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