Direction: From Fountain Hills, AZ, take AZ-87-N for 67 miles. In Payson, turn right on AZ-260 E for 36 miles.
You will turn right into the Visitors Center's parking area, located directly across from Woods Canyon Lake's turn-in. The trail is left of the Visitor's Center. You will see a sign for the General Crook Trail.
Before starting out on the trail, I took a few moments to walk along the rim taking in the beautiful view.
The Gray Wolf trail is named after the Apache's nickname for General Crook. Look for this trail-head sign.
This trail is rated easy with an elevation gain of 65 ft. You can either hike in and out on the Gray Wolf trail or turn it into a loop trail by taking the Gray Wolf until it ends and then turn left, heading back to the Visitor Center on the General Crook trail. The hike is about 3.5 miles round trip. The trail is not busy. Today, September 12, 2020, when I hiked, I didn't see anybody else but saw lots of wildlife.
I started out at 7:00 am trekking through the pasture, the ponderosa pines were sparsely sprinkled along the trail.
Rambling along easterly, I caught the sun bursting through the pine trees.
The trees grew denser, leading into an alcove of Ponderosa Pines, leading me towards an unexpected surprise.
Trekking along the path, I had the uncanny feeling I was being watched. Looking around carefully, I was pleasantly surprised to see a small herd of male deer watching me through the trees' camouflage.
I was having fun photographing the deer when they suddenly turned away from me. All looked intently in the same direction. It left me wondering what could have caught their attention so quickly.
I never learned what took their attention away, leaving me to continue on my hike. I came to a trail-marker point to A.J. Fulton's grave-site.
The grave is no longer visible but, it does point to the general area. A.J. Fulton was slain during the Pleasant Valley War.
Further up the trail, it becomes a bit hard to recognize the path. Keep a close eye out for the trail markers on the tree trunks.
As I walked along, I was thinking about what was the best part of this hike. As if on queue, one of the Heber Wild Horse peeked out between two trees.
I paused during my hike to take in the beautiful meadow surrounded by white aspens.
The beauty of the aspens drew me closer. Walking among the aspens, I thought why not spend some extra time photography these beautiful trees.
Turning to continue onward, movement caught my eye. As I gazed out across the meadow, I saw my old friend from earlier on my hike.
Arriving at the trail-marker I had to decide whether to go back the way I came or take the loop on the General Crook Trail.
Hearing all the birds chirping, I decided to sit down and do a bit of bird watching before deciding my returned path.
Feeling restful, I decided to go back up the Gray Wolf trail and photograph all the wildflowers sprinkled across the forest floor.
Underneath all the pines were plenty of pine cones. It had me thinking I need to plan a hike with my grandchildren. We'll collect pine cones decorating them with glitter to place on our Christmas tree this year.
Wrapping up the hike, I was given a farewell wave from a friendly chipmunk watching me ramble by.
I will leave you with these final words. This is not the most exciting hike, but this hike appears to be the ticket if you are looking for a day of wildlife viewing. Remember to hike either early morning or late afternoon when they are likely to be moving about.