for 9.3 miles to the north before it's intersection with F.R. 117 (see above).  After 5.9 miles of driving on F.R. 1325, the turnoff on the west side of the road is F.R. 117-A.  From here, take 117-A for 2.6 miles to reach the Carnero Lake turnoff on the left (east) side of the road.  The turnoff for Carnero Lake is unsigned if coming in the western direction on F.R. 117-A.  From F.R. 1325's junction with F.R. 117-A, head north for 3.4 more miles to where F.R. 1325 ends at F.R. 117 for a total of 9.3 miles of driving on F.R. 1325. 

With this loop of driving F.R. 117 north of 260 to F.R. 1325, and then taking F.R. 1325 back to Highway 260, it is a total of 20 miles.  F.R. 117 passes through mixed-conifer and aspen forest as well as grassland.  F.R. 1325 passes through primarily ponderosa pine forest.  F.R. 117-A passes through a combination of every habitat to be found in the area.  Other than the specific hotspots of Green's Peak and Carnero Lake, it is suggested to stop along the roads in many places and look for birds.  The habitat is excellent.  Look for Gray Jay, Dusky Grouse, Northern Goshawk, Williamson's Sapsucker, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and more in the mixed-conifer and aspen forests.  In grassland habitats, watch for Swainson's Hawk, Mountain Bluebird, Vesper Sparrow, and more.  These road also pass through small "Wildlife Habitat Areas".  These areas are indicated by signs and entry is not permitted by vehicle.  However, walking along the road will still produce many sightings.

Route and Overview Maps of the Greens Peak Area:  To get a visual map overview of this area to get a better feel of what to expect when exploring Greens Peak and it's surroundings, click on the link here- Greens Peak Area Maps

Main birding locations in the Greens Peak Area:

These locations have been mentioned in the directions above.  Use those directions for finding these two places.

Greens Peak:  As mentioned before,  the 10,100' Greens Peak is a well known place for finding Dusky Grouse.  Once at the top of Greens Peak, try walking down an old ski trail that is to the northwest of the towers and parking area.  This road does down rapidly from the start and it is a steep walk coming back up.  Look for the Dusky Grouse in areas of aspen, walking on the forest floor, or sitting on a fallen log in midst of the spruce-fir forest.  To the northeast of the parking lot, there is also a steep grassy knoll that one can follow down along a powerline system.  Walking down this very steep hill is often productive for the Dusky Grouse also (Stuart Healy).  Other than Dusky Grouse, one will see a variety of other forest birds on Greens Peak that may include Wild Turkey, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Band-tailed Pigeon, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Downy, Hairy, and American Three-toed Woodpeckers; Olive-sided and Cordilleran Flycatchers, Warbling Vireo, Gray Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrush, Dark-eyed Junco, Western Tanager, and Red Crossbill.  There is a restroom on the peak near the parking area and towers.  For pictures of birds and scenes from Greens Peak, a link to the hotspot on eBird, and a birding map, a separate page with that information is available at the link here- Greens Peak

Carnero Lake:  This lake in the Greens Peak Area is surrounded by mixed conifer forest and open meadows.  It is a good place to walk around and bird along the lake as well as the nearby forests.  Carnero Lake is a good place to find breeding waterbirds such as Gadwall, Ruddy Duck, and Redhead.  Migrations, spring, and fall are also good times to check this lake for waterfowl, terns, gulls, and shorebirds.  Osprey are commonly seen fishing over the lake and in the surrounding area.  A variety of forest birds can be seen in the habitats nearby.  For more on Carnero Lake with pictures and a link to eBird, click on the link here to access a separate page- Carnero Lake

Also near the Greens Peak Area.....

Pole Knoll Recreation Area:  Pole Knoll Recreation Area is a series of hiking trails that total to thirty miles of hiking through mixed conifer, ponderosa pine, spruce-fir, and grassland.  Similar birds may be seen at Pole Knoll that are seen within the Greens Peak Area through these trails.  Look for a variety of forest birds as well as birds who favor open grassland.  Pole Knoll is very under-birded at is worth looking into more in the future.  To access the trailhead for these many trails, the Pole Knoll Recreation Area is accessed on the south side of Highway 260 at mile marker 383.  This is between the access points to Greens Peak by Forest Road 117 and Forest Road 1325.  If interested in Poll Knoll specifically, it is 13 miles west of Eagar on 260 and roughly 41 miles east of Show Low on 260.  A hotspot link for Pole Knoll is available on eBird at the link here- Pole Knoll Recreation Area on eBird.

 

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