In my travels, I am always asking people if they know about anywhere accessible, and on two occasions I have heard mention of an accessible lake up in Pinetop, Arizona. I know a little bit about Pinetop as I have driven through there a few times and could never find the lake. On one trip I noticed a sign for the Pinetop-Lakeside Interpretive Trail. It caught my eye because there was a big wheelchair-dude logo on the sign. Its worth visiting.
This week we traveled to northeastern Arizona to visit the Hidden Meadow Ranch, and so I googled for an accessible lake in Pinetop. Sure enough it exists, but there really are no signs on the main drag through Pinetop and definitely no wheelchair-logos to catch my eye. But the lake does exist, and it is a great place for wheelers to roll about.
Woodland Lake is basically right in the middle of town. The lake has no dedicated website, nor is it easy to find. I get the feeling the locals are keeping this place a secret. Good idea.
This is your basic 18-acre man-made urban lake. It is stocked with trout and bass and electric motor boats are allowed. Around the lake are picnic tables, a boat ramp tennis courts, volleyball, and playgrounds and all that stuff. But what makes Woodland Lake a must visit destination is the accessible trail going all around the lake.
What I liked about the trail is that it is 99% flat. This is casual strolling and rolling. The path itself is made of asphalt and plenty wide. A portion of the trail takes you across a shady hillside covered in pine trees, and another portion takes you across the earth mound damn which allows you to see quite a distance. The last portion is also in the pines but it takes you around by the shallow waters which are heavily vegetated and home to many birds. All along the way are rest areas, but I did not see any water supply. I estimate the circumference of the lake is a tad more than 1 mile.
So here is the odd part about this circular trail. Near one of the entrances to the park is a miniature covered bridge. This baby has some very steep ramps. ADA-enthusiasts will blow a gasket when they see the bridge entrance and exit ramps. And directly behind this bridge is a 50-foot section of the trail which is way too steep as well.
On this trip I brought along a power chair for some off-road exploring/photography I was doing elsewhere. So I happened to be in a power chair that handled the steep trail and the bridge without a problem. But in my trusty manual chair, and by myself, neither would be accessible. No big deal, because I would be perfectly happy to turn around and go back the way I came. Maybe even a few times.
Bring your tackle because the lake has an accessible fishing pier for wheelers too. Dogs on leashes are also welcome.
In my research, I learned that the lake is federally owned and locally managed and that this relationship is potentially going to expire. It sure would be a shame if this lake somehow became unavailable to the public. Pinetop is no exception to the urban sprawl Arizona is experiencing, and this lake is a true treasure.
I’m going to geo-tagged my Flickr photos very accurately so anyone can zoom in on my map and get some perspective about where the lake is. Or, another novel idea is to just to ask someone in Pinetop. But I just could not bring myself to this approach. Hint: From White Mountain Boulevard/AZ 260, turn in about a half mile on Woodland Lake Road at the Chevron Station. Pinetop-Lakeside Parks and Recreation (928/368-6700).
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