Pinetop, Arizona, is the mountain oasis that you never knew existed in Southern Arizona.
Pinetop, also known as Pintop-Lakeside, is located about 200 miles north of Tucson, Ariz., close to the New Mexico-Arizona border and part of the Tonto National Forest. It’s a lesser known mountain town in Arizona, with a population of about 4,500 people and an elevation of 6,500 feet above sea level. The larger neighboring town of Show Low boasts more amenities, especially during skiing season, but if you’re into the smaller mountain vibes, Pinetop is the perfect place for a weekend vacation year-round!
When you first arrive at Pinetop, you’ll realize that it only takes you about 15 minutes to drive through the entire town. The first time I arrived in Pinetop, I drove right through it without realizing how small it was. Along the main road, you’ll find small Bed & Breakfast spots, motels, a few smaller hotels, lots of small restaurants and a few little stores. It’s very much so the little mountain town that you’d expect to find.
I made my trip to Pinetop in the early spring, mid-March, when it was still chilly enough to need a sweater, but there was hardly any snow left on the ground (yes, it does SNOW in Arizona!). It was just a quick weekend retreat to the woods but was the refresher I needed!
Here are a few of my favorite spots in Pinetop:
If you’re interested in fishing or hiking, Rainbow Lake is a beautiful spot. It is a 116-acre manmade lake, created in 1903 when Mormon settlers dammed Walnut Creek for irrigation.
White Mountain Nature Center
The White Mountain Nature Center is a local non-profit, created in 2004, where you can learn about local wildlife and hike.
Their goal is “to connect people with wildlife through educational experiences that inspire appreciation, responsibility, and respect for the inter-relationships among humans, other living organisms and the natural world we share,” according to their website.
Looking for some food? Darbi’s Cafe is a delicious spot for some breakfast! I went on my trip to Pinetop and while it was incredibly busy, it was well worth the wait! Their website says, “Darbi’s Cafe is a charming restaurant nestled among the tall pines in the heart of Pinetop, Arizona. We are a family friendly, and family owned business who prides themselves on delivering a great customer experience from the moment you walk in.
While this technically isn’t Pinetop itself, I’d still like to note Salt River.
It’s a beautiful drive up to Pinetop, traveling through the Tonto National Forest and Fort Apache Reservation. On your journey there, you drive over the Salt River and I highly recommend making a pit stop to admire the canyon that the Salt River created and walking down to the river. There are several parking areas and viewing sites, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can also book white water rafting day trips at Salt River!
Overall, I really enjoyed visiting Pinetop! It’s a smaller getaway if you’re looking to avoid the crowds of the more popular Show Low and I recommend it to anyone.
Thank you for reading! Have you ever been to Pinetop? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!