Arizona: Springerville to Pie Town

Springerville to Pie Town

This is a loop covering parts of Arizona and New Mexico. The total loop is approximately 600 miles. If you pushed you could cover it in one day but what fun would that be? Much better is to take your time, enjoy the ride and the views for all in all this is a most excellent motorcycle road.

US Highway 191 runs from the north to the south border of eastern Arizona. According to what I was told by a local shop owner Highway 191 was at one time Highway 666 but enough folks protested and the number was changed. Take that with a grain of salt as I have not checked it out.

To get started head south from Springerville Arizona on 191. Springerville is at 7100' elevation in the piney woods and even in the summer the weather can be cool, especially in the mornings and evenings. In the winter folks snow ski in this area, so keep that in mind. The road climbs as it heads south with gentle curves and nice views. There is a good possibility of animals, both wild and otherwise all along this road so adjust your riding style being especially careful in the early morning and evenings.

A nice thing about riding in this part of the country is that it is sparsely populated. Alpine is 28 miles south of Springerville and there is nothing else until Morenci approximately 100 miles down the road. If you forgot to get gas in Springerville, have a small tank on the bike or yourself, this would be a good place to address the issue.As you head south of Alpine the road continues to rise. After a bit you will come to Hannagan's Meadow and Hannagan Meadows Lodge, Hwy 191 south of Alpinewill see Hannagan Meadow Lodge which is good place to stop for a cup of coffee. It is at 9100' and has been at this location for a good long time. For those interest, here is the website, http://www.hannaganmeadow.com.

The road continues to rise for another few miles until shortly before you come to the Blue Vista pull out, and really, you ought to pull out and take in the view, it is spectacular as this shot shows. Hwy 191, Blue Vista pull out

After Blue Vista the road changes. It starts dropping down from the piney woods and gets more arid. There are pull outs every now and then. I recommend pulling out and giving the views a look after all, that is one of the reasons you are here. Sometimes the road runs along the top of the ridge, sometimes along the side, sometimes in the valley either way, the views are spectacular. The road is mostly in good repair and the traffic usually light. Do however keep one eye out for livestock and wildlife. For those of you who like to ride the twistys you  should like this part of the road. Hwy 191Views like this are common and if there is a straight half mile in this part of the road you will be hard pressed to find it.

As the road gets closer to Morenci it drops off of the ridges into the canyons and the curves and climbs increase. Don’t get too carried awaMorenci Open Pit Miney with the curves as it is very difficult to watch the scenery and the curves. You don’t want to miss the scenery and missing the curves can have drastic consequences.

By the time you get to Morenci you are down to around 3800' and in a totally different world than Springerville.

Morenci is the home to one of the world’s largest open pit mines and from time to time they have to move the highway so it can make the ride very interesting. There are several pull outs which overlook the pit. Stop and take a look, it is a very large hole in the ground. It is interesting to note that as mining techniques improve over the years the tailing pile from the original mining is being reworked, some for the 3rd or more time.

Clifton, a little south of Morenci, is an old mining town with everything that goes along with that including antique shops and the usual tourist traps. If interested, certainly stop and check it out.

 Around 10 miles past Clifton at an intersection named Three Way, Highway 78 comes in from New Mexico and there you want to turn left towards Silver City. Highway 78 is a great motorcycle road. Past Three Way the road starts climbing with 10-15 mph winding curves, lots of ups and downs and unfortunately few pull outs to admire the view. Also there are few if any guard rails or run off room so be careful. Fortunately the road does not carry a lot of traffic. The last time I rode Hwy 78 was in January and there was snow on the slopes near the top so I had to slow down a bit However the chuckles continued all of the way to and past the New Mexico border until the land becomes more open grassland but still a nice ride. Roads like this one make any motorcycle rider smile. So, still smiling I turned right at the intersection of Highway 180 and road into Silver City as the sun was going down.

From Silver City you want to take Highway 15 north into the Gila Wilderness to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. This is a very nice ride, but it is not a main road. For the most part it is laid out across the forest floor with little in the way of shoulders or clearing of trees. There are lots of curves and ups and downs, but as always, the views are the important part. You can and should ride to the end and see the cliff dwellings. If you do, you will have to backtrack to Highway 35 towards Lake Roberts. There is a restaurant near Lake Roberts, about the only one. It serves good German food, if it is open and the time is right, it is a nice break.

After Lake Roberts follow Hwy 35 until it intersects Hwy 152 turn left and get ready to have some fun. Hwy 152 is as much fun as  Hwy 78. It does not climb as steeply but the curves are just as much fun. Near the top the Hwy runs through some narrow canyons. When I was there last, as with Hwy 78, it was January and there was snow all over the mountains and in the warm daytime the snow melted and the water ran across the road and promptly refroze in the night. In the narrow canyons the sun does not always get to the road so in places it was ice covered. I had to slowly tiptoe along in first and second gear. There was little if any traffic and I took it easy and it was a nice ride. At the top is the Emory vista pull off and you really should pull off. This photo was taken there.Emory view

From the pull off it is pretty much downhill to Hillsboro but still a pretty ride. I think they want you to slow down for Hillsboro, they have a non operative (I’m betting) police car sitting on the south side of the road looking like it is doing something. It hasn’t done anything in quite some time. Do everyone a favor, slow down.

From there it is just a bit to I-25. I hit that, turned north and stopped for gas in Truth or Consequences, which if you didn’t know, changed its name back in the 50s because of a game show on TV paid it to.

A little bit south of Socorro I-25 intersects Hwy 60, turn left.

About 12 miles past Magdalena you will start seeing some strange things. What you are looking at is the “National Radio Astronomy Observatory VLA Telescope”. The VLA in that stands for Very Large Array, and it is very large. It has a very interesting visitor’s center and if very much worth a stop.

A bit down the road is the Datil Well National Recreation area, not one of the biggies, but nice never the less. Then another 25 or so miles down the road is Pie Town and a good place to stop for lunch or just a snack. I have had pie in Pietown and it was not bad. Pietown has an interesting story worth looking up and with a name like that it is worth a trip by itself.

From Pietown it is just a nice ride back to Springerville where we started.

PietownWhen I add it up the loop comes to 593 miles, so somewhere around 600 is a good estimate. Just a nice easy two day ride over some of the most interesting roads you are going to find anywhere. Of course, you can ride it either way, just switch the directions and start and stop wherever you want.

But above all, enjoy the ride.