Weekend in Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona

Head for the hills: Ponderosa pines, azure lakes, and homey brunch await in this small town.

Los Burros Trail winds past spruce and fir trees in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, Arizona, picture
Los Burros Trail winds past spruce and fir trees. 
James Bueti

Set in an alpine forest, Pinetop-Lakeside couldn't look less desertlike. In summer, the place feels pretty un-Sonoran, too, with temperatures 25 degrees lower than in Phoenix—meaning you can escape the AC to hike among the pines and paddle on the lakes.

Ask for a breakfast recommendation around here, and you'll invariably be directed to Darbi's Cafe. Rambling through several rustic rooms, including one with log ceiling beams, the eatery has a woodsy vibe. Breathe in the invigorating scent of pines on the screened-in porch as you dig into such indulgences as thick-cut caramel apple French toast.

La Vie Marketplace & Cafe lightens things up with artfully mismatched chairs and tables, plus a sunny patio. The menu is lighter, too, featuring items such as a plate of house-cured lox, and a coconut chia pudding served with seasonal berries and La Vie's own granola.

While the skies here can put on spectacularly starry displays, you'll find a different kind of nightlife at the Lion's Den Bar & Grill. Every Friday and Saturday, the neon-lit bar hosts popular regional acts such as Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, a country rock band out of Tempe.

eggs Benedict with side of hash brown potatoes at Darbi's Cafe in Pinetop, Arizona, picture

Darbi's has served eggs Benedict daily since opening in 2006.

Jenelle Bonifield

Trails in and around town connect with the vast White Mountains Trail System. The gentle, mile-long Mogollon Rim Interpretive Trail provides an expansive view over the pines that seem to stretch forever beneath the craggy 200-mile-long edge of the Colorado Plateau. The wildflower-fringed Los Burros Trail, meanwhile, lends itself to hikes ranging from eight to 13 miles.

It's tough to beat a day spent chilling beside a lake. Choose from one of more than 50 nearby, including Woodland Lake, a sky-blue beauty framed by meadows and ringed by a paved walking path. Love stand-up paddleboarding? White Mountain Outdoor Rentals will deliver boards to Show Low Lake.