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Bear Wallow Wilderness

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Photograph taken in  the Bear Wallow Wilderness


The United States Congress designated the Bear Wallow Wilderness (map) in 1984 and it now has a total of 11,235 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Arizona and is managed by the Forest Service.


The Bear Wallow Wilderness was the origin point of, the Wallow Fire of June 2011, the largest wildfire in Arizona history. Though much of the area was affected by the fire, much of the wilderness experienced a lower intensity burn due to earlier fires that reduced fuel loading. However, post-fire flooding has created landslides in some drainages. Much of the wilderness is already renewing, with native grasses and thickets of aspen regenerating among the burned trunks of mixed conifer trees consumed by the fire. The sustenance provided by this new growth is a boon to the area's resident wildlife, and over time, this regenerative cycle will repeat itself once again, with the mature aspen eventually giving way to encroachment and reclamation by conifer species consumed in the path of the fire. The Bear Wallow Wilderness is home to some of the largest acreage of virgin ponderosa pine in the Southwest, and although affected by fire in some places they are still venerable reminders of a once extensive forest of these giants. Along the length of the area, through a blanket of pine, fir, and spruce, Bear Wallow Creek flows year-round and is shaded by green riparian hardwoods during summer. Early explorers were impressed by the large number of well-used wallows, which revealed how plentiful the area's population of black bears was. Black bears still abound, and you may see elk, deer, and a diverse community of smaller mammals, birds, and reptiles. Wildflowers bloom in profusion, especially during the summer rains. Poison ivy is present and can be dangerously abundant in places. Aspen and gambel oak thickets thrive in many of the areas burned most severely by the Wallow Fire. Bear Wallow Creek provides a habitat refuge for the endangered Apache trout, and is currently closed to all fishing. Five trails offer foot and horse access to the wilderness: The Reno Trail #62 (1.9 miles) and the Gobbler Point Trail #59 (2.9 miles) drop into the canyon of the creek from easily accessible trailheads on Forest Service roads. The Bear Wallow Trail # 63 follows the rocky stream bed 8.2 miles to the boundary of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. The Schell Canyon Trail #316 (2.8 miles) connects the Bear Wallow Trail and the canyon floor to the Rose Spring Trail #309 (4.5 miles), which skirts the southern boundary along the precipitous Mogollon Rim, the southern edge of the vast Colorado Plateau. From atop the Mogollon Rim the views to the south are remarkable. Visitors to the San Carlos Reservation must have an advance permit. For information and permits, contact the San Carlos Tribal Office, Box O, San Carlos, AZ 85550.

Planning to Visit the Bear Wallow Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Bear Wallow Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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