Red Hill Road to Blue
Drive on this scenic road into one of the most remote regions in Arizona. The trail rapidly descends 3,000’ through rugged red mountains before crossing the Blue River and ending at the community of Blue, the gateway to the Blue Range Primitive Area.
Where to go:
From the town of Alpine, head south on US-191. After 14.0 miles, turn left onto Red Hill Road (F.R. 567). The turnoff isn’t signed for 567, but there is a sign for F.R. 26 to the right. Look for that and stay left.
Leaving the paved highway, F.R. 567 heads uphill and turns left. As you head east, you pass several meadows and small tanks on the right. After 1.8 miles, you’ll come to a clearing where a small stream runs to the right. This is a nice place to walk around and take a picture or two. The trail continues northeast. At 2.0 miles, stay right after a cattle guard and split in the road. After a short period, the trail begins climbing again before reaching a highpoint of 8,100’. Stay straight at 3.6 miles where F.R. 58 goes left back to US-191.
The road suddenly begins on its long, downhill course. Almost immediately, pines trees are replaced with smaller junipers and other bushes. At 4.0 miles, the trail switchbacks downhill to the right. The views improve as you head southeast. The road winds along the top of a ridge as it passes through some stunning red terrain which give the road its’ name. Expect a few small washouts where drainage from the higher terrain cuts across the road.
After the 7.7 mile mark, the road begins to level out. The views remain stunning. The terrain changes again at 8.9 miles as the road makes a sharp left turn. The trail continues to wind and drop before reaching another switchback at 10.3 miles. Pass a gravel pull off and another switchback at 10.6 miles. The road passes two more gravel pullouts where you can stop in and enjoy the view. The trail continues downhill to cross the Blue River at 12.1 miles. The water was about a foot deep when we crossed, but can fluctuate depending on the season. There is a river gauge but the cement ford makes crossing easy. The road comes to a T immediately after crossing the river.
Continue to the right onto Blue River road to access the community of Blue. The road parallels the incredibly scenic Blue River as it heads south. At 13.7 miles, make a sharp right to stay on Blue River Road. The trail officially ends here at the community of Blue. Continue west across the Blue River (depths vary here) to get to the community of Blue and access the Blue Range Primitive Area – the last of its kind in the US. A primitive area is the forest service’s equivalent to a wilderness area. Numerous hiking trails, wildlife watching opportunities and photo ops await in this remote region of far eastern Arizona. The community of Blue is home to its own post office, a public school and a public library. Respect private property if you wander around.
Return to the first river crossing when you are done. You can either turn left back onto Red Hill Road and go back the way you came or continue straight ahead on Blue River Road & F.R. 281. Further north is the Blue Cemetery – approximately 1.5 miles ahead on the left. The scenery is incredible as the road continues along the Blue River. You can continue on this road all the way back to the town of Alpine and US-180 as you pass Fall Creek Falls. Consider driving part or all of this road before returning to Alpine either via this road, or the road you came in on.
Notes & Trail Ratings:
Red Hill Road from US-191 to Blue is mostly easy. Some sections can be steep with sharp drop-offs and tight turns. This can be intimidating for novice drivers. Expect some minor washouts and ruts along the trail but nothing a normal high-clearance vehicle can’t handle. 4-wheel drive isn’t necessary but could be useful if you explore additional side roads. We’ve rated this trail a ‘3’ out of ‘10’. High clearance is recommended for this trail. This trail does receive snow and shouldn’t be attempted during the winter months. Allow for about 2-3 hours to do the 28 miles roundtrip. You can easily add more time by exploring additional roads and doing hikes and nature watching.