With a population of just under 5,000, Eagar is a town in Apache County, in North East Arizona close to the border with New Mexico. It is named after a family of homesteaders, the Eagars, who settled here towards the end of the 19th century.
The town sits below the White Mountains and offers a twelve-month season for locals and visitors alike. The activities available include skiing in the winter, and hiking, riding and biking during the months after the snow recedes. Eagar makes a great base for enjoying a stunning natural environment.
With an elevation of 7,000 feet, inhabitants enjoy the beautiful clean air in the Apache National Forest, and the many lakes and trout streams. Not surprisingly, tourism is very important to the local economy. Here are 15 things to do in Eagar and the surrounding region to give you a flavor of the place.
1. R Lazy J Wildlife Ranch
The motivation of the owners of this Wildlife Ranch is conservation and then more conservation. In order to take a tour of the ranch, you need to book in advance and you will be pleased that you did.
Your “safari” includes a walk-through tour and you will see mammals, reptiles and birdlife. You will see scimitar horned oryx, water buffalo and watusi cattle, while the kids will love the chance to feed the parakeets who will fly to them for seeds, and the ring-tailed lemur who will take grapes from their hands.
2. Springerville Heritage Center
The best place to learn about the history and culture of the region, past and present, is the Heritage Center.
Four separate museums have been relocated into a single site including the White Mountain Historical Society, The Renee Cushman Museum and the Becker Family History Museum. The latter two families were prominent in the original development of settlement in Eagar and Springerville. This is definitely a place for historians.
Additionally, an art gallery has been a recent addition, displaying the work of local artists.
3. Sunrise Park Resort
The nearby White Mountains have become extremely popular for those looking for winter sport such as skiing and snowboarding. Sunrise Park Resort near Greer has three mountains: Cyclone, Sunrise and Apache Peaks, with top elevations of just over 11,000 feet in the case of the latter. The resort is now the largest skiing facility in Arizona.
Sunrise Park is owned by the White Mountain Apache tribe and provides plenty to do around the year. This is a lovely place for hiking and enjoying the fresh air long after the snows have gone.
4. West Baldy Trail
You can drive from Eagar and reach this 14-mile trail in around half an hour. It is located in the White Mountains and the difficulty level is rated as moderate, although you need to be aware of the possible effects of being at 11,000 feet. Imagine the views that you will get from any of the high points on the trail.
Dogs under owners’ control are permitted. There are rules and access to some areas is strictly prohibited, regarded as sacred land by the White Mountain Apaches. Small meadow areas and thick forest are typical of the trail, and you need to keep your eyes open because bears inhabit the area.
5. Horse Riding
Eagar provides the opportunity for experienced riders as well as novices to ride well-trained horses. There are several well-established trails and groups can travel at their own pace to explore the region.
Lazy B Arena is a riding school, while visitors are welcome at the Ranch at South Fork and Stables at Sunrise Park. Hannigan Meadow Lodge has become a popular choice and you should get in touch in advance for advice on the best time and day for riding, much depending on the current weather.
6. Butterfly Lodge Museum
This lodge is on the National Register of Historic Places. After years of being leased out, then subsequently used by the Forest Service, this century-old wooden construction could have been made to be a museum.
It was constructed by local carpenters with ponderosa pine and Douglas fir in 1913 and it was the headquarters used to administer the immediate area. The lodge itself and the regular program of events and educational exhibitions in a recently-added pavilion make Butterfly Lodge near Greer an interesting day out from Eagar.
7. Little Bear Archaeological Site
This site is an ongoing project and it is interesting to see experts at work and learn more about the significance of the site, which is found on X Diamond Ranch near Greer.
It is a chance to see the 1,000-year old settlement which is slowly being revealed. You can get involved in a limited way, and weeklong field schools are being held throughout the excavation season. The ruins that have been excavated to date are interesting while the drive itself is scenic, passing a number of petroglyphs as well as a beaver dam and lodge.
8. Fishing at Big Lake
Big Lake is at an elevation of 9,000 feet in the White Mountains and covers an area of 680 acres.
It is a well-stocked lake where you can expect to catch a few different species of trout including Rainbow, Apache and Brook Trout. It is commonly accepted as one of Northern Arizona’s best fishing lakes.
All the equipment you need can be found locally; the lake’s amenities are excellent, with the season running from the middle of April until mid-November. Licenses are required and anglers are restricted to six fish a visit.
9. Apache County Historical Society Museum
This museum is in St. John’s, just half an hour north of Eagar. It relies upon local donations and you should check its opening hours before you set out.
It chronicles life in North East Arizona from the very early days when dinosaurs may have walked this land. Indians lived here, and the Spanish arrived in the middle of the 16th century and some limited settlement took place. White settlers came two centuries later and have remained ever since.
See this exhibits at the museum which include an interesting cabin and an adobe house.
10. Thompson Trail
With an elevation of just under 300 feet throughout the length of this trail, the hike has become a popular one with locals and visitors alike, for novices as well as experienced trekkers.
It runs beside a lovely clear stream, with the green vegetation as evidence that there is no shortage of water. You can expect to hear and see a variety of birds as you walk and your dog is welcome as long as you keep it under control. In total the trail covers 4.7 miles and is best walked between April and the end of September.
11. Zuni Salt Lake
Zuni Salt Lake is a rarity, a shallow salt lake at a high elevation within the New Mexico Desert. Even in the wet season, it is never more than four feet deep. It is a bit of a drive via Quemado to reach the lake from Eagar but it is worth the trip because the Zuni are natives of Eagar and its immediate surroundings.
The Zuni regard the site as sacred, home to the Salt Mother, but they have faced many struggles over the years to stop development and exploitation of the coal reserves within the area. That is despite the fact it has been on the National Register of Historic Places since the late 90s, hence the reason for your visit.
12. Casa Malpais Archaeological Park
This park and its museum within the Springerville Heritage Center are certainly an interesting day out for the family. Featured in the park you will find ancient stairways, a great kiva, rock art from the Mogollon culture and an astronomical calendar. As an introduction to the park, Hopi and Zuni elders show visitors a video to give them an understanding of the region and what they are going to see. The park is open all year round with guided tours being run between April and November, involving walking about three-quarters of a mile.
The museum now holds the artifacts that were originally found in the area of the park.
13. Tunnel Reservoir
This artificial lake just north of Greer has become a popular recreation area. Its surface area is 42 acres and the reservoir has become especially famous for its Brown Trout, though Rainbow and Apache Trout are found here as well.
Boats are available for hire, as is all the equipment you would need for fishing. Fly-fishing is recommended in the autumn and there is plenty of shoreline suitable for casting from the land.
There are a parking lot, paved area and restrooms but camping is not available at Tunnel Reservoir.
14. Trailriders Family Restaurant
You don’t need much more from a holiday restaurant than tasty food and a clean environment and this is what you will find in Trailriders, a fairly new restaurant on North Main Street in Eagar.
Service starts with breakfast and continues throughout the day with burgers, steaks, salads, and Mexican dishes. There is indeed a comprehensive menu with something for all including vegetarian food.
There is a full bar service as well and after a busy day out enjoying the scenery, you will be more than welcome to drop in for dinner.