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Trip Report Greer & Hidden Meadow Ranch...there is way more to AZ than the GC & Sedona

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I am a long time poster here and a constant reader of posts on some of my favorite destinations and it just boggles my mind, that just about none of the traveling community has any idea about the White Mountains of Arizona. I was quoted a few years back in Fodors guide to Arizona for the White Mountains and I think I understand why now...I am just about the only person on this website that even knows that they exist!

After the Wallow fire, I am delighted to state that so much of this majestic area remains. Yes, there are patches of absolute destruction, patches of severe burn, patches of light burn and patches where only the grasses burned but the good news is there are far more patches of green then one would have ever imagined. I was thrilled to see that so many areas remain in the pristine state found previous to the Wallow fire.

Greer is a very small hamlet, whose businesses rely 100% on tourist dollars to survive. The year round population is under 150 people so even the locals can't keep the businesses afloat. Going to Greer is very much like stepping back in time. I did a full post last year on the restaurants and activities in town. The only major change would be that the Neon Moon is no longer open as it was taken over by the Greer Lodge and we did not patronize it this last trip. We had more meals out at Molly Butler's than the previous trips and I would say that the meals were quite good, with a few exceptions. Rendezvous, was as before, fantastic. This time we ate at The Frosty Bottom (food truck sort of) and I will say that sandwiches were fantastic (the turkey ones were the absolute favorites), smoothies were fruity and creamy and the milkshakes fantastic-a definite must! 92 beans, a coffee and ice cream shop, is also great for milkshakes and of course, ice cream and coffee. Food in Springerville at Java Blues was just as excellent as before.

Now for Hidden Meadow Ranch...I am completely dumbfounded that this place has not been written up in every travel magazine a million times (think The Resort at Paws Up in Montana, etc); not that I would like to see that. I did see it once in the American Airlines Magazine that they provide in first class as well as one write up in Travel and Leisure or Conde Nast Traveler but somehow it has been waaaayyyyy overlooked. This is an unbelievable resort nestled in one of the most scenic areas in the lower 48 (IMHO). This is a true paradise for nature lovers, horsemen, fishermen, birders, and believe it or not foodies! I admit, we did not stay here, for no other reason except we own a home in Greer, BUT we ate here for lunch three times and dinner once. I will also state with 100% honesty, that if we had had that dinner sooner than our last night of our trip, we probably would have eaten there a half dozen nights out of our two week trip. Our dinner was so out of this world (elk medallions) that I even wrote Bon Appetit for the recipe (along with seeing if they could score the recipe for our lunch of seared ahi tuna salad-a meal my eight year old begged us to return for)! Let's just say that the food was so fantastic that we are returning for Thanksgiving again(and we live in CT).

The staff is about as good as they come. The waitstaff is engaging, knowledgable and friendly. The activities staff were accommodating, generous and beyond kind. As I mentioned before, we weren't even staying there and they went out of their way to give our daughter some treats to feed the miniature donkeys and the three four-month old colts. The fly fishing guide was inquiring as to where we had fished and with what, offering up some tips for us to try and improve our numbers. The staff in the mercantile also were extremely helpful in helping one of the members in our party choose a belt buckle for his wife (who was not with him). On the evening of our dinner, we had the good fortune of meeting the owners. They were very kind and appreciative of all the good words we had for them. We feel very lucky to have such a remarkable place as this located in our beautiful little area. In honesty, I hate to share it with the masses, but I also worry that such a place will not be able to survive without a constant stream of guests (although there was a family there from Switzerland while we were there...go figure how they know about it and the majority of Arizonians even don't).

We can't wait to return to Hidden Meadow Ranch and the Greer area this November. If you are traveling to AZ and want to see an area that is not overrun with tourists, that is filled with the kind of natural beauty that inspires poets and artists, and could be compared to Telluride and Aspen (before the hordes arrived) then you should consider adding a trip to Greer and the White Mountains of Arizona...pure Heaven!

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    I live in Arizona and have been to the White Mountains several times, about half the time in summer to Hannigan Meadow etc to get away from the Phoenix heat, about half the time to ski at Sunrise in the winter, staying at Greer or Pinetop/Lakeside. I've also driven thru them probably 20 times on the way to Socorro and Bosque in New Mexico.

    The area is OK for a summer getaway and for mediocre skiing the winters we get sufficient snow, but in no way, shape or form would I agree that it "could be compared to Telluride and Aspen". The biggest difference is that those places have much better mountain scenery and a lot more things to do. There are no really high rocky mountains in this area like say Maroon Bells near Aspen or Sneffels Range or the San Juans in general near Telluride. Instead it's basically a very high timbered plateau with relatively low mountains. Think Flagstaff area without the San Francisco peaks and you have the general idea ...

    Anyway, if you live in Tucson or Phoenix you already know about the White Mountains and may even have a cabin up there, but areas like Flagstaff or Payson are closer (if a bit lower elevation and hence warmer) and offer similar amenities. For skiing, most serious Phoenix area skiiers would prefer driving to Telluride or Durango Mountain in Colorado, where the drive is not much longer and the mountains are much better for skiing (more snow, wider variety of runs, much better expert terrain, much better apres-ski partying). Or Snow Bowl near Flagstaff, which is less than 3 hours from Phoenix and offers similar skiing to Sunrise in the Whites.

    If you live out of state I don't really see this area as having as much attraction for a mountain getaway as numerous areas in Colorado or New Mexico or Utah.

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    The White Mtns are gorgeous.

    I have to disagree about the skiing being mediocre. I haven't skied there in over 20 years, but when I went, was surprised at how good the skiing was. I was very pleasantly surprised.

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    The White Mtns are gorgeous.

    orangetravelcat, would you agree with the original spam post that the White Mountains are similar to Telluride and Aspen? If so, in what ways?

    I have to disagree about the skiing being mediocre. I haven't skied there in over 20 years, but when I went, was surprised at how good the skiing was

    It's in Arizona so some years it gets good snow, some years it doesn't. Some years it barely opens at all. In all years there are no long steep runs, so it's mainly for beginners and intermediate skiiers. In no years does it have nightlife comparable to the Colorado resorts, or much at all in the way of nightlife.

    Uncertain snow, mostly intermediate terrain and no nightlife is pretty much my definition of "mediocre skiing".

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    odie1~

    So glad to read your post about the White Mt after the fires. We stayed in Greer last September, but only for 2 nights, so didn't get to see or do everything we would have liked to have done. You offered us some good suggestions for hikes and drives. We tried to get into Hidden Meadows for lunch but they were unfortunately booked. Really sorry we missed that. Loved the little cafe though with the good berry pies.

    We were so sad to hear about the fires going through (or as we heard on the news "destroying") Greer. Would like to hear more from you about that. Also heard that the Greer Lodge restaurant burned down before the forest fires. Has that reopened?

    Did many of the homes in Greer, yours included, have much damage? Also, hope that your CT area hasn't sustained water damage from Irene. NJ is more than a little soggy before the continuing rains predicted for this week.

    Know what you mean about promoting a great area. You want to tell everyone about it, but then hope that it won't change too much as more people come. There are many places we visited and loved, including the Napa Valley, Aspen and Park City, 25-35 years ago, that now have been "discovered" and changed so much that they're almost unaffordable.

    Keep enjoying the White Mountains.

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    I would agree about the Sunrise nightlife or lack thereof- at least, as of when I went. Have no idea what it's like now. I was interested only in skiing, and it was a long time ago, and the conditions were excellent. As an intermediate skiier, it was more than adequate for me. I would not choose it if I did not live in AZ.

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    Bill_H- You are a long time poster and contributor here, especially giving info for the southwest, so I am surprised to hear that you would refer to my post as spam. I am sure I do not need to explain to you that one click on my screen name would open your eyes to the fact that I am no spammer. In many of your posts over the years, your "tone" has come across as condescending and I can report that I feel this one is no different.

    I was by no means, comparing Greer and environs to Telluride and Aspen, I was trying to convey that the area remains much the way it was 40 years ago (that's as long back as I can attest to). I am sure that the same can not be said for Telluride and Aspen.

    I think the area does offer a lot more for a great many people. I have had friends come from both coasts and stay and they all rave about the beauty and tranquility. One of my good friends who owns a 100 acre ranch right on the Snake River in Jackson Hole loves this area just as much. The skiing can be excellent and there are plenty of runs for advanced skiers but no they are not the same quality as found in Colorado or Utah but still quite pleasant. The nightlife is not the same either...that was my point...a throw back to another time. The outdoor activities are numerous and of top quality. The 19 mile railroad trail (from just east of Sunrise to Big Lake) can stand as reason alone to visit this area. I can't speak for Flagstaff but I certainly do not think that you can compare Payson to Greer, maybe to Pintetop/Lakeside which I was not touting.

    My entire point was just to say that I think this is a very underrated, underexplored area of Arizona.

    Clousie-

    I remember you from last year. The press did make it sound as though Greer was destroyed and it most defintiely was not. There were 22 homes lost, all on the east side of the town. Our home was spared although the fire came within 75 feet of our home. The firefighters are true heroes. The fire did not damage any homes on the west side of town (the side with Molly Butlers etc). Greer Lodge did burn down two weeks prior. The entire historic structure was lost. Greer and its environs are still beautiful and while there was some very heavily burned areas in around the town, it is amazing that it still holds the beauty and tranquility. As you stated, many areas that were discovered for the most were ultimately ruined. I would hate for that to happen to this area but it is also only going to survive with tourists and many people think the towns up there (including Alpine, Nutrioso and Hannagan Meadow) are gone and they are not.

    Almost losing our cabin, renewed our love and devotion for the area. My daughter, the fourth generation to inhabit our cabin, has been bitten by the bug as well. With no TV and no internet she is more than content to feed the chipmunks and collect pinecones. She loves shopping in the Western Drug in Springerville (a real throwback in time) and visiting the little stores in Greer. She absolutely loves the back country drives (I was sorry my recommendation for the drive to Big Lake was not as much enjoyed by you all) and scanning the timber line for elk (which we saw hundreds of this August). A walk in the woods or floating in the float tube fishing with her dad are activities she asks to do again and again. We did return last Thanksgiving and are returning this Thanksgiving. All of us can't wait for dinner at Hidden Meadow Ranch again and this year we will try the North Pole Experience.

    As for CT, we survived with many trees down and no electricity for days. The CT river where we are had minimal flooding. I worry with all this new rain coming...I know parts of NJ suffered with a lot of flooding as well. I hope you all were spared as well.

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