Three Oak Trail - Black Canyon Lake Forest Lakes, AZ
Directions: Black Canyon Lake is 109 miles from Fountain Hills, AZ. Take 87AZ north to Payson. Continue through Payson and turn right onto 260AZ east toward Heber. You will continue for 39 miles and then turn right onto Forest Service Rd 300 (dirt road) for an additional 6 miles arriving at the lake.
The lake provides recreational activities such as fishing, kayaking, paddle boating, and canoeing. Small boat craft with electric motors are allowed on the lake.
About the Hike: This is an easy 1.23 mile in and out trail that is a nice easy stroll through Ponderosa Pines along the shore of the lake.
You will start out on a paved sidewalk that quickly turns into a smooth dirt pathway.
I like to do most of my hiking either early in the morning (5:30 am - 6:30 am) or early evening (5:30 - 6:30 pm). It's the time of day when you are most likely see wildlife in the area.
However, if you are not an early bird, then this hike is the perfect respite from the summer heat of Arizona.
The majority of the trail is covered in towering Ponderosa Pines providing the perfect shady haven to enjoy the day.
Since the trail is rather short you might want to bring along a picnic lunch and grab your fishing pole for a fun day
I was excited to see one of the Heber wild horses along the dirt road as I drove to Black Canyon Lake. Hiking along the trail, day dreaming about how cool it would be to see the herd, and suddenly there they were grazing along the shoreline.
I stopped to observe how they interact with each other. The ponies played together or splashed about in the water. A mare needed a dust bath and the stallion started flehming showing off for the mares. This term is used to describe the behavior in which a horse extends it's neck, raises it's head, and inhales as it rolls it's upper lip back, displaying it's front teeth.
Eventually, it was time to continue hiking. I turned back to get a final glimpse of the horses and caught the paddle boats cruising by.
Along the trail I came upon the burn area from the wild fires several years ago. It's always exciting to see the new life blossoming along the forest floor.
I quickly came upon the end of the trail. You can continue along the trail but it is no longer maintained by the Forest Service and parts of it are tricky to navigate. I don't recommend continuing if you are alone.
There are a couple of benches at the end of the trail to rest or just stop and soak up the views.
Along the edge of the water are blooming water lilies.
It was time to head back and I noticed off to my left was a shelter someone built out of small logs. It reminded me of the Shelter in Place we are all dealing with in 2020.
I stepped off the trail to switch out my camera lens. It a good thing, because I heard thundering hoofs pounding up the trail towards me. When I looked up I saw the herd of wild horses coming up the trail.
I noticed how the mares protected the colts by placing the colt between them as they headed up the trail. A few of the horses were meandering along the rim looking down.
I think they were curious about what I was doing.
Heading back, I took the opportunity to capture pictures of the different birds in the area.
Heading back, a straggler wild horse became interested in me. She watched me for a while and then decided to approach me. As she got closer, I became nervous as she seemed to be getting aggressive. I ducked behind a Ponderosa right before she reached me.
The wild flowers were few and far between but I did go trekking up the mountain side snapping a photograph here and there.
This hike definitely is not one you would choose to get a good workout. But if you are looking for a nice place to escape the heat then this is the perfect spot!