I had the opportunity to spend Mother’s Day weekend with my mom up at the Pioneer Pass Campground in Globe, AZ. Set in the Pinal Mountains, the camping area at Pioneer Pass provides ample space for large or small groups of campers. We lucked out and had an entire clearing to ourselves and essentially a private vault toilet (there are three dispersed through the campground). There are also bear savers for your convenience to protect your food from any bears in the area. We didn’t come across any, but last year they did have to close the campground to remove a black bear that had been spotted hanging around. In case you are nervous, invest in some bear spray for ease of mind, and don’t forget that black bears don’t like noise, so be loud.
Getting to Pioneer Pass is relatively easy after you get off the US-60 freeway. You just have to weave through a few small streets in the town of Globe and then head up a one-lane dirt road that hugs the side of the mountain. There are a lot of switchbacks, and we lucked out again by not passing anyone on our way up or our way down. The road can be tight in some places, but you can make it up with a two-wheel drive, and the dirt roads were well maintained when we went up there.
The camping area itself is very refreshing. You are surrounded by towering Ponderosa Pines, and there are many natural boulders scattered throughout the forest. What did we do while we were there? Well, my mom likes to call it “tree bathing” or “forest bathing.” We relaxed and breathed in the fresh air. I got some use of my wonderful hammock and was able to close my eyes for a few minutes. We drank wine and made some delicious skillet nachos over the campfire (they were to die for).
Our trip was cut slightly short because the forest service was there to do a prescribed burn. We had to head out at the crack of down on Sunday morning because the forest service was hauling all of their big machinery up to that area. The other side of the mountain had not seen a fire in over 60 years, so they were starting a controlled burn to clear out a lot of the natural debris and foliage that was covering the forest floor.
If you are looking for a change of scenery and want something that will give you the tall pine tree scene, I highly recommend the area. It’s only about two hours from Phoenix. Even if you aren’t looking to camp, there are ample hiking paths and picnic areas to explore. There is no running water, however, so make sure to pack for that. And as always, check the official forest service site regarding the area before heading up.