Put this charmer in the mountains of Northern Arizona on your bucket list.
words and photos by Kaite Kelley
Pine is a one-of-a-kind adventure playground. You would miss it in the blink of an eye if you didn’t know it was there. That being said, Pine residents enjoy the magical secret they call home. And why wouldn’t they? From delectable eats to more than 200 trails nestled in the surrounding state and national parks, it’s a wonderful place to find an adventure.
Only a half-day’s drive from the Four Corners area, the allure of Pine is hard to nail down into words. Part of the splendor and serenity is with each bend in the trail and new friendly face you meet. Whether you saddle up at a brewery for a craft beer, or you’re dipping in and out of drainages on passage 27 of the trailhead, Pine is a natural nirvana of natural fun.
REST YOUR HEAD
While there aren’t many standard hotels here (if any), it only adds to the charm. Get the most out of your stay with a local Airbnb. This provides opportunities to get to know the locals who share insight into an array of secreted journeys that only a local truly knows. For a unique stay, head to Trident Winery. It is likely the most unconventional winery in the country, where a yurt and adult-sized tree house overlook the ponderosa pine and alligator junipers edging the property. While there, enjoy sampling the collection of unique wines made from local ingredients, including that of the ocotillo cactus. For a longer sabbatical, explore silent yoga or Buddhist retreats at the serene Awakening Spirit Cabins.
EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY
Open less than two years, the Old Country Inn is the place to dine in Pine. Voted by Travel & Leisure as one of Arizona’s top pizza hotspots, it’s worth it to spice up your stay opting for the Pancho Woodfired Pie. Relish the one-two punch of flavors as the woodfired roast pork melts in your mouth alongside the Serrano cilantro pesto. For breakfast you’ll find an eclectic mix of locals sipping coffee at The Early Bird. Take a walk down Pine’s historic lane at The Randall House. Here, there’s a topnotch menu of sustainable, healthy and downright tasty plates to start your day. Perfect after mountain biking, get your fill of elk and beef nachos in combination with the award- winning Strawberry ale at THAT Brewery. Top it all off with homemade peach pie and some welcoming banter with the barkeep.
If it’s adventure that you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. From hiking the world’s largest travertine bridge in Tonto Natural Bridge State Park to traversing the Blue Ridge Reservoir of the Mogollon Rim in a kayak, it’s easy in Pine to amp up the adrenaline. The easiest place to start a hike is at the Pine Trailhead, less than a mile outside of town. From there you can jump onto the Arizona Trail or take one of the many offshoots including the Mogollon Rim. Mountain bikers revel over trails climbing switchbacks and endurance challenges galore.
For the more extreme hikers, Fossil Creek Trailhead in the abutted town of Strawberry offers a more intense adventure. Not for the novice, most locals actually deter you from the hike, but the glorious bit of beauty that lies at the bottom of this trail is its own utopia. You’ll need a permit for this one, as its popularity has called the Forest Service into action to control the crowds, parking congestion and litter from unregulated overuse. Descending 2,000 feet over more than four miles leads you to serene turquoise waters and a magnificent 70-degree swimming hole complete with a natural, picturesque waterfall.
Don’t stop there. Boating, biking, ATVs, spelunking, hiking and so much more awaits at this sweet spot. Pine is worth the trip.
Other local gems to enjoy:
• Go “diamond” hunting at nearby Diamond Point where you can find pockets full of crystal quartz to take as souvenirs
• Nosh on the green chile beer cheese dip with housemade breadsticks at Old Country Inn
• Take a tour of the local lavender farm (also infused into the Trident Winery Merlot)
• Enjoy the fresh air and clear sky perfect for stargazing