Monday, October 12, 2015


Exploring a geological hiccup

Talk about a room with a view! Imagine waking up in a cave atop an extinct volcano and seeing a 12,000 foot massif to the west and endless prairies to the east. That's what the Sinagua people enjoyed from a summit abode on a half moon-shaped cinder cone east of Flagstaff. Now known as Old Caves Crater, the pueblo originally had as many as 80 rooms. Exactly how the encampment was used and why it was abandoned in the early 14th century remains a mystery, but an intriguing collection of crumbling foundations and shallow rock shelters provide fodder for the imagination. This cinder cone is unusual, because unlike typical volcanoes of this type, its lava flow happened on the summit instead of at the base. After upside down eruptions splattered thick heaps of molten rock over the mountain top, “geological hiccups” of steaming gasses escaping from the gooey blobs created the maze of grottos and tunnels that are now the highlight of a popular hiking destination.
Climbing the Summit Trail

A 7-mile system of trails explores the archeological site and the Fort Valley Experimental Forest that surrounds the mountain. From either of the two trailheads, follow the wide black cinder road to connect with the 1.4-mile summit ridge trail. The moderate, pine-shaded single track climbs 510 feet to the caves. On the way up, vegetation morphs from pine-juniper forests into sparse, windswept patches of cliff rose and thigh high shrubs. You'll want to stay alert while exploring to avoid trampling on fragile artifacts or falling into one of the caverns. As with all heritage sites, leave only foot prints and take only photos. Do not attempt to reconstruct walls or "fix" anything. The trails are laid out in a double loop format bisected by the summit route. Map signs at the trailheads clearly show the layout making it easy to customize the length of your trek.
San Francisco Peaks viewed from Summit Trail

LENGTH: up to 7 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6,660' - 7,170'
Eastern view from the caves site

Dump Road (north) Trailhead:
From Flagstaff, go east on Interstate 40 to exit 201 for U.S. Route 89 north. Continue 5.6 miles north to Cinder Lake Landfill Road (FR6010) marked only by a "landfill" sign north of mile marker 423. Turn right and go 0.7 mile to the trailhead.
Silver Saddle (south) Trailhead:
From Flagstaff Mall on U.S. Route 89, go 3.5 miles north to Silver Saddle Road, turn right and continue 0.5 miles to the trailhead on the left past milepost 422.
INFO: Coconino National Forest

Monday, October 5, 2015


Village of Oak Creek
Pine Valley Ridge Trail

Sometimes there are just not enough parking spaces. This is conspicuously expressed at the Bell Rock Pathway trailhead in the Village of Oak Creek. Even though there's room for dozens of vehicles, the lot fills up quickly especially on weekends and during winter visitor season. That's because it provides access to the Big Park system of trails that includes some of Red Rock Country's most scenic, easy paths around iconic Bell Rock (a famous vortex site) and Courthouse Butte. If you encounter a packed lot, don't give up on your hiking ambitions----there's another way in. The system can also be accessed via the Pine Valley Ridge Trail that begins at the Jacks Canyon/Hot Loop Trailhead to the southeast. This relatively new route climbs 440 feet on a rocky backbone skirting subdivisions and the border of Munds Mountain Wilderness. Although the trail is obvious, it's not marked with signs. The toughest navigation involves finding where the route begins. From the trailhead gate where there's a sign for Jacks Canyon #55, hike about 20 feet down the road you came in on (do not pass thru the gate) and look for a red dirt single track on the right. Follow this trail 0.1 mile to the gate at Jacks Canyon Road, carefully cross the street, pass through a second gate and begin hiking uphill. At a third gate, turn right and from here, the path is clear although sketchy in some places. Just pay attention and you'll be fine.
Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Butte on the horizon

At roughly 1.5 miles, beautiful views of the mesas of Jacks Canyon and Sedona's celebrated sandstone formations begin rolling out on all sides. From the high point, the profiles of Cathedral Rock, Capitol Butte and Cockscomb stand out from seldom seen perspectives. The trail then heads downhill to the junction with the Big Park and Courthouse Butte Loop Trails at the 2.4 -mile point. A map sign shows options for joining the wide-eyed masses orbiting Bell Rock, or you can skip the crowds by simply retracing your steps for a mellow 4.8-mile out-and-back hike.
LENGTH: 2.4 miles one-way to Big Park
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 4,270' - 4,710'
Rabbit Ears rock formation in Munds Mountain Wilderness

From Interstate 17, take the State Route 179 Sedona exit 298, turn left and go 6.5 miles on SR179 to Jacks Canyon Road. Turn right and continue 1.9 miles to the trailhead turnoff (Forest Road 179G) on the right directly across from Canyon Ridge Trail.
INFO: Coconino National Forest

Wednesday, September 30, 2015



It's October and that means Phoenix hiking season is officially underway. Temperatures are starting to cool down and already, out-of-state license plates are showing up at local trailheads. Welcome back snowbirds and winter visitors! Phoenix is a world-class hiking destination, but with so many options it can be a challenge to figure out which trails to hit, especially for newcomers or locals who are new to the sport of hiking. That's where the Phoenix Trail Guide comes in. Created by, the handy guide covers many must-do and classic routes across the Valley and beyond.
The free, pocket-sized guide is available in print and digital editions and provides basic information about more than 140 trails managed by the City of Phoenix, Maricopa County and the City of Scottsdale.
The following description was provided by
Among the new guide’s contents:
• Trail recommendations from local outfitters (in the categories of “Easy,” “Moderate” and “Challenging”)
• Information about guided hiking tours
• Information about trails open to dogs, horses and/or mountain bikes
• Tips about safety precautions and trail etiquette
• Suggestions for hiking trips to other parts of Arizona
The Phoenix Trail Guide is available to guests at more than 30 hotels and resorts in the Phoenix area, and a digital version can be downloaded at
Visitors to downtown Phoenix can pick up a free trail guide at Visit Phoenix’s official Visitor Information Center—open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 125 N. 2nd St—or from one of the orange-shirted Downtown Phoenix Ambassadors who serve as sidewalk concierges seven days a week.
“For those of us who are too sleepy-headed to go hiking at sunrise during the summer months, this is the time of year when we re-introduce ourselves to our favorite trails and maybe try out some new ones,” Visit Phoenix spokesperson Scott Dunn said. “This guide simplifies the decision-making process for visiting hikers, because there are a ton of trails out there.”
Dunn pointed out that Greater Phoenix is home to more recreational open space—nearly 190,000 acres—than any other major metropolis in the United States. “To put that in perspective,” he said, “if you piled together all the mountain parks in metro Phoenix, they wouldn’t fit within the city limits of Chicago—and you could just barely squeeze them into the geographical footprint of New York City.”
Visit Phoenix
Phoenix Trail Guide

FALL COLOR UPDATE 2015: Lockett Meadow Access

Vehicle access to Lockett Meadow to be managed for fall color viewing

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., Sep. 30, 2015 — For Immediate Release.  Coconino National Forest plans to manage vehicle access to Lockett Meadow over the next couple of weekends to ensure public safety and allow safe travel up and down the road that leads to the meadow.
            During the weekends of Oct. 3-4 and Oct. 10-11, Forest Service personnel will be positioned in Lockett Meadow and also at the bottom of the road that leads to the meadow (near the junction of Forest Roads 552 and 418). Once the maximum capacity of approximately 50 vehicles has been reached in Lockett Meadow, personnel will manage traffic and allow one vehicle access as another departs.
Lockett Meadow is a popular destination for viewing fall colors and aspen stands as they turn yellow in the inner basin of the San Francisco Peaks. Forest Road 552, which is used to access the meadow, is a narrow forest road alongside a steep cliff that can be unsafe and difficult for opposing traffic to pass one another. Drivers should pay particular attention to oncoming traffic and blind corners.
Forest visitors are encouraged to seek other locations besides Lockett Meadow to view fall colors—especially on the weekends.  This includes the Around the Peaks Scenic Loop Drive on Forest Road 418, Snowbowl Road and the Snowbowl Scenic Chairlift, Elden Lookout Road (Forest Road 557), Hart Prairie (Forest Road 151) and Forest Road 300 along the Mogollon Rim. For more information and destinations to view fall colors on the Coconino, please visit
Lockett Meadow Campground has 17 campsites ($14/night) that are on a first-come, first-served basis.  The 50-vehicle restriction will not apply to those camping at Lockett Meadow.
  (re-posted from Forest Service press release 9-30-15)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Hikers on the Foothills Loop Trail

When massive blocks of Mississippian Escabrosa Limestone get jostled around by eons of geological turbulence, the results can be both transformative and magical. The Whetstone Mountains south of Benson are a good example of earth's dynamic forces at work. The range began when sediments at the bottom of an ancient inland sea solidified into layers of soft rock. Multiple episodes of faulting and uplifting formed the skyline of peaks that soar to over 7,000' and a chunk of limestone that slipped off the range's eastern flank that became the incubator of a celebrated natural wonder. From the outside, this slipped block appears as an unspectacular, ocotillo-studded hill. But inside, are the water-sculpted wonders of Kartchner Caverns State Park. Within the living wet caves, mineral deposits built over hundreds of thousands of years are still growing. It's like walking through a stadium-size geode.
Chihuahuan semi-desert grasslands

Cave tours must be scheduled in advance. The half-mile excursions are naturally lit (no amusement park theatric here) and set to a soothing soundtrack. Guides tell the story of the cave's discovery and describe the science behind the bizarre formations that hang like melted wax, pulled taffy and flowing sheets of "liquid" stone. After the tour, you'll want to check out two above-ground hiking trails that explore the Chihuahuan semi-desert grasslands and oak-juniper forests that surround the property. The Foothills Loop Trail winds though a riparian area, savannah-like pastures and sandy washes with breathtaking mountain views. This hike is augmented with numbered posts that correspond with a free trail guide available at the Discovery Center. For a more challenging trek, the Guindani Trail #398 leaves the Foothills Trail, crosses into Coronado National Forest and makes a 1,000' climb to a scenic saddle where the peaks of the Huachuca Mountains near Sierra Vista hover over Arizona's border with Mexico.
Guindani Wash

Foothills Loop: 2.5 miles
Guindani Trail # 398: 4.2 mile loop
Foothills: moderate
Guindani: difficult
ELEVATION: 4,750' - 5,620'
GATE HOURS: 7 a.m. - 10 p.m.
From Tucson, take Interstate 10 east to exit 302 for State Route 90 (Sierra Vista/Fort Huachuca). Go 9 miles south on SR 90 to the park entrance on the right.
Cave Tour Reservations:

Saturday, September 26, 2015



TODAY at the Lamar Haines Memorial Wildlife Area (a.k.a. Viet Springs) in Flagstaff.
The trail elevation is 8600' and the aspens are just beginning to turn gold. We saw some rich spots of color on Snowball Road but mostly the aspens are lime and lemony.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Abineau-Bear Jaw Trail
Here in Arizona, fall color season runs from late September through December. Autumn leaf-peeping begins in the high elevations of Flagstaff, the White Mountains and sky islands like the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson and Mount Graham near Safford. Above 8,000', you'll find mostly aspens---the quintessential mountain tree. The season trickles down to the Mogollon Rim, Prescott, Payson and Sedona, usually peaking in late October through early November. Look for electric red maples, golden oaks, ash, alders and hoptrees.  Finally, desert trees like cottonwood, sycamores and willows turn tawny toward the end of November. Here are some perfect hiking trails for fall color. Find trails descriptions and directions by scrolling to the  TRAIL INDEX on this blog. You can also click on "fall color" to read about 165 hikes for autumn splendor:
Abineau-BearJaw, Flagstaff
Inner Basin, Flagstaff
Veit Springs, Flagstaff
Wilson Meadow, Flagstaff
Pole Knoll, Greer
West Baldy, Greer
Icehouse Canyon, Globe
Marshall Gulch, Tucson
Ash Creek, Safford
Barbershop Trail, Mogollon Rim
Rim Lakes Vista, Mogollon Rim
West Fork of Oak Creek, Sedona
Red Rock State Park, Sedona
Huckaby Trail, Sedona
Baldwin Trail, Sedona
Hackberry Spring, Superstition Mountains
Jewel of the Creek, Spur Cross Ranch
New River Nature Reserve, New River
Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Globe

National Forest Service (AZ is in Region 3)
Flagstaff-Sedona Updates
Flagstaff Leaf-O-Meter:

Monday, September 21, 2015


Bulldog Canyon Trailhead to Pass Mountain Trail
Granite outcroppings on Maricopa Trail

Loop trails are fantastic inventions. Hiking on one feels sort of like a following a cinematographer filming a visually-rich sequence that ends where it began. Arizona has some impressive hiking hoops. Revered for their flowing, long lengths and community-unifying qualities, projects like the Flagstaff Loop Trail (42 miles), Prescott Circle Trail (54.4 miles) and the grand dame of them all--Maricopa Trail-- act as the glue for regional, non-motorized recreation systems. When complete (target 2017), the Maricopa Trail will form a 310-mile loop around Greater Phoenix, connecting parks, suburbia and surrounding cities. The thrill of trekking on fresh dirt is rekindled each time a new segment drifts into pristine tracts or provides an alternate path to familiar hiking haunts. With the recent opening of a 1.4-mile section in the East Valley, there's now another way to approach the popular Pass Mountain (PM) Trail. Previously, access to PM was only though Usery Mountain Regional Park or a lot off Meridian Road in Mesa. This new western approach from Bulldog Canyon Trailhead will eventually tie in with a yet-to-be-constructed corridor to the Granite Reef recreation area near the Salt River. Volunteers are needed to complete the work and you can sign up to be part of this historic effort by visiting the Maricopa Trail + Park Foundation website:
The "Bulldog" segment makes an easy, 300-foot ascent to the junction with 7.5-mile PM Trail (not signed). Roughly 5.6 miles of the PM loop trail is on the Tonto National Forest and there's no fee to hike on this scenic section. However, if you cross into the part of the trail that's in Usery Mountain Park, be prepared to pay the $2 per person fee (exact change required). You can avoid the fee by heading left at the junction. From here, its just under 2 miles to the saddle overlooking a valley straddling the desert space between the Superstition and Goldfield Mountains. This makes for a good turn around point for those left their wallets at home or are not up to the 10.3-mile circuit.
Sunrise over Pass Mountain

LENGTH: 1.4 miles one way (trailhead to PM)
or 10.3 miles roundtrip with Pass Mountain Loop
RATING: easy-difficult
ELEVATION: 2,010'- 2,340' (2,740' with PM)
FEE: $2 per person if you enter the park on foot. Exact change required.
View of Four Peaks

From Phoenix, go east on US60 to the Ellsworth Road exit. Go north 8.2 miles north on Ellsworth (turns into Usery Pass Rd.) to the trailhead corral on the right past milepost 22 which is 1.6 miles north of the Usery Mountain Park entrance.
Maricopa Trail:
Maricopa Trail + Park Foundation:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


An adoptable dog takes a break on the Merkle Trail

On Saturday, October 3, 2015, dogs from Maricopa County Animal Care & Control's Mesa shelter will be hitting the trail for the Season 3 premier of the Wag & Walk Adoption Hike Program. This year, there's something extra howl about. The program was awarded the 2015 "Best in Category" for parks and recreation prize from the National Association of Counties. This prestigious honor recognizes the cooperation between the shelter and county parks to promote the adoption of homeless pets.
On the first Saturday of every month, October though April, adoptable dogs converge in a frenzy of wiggling butts and sloppy kisses on the Merkle Trail at Usery Mountain Regional Park in Mesa. The dogs are mostly "long-timers" having spent more than 30 days in the shelter. Needless to say, they are thrilled to work the crowds on the easy, 1-mile hike. The goals of the program, which launched in 2013, are to give the dogs a chance to socialize, decompress from their kennels, draw attention to adoptable shelter pets and encourage people to get out and discover hiking trails in our county parks.
During the hikes, human participants may "test drive" dogs to see how they handle on leash. Post hike, the dogs reassemble at the trailhead for meet-and-greet sessions (and belly rubs) where shelter volunteers can provide information on each pet's personality, exercise needs and silly quirks. Even if you're not looking to adopt, please join us for yapping good time in a beautiful desert park.
An adoptable shelter dog demonstrates his hiking skills.

WHEN: Saturday, October 3, 2015 (and every 1st Saturday, Oct-Apr)
TIME: 8:45 a.m. hikes begin at 9:00 a.m.
WHERE: Usery Mountain Regional Park,
3939 N. Usery Pass Road, Mesa
FEE: $6 per vehicle
A cute Chihuahua mix looking for her forever home.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Grasslands and mountain views on Longview Trail

The Prescott Circle Trail (PCT) is a non-motorized trail system that works like a 54-mile wagon wheel around the city with spokes radiating to myriad recreational goodies in "everybody's hometown". The route is a master work in trail design with multiple access points  and connectivity to city and county parks,  lakeside recreation areas, campgrounds and wooded paths within Prescott National Forest. This super network layout makes it simple to explore the 54-mile circuit at either a leisurely day hike pace or a more ambitious, multi-day backpack trip.  Downloadable maps and an excellent app for smart phones and tablets are available on the city's website.
Segment #10 of the route links Williamson Valley Road with Pioneer Park via the Longview Trail. This short trek winds through sprawling grasslands and juniper scrub with the hulking mound of Granite Mountain dominating its western flank. From the trail's high spots, hazy glimpses of Sedona's red rock canyons and the peaks of Flagstaff punctuate a landscape of golden prairies. At the 1.78-mile point, the trail enters Pioneer Park. From here, you can continue on PCT or make a customized hike using the park's 9-miles of loop trails. Although Prescott Circle Trail was officially completed in summer 2015, it will continue to evolve with added trailheads, scenic spur loops and ongoing improvements to optimize the outdoor experience for hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers. Whether sampled as an effortless stroll from a kid-friendly park or tackled from its feral fringes, the trail serves up a balanced blend of trekking opportunities. 
Williamson Valley view from Longview Trail

Longview Trail: 1.78 miles one-way
Pioneer Park Trails: 9 miles cumulative
RATING: easy-moderate
Longview Trail: 5,419' - 5,547'
Pioneer Park Trails: 5,220' - 5,580'
Granite Mountain

There are many ways to get to this trailhead. Here's a convenient route when coming from Phoenix.
From State Route 69 in Prescott, go 2 miles north on Prescott Lakes Parkway (across from the Prescott Gateway Mall near milepost 294 ) to State Route 89. Turn right, continue 3.5 miles to Pioneer Parkway, go left and drive 5 miles to Williamson Valley Road. Turn right and make an immediate turn into the lot at the Welcome to Williamson Valley sign.
Longview is part of the Prescott Circle Trail

Maps & Apps, City of Prescott:
Yavapai County Parks:

Monday, September 7, 2015


Lake Pleasant Regional Park
Morgan City Wash is open only to ranger-led hikes

From a lookout point near the 10-lane boat ramp at Lake Pleasant Regional Park, an emerald gorge is visible winding through the foothills below. Morgan City Wash occupies an area south of the lake where the high water table and a perennial creek support a dense forest of cottonwood, mesquite and willows. This lush, riparian ecosystem stands out in brilliant contrast to the muted tones of the surrounding desert. Within the 0.75-mile green zone, rare birds, native fish, dragonflies, amphibians and myriad critters like fox, raccoons and javelina thrive amid flood-scoured bends and water-sculpted stone escarpments. To protect the sensitive nature of this rehabilitating site, visiting the wash is only possible through regularly-scheduled, guided hikes. Park Interpretive Ranger Terry Gerber leads the way armed with deep insight (and a rather silly, but effective battery-powered cooling fan) of the area's history, geology and wildlife. The 4-mile treks descend from the lake along exposed saguaro-lined routes before entering the shady canopy of the wash. Along the way, Gerber describes animal tracks, bird calls, plants and interesting features such as Rattlesnake Arch and the “cowboy bathtubs”. If you haven't been out to the park lately, now is the perfect time to enjoy these cool hikes and get reacquainted with this north Valley recreation site.
With over 8 miles of new trails added this past year and an upgraded visitor center slated to open in early 2016, Lake Pleasant Regional Park is a hiker's paradise located less than an hour north of Downtown Phoenix.
Ranger Terry Gerber describes an old dam feature

Upcoming guided hikes to Morgan City Wash. Check the park website for details:
Sept 19: Hike & Splash
Oct 9: Hike into a Desert Forest
Oct 24: Hike and Splash
View from the Beardsley Trail

LENGTH: 4 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1,740' – 1,440'
FEE: $6 daily fee per car
A shady canopy of cottonwoods and willows 

41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Road, Morristown. 928-501-1710
From Phoenix go north on Interstate 17 to Carefree Highway/State Route 74 exit 223. Head 11 miles west (toward Wickenburg) to Castle Hot Springs Road (milepost 19) turn right and drive 2 miles to the main park entry ( Lake Pleasant Access Road) and follow the "hike" signs to the meet up spot.
INFO: Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Kaibab National Forest
Whitehorse Lake Trail #33

Due to some very serious competition, the two little trails at Whitehorse Lake don't get the attention they deserve. Located adjacent to several classic hiking destinations on the Kaibab National Forest south of Williams, it's no wonder these lakeside gems live in unheralded obscurity. Although these mini treks are certainly not in the same league as the nearby Sycamore Canyon Rim Trail, Overland Road or the epic routes ascending Bill Williams Mountain, they are ideal for a warm up leg stretch or educational strolls with kids. Also, they're situated within Whitehorse Lake Campground, which makes the perfect base camp for hitting the aforementioned famous trails.
Whitehorse Lake #33 begins at a parking area near camp Loop F where there's a map sign and a supply of brochures with descriptions for 12 numbered points of interest along the route. The one-way trail ends at a blocked road gate near camp Loop B. From the "F" trailhead, go left and hike out over a dam built in 1934 to improve wildlife and recreational opportunities in the area. Follow the posts through pine-oak woodlands, marsh areas and reed-choked coves. Features along the way include waterbird habitats, "yellow-bellie" Ponderosa pines, wildflowers, bird and bear feeding sites and mushroom logs. At post #9, the Canyon Overlook Trail #70 veers off for an optional 2.5-mile roundtrip hike to a scenic point over Sycamore Canyon. Both trails have short sections where the route is obscured by deadfall and leaf litter, but finding your way isn't too challenging. Beyond post #12, the trail swings through prime critter country along the southeast shore of the 35-acre lake before ending directly across the water from the start point. Retrace your steps or follow campground roads back to the trailhead.
The marshy end of the lake

Trail #33: 2 miles roundtrip
Trail #70: 2.5 miles round trip
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6,600'-6,625'
FACILITIES: restrooms, camping, fishing (fee)
Trail over the dam

From Williams, go 8.2 miles south on 4th Street (turns into Perkinsville Road, County Road 73) to Forest Road 110 at milepost 177. Turn left and go 7.2 miles to Forest Road 109, turn left and continue 3 miles to the lake. Follow the signs to either day use area nears Loops B or F. There are no fees for day use only. Roads are paved and sedan-friendly dirt/gravel.
INFO: Kaibab National Forest

Monday, August 24, 2015


Mount Baldy Wilderness Area
West Fork of the Little Colorado River flanks trail #94

Arizona's second highest mountain* is an ancient stratovolcano that last erupted around 2 million years ago. The genesis of Mount Baldy began roughly 9 million years ago with multiple lava flows that gradually built up the mountain to an estimated 13,000 feet. Although this massif's initial geological history mirrors that of the Ring of Fire volcanos like those found in the Pacific and along the west coast of the Americas, its present form is due to mostly to the work of glacial ice. If you want proof that enormous ice sheets once slid
A landscape polished by glaciers
through Arizona, just take a hike on West Baldy Trail #94. The scoured mounds, gaping scoop-shaped valleys, and fields of errant boulders are actually cirques and moraines that formed during three periods of glaciation lasting hundreds of thousands of years. Today, these ice-born features form the headwater basins of the West and East Forks of the Little Colorado River that continue to shape the mountain's character and feed water all the way to the Salt River outside of Phoenix. Unlike the chiseled peaks of Flagstaff, the chain of bulbous, volcanic mounds that make up Mount Baldy present a tamer alpine experience.
Two trails ascend to near the top. West Baldy Trail #94 follows the West Fork of the Little Colorado River and is the route of choice for those looking for a green, water-themed trek. East Baldy #95 is somewhat less shaded and more exposed. In between, the 3.5-mile Mt. Baldy Crossover Trail provides a handy link to make a 17.5-mile loop hike.
West Baldy Trail #94 starts out as an easy stream side walk. Alpine meadows, thigh-high wildflowers surrounding the river and magnificent views define the hike's first 3 miles. Instead of being smacked with an abrupt vertical ascent, the arduous climbing part sort of sneaks up on you, turning serious near the 4-mile point where the trail enters a tract damaged by the 2011 Wallow Fire. Here, charred tree trunks teeter like fragile matchsticks poised to topple downhill at the behest of summer storms and winter snow. The relatively short haul through the destruction is mitigated by the promise of impending high-point vistas and a sense of accomplishment. The "summit" is actually ridge line with 3 distinct peaks. The tempting one in the middle--11,403' Baldy Peak-- is within the White Mountain Apache Tribe boundary and is open only to tribal members. Please respect this sacred area by not trespassing.

Rounded peaks of Mount Baldy on the horizon

LENGTH: 14 miles roundtrip (up and back)
RATING: moderate-difficult
ELEVATION: 9,000' - 11,200'
Harebells bloom June - September

From Pinetop-Lakeside, travel 20 miles east on State Route 260 to State Route 273 (signed for Sunrise Ski Area just past milepost 377). Turn left and go 8.4 miles south to the West Baldy trailhead on the right at milepost 386. The East Baldy trailhead, is 2.5 miles farther south on SR 273.
West Fork of the Little Colorado River
INFO: Springerville Ranger District, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Agassiz, Humphreys, Fremont, Abineau, Rees and Doyle are all PEAKS on San Francisco MOUNTAIN-- AZ's highest. Just as Baldy Peak and Mount Ord (not the one on AZ87) are PEAKS on MOUNT Baldy---AZ's 2nd highest.

Monday, August 10, 2015


Coconino National Forest
Wild Bergamot blooms on Navajo Spring Trail

Hiding across the street from the horse corral at the busy recreational hub surrounding Mormon Lake Lodge is a sweet little trail that's packed with interest. If you can get past the multiple distractions near the trailhead (the horses, the cowboys, the saloon, the lake views, the aroma of mesquite), a hike up Navajo Spring Trail offers respite from the commotion and connectivity with the Mormon Lake Lodge Area Recreational Trails (MLL) and Passage 30 of the Arizona Trail (AZT). The hike begins as an easy stroll through meadows and Ponderosa pines. As the trail ascends along a ridge above a drainage, the woodlands get thicker and the chipping squirrels more profuse before it enters a clearing where wire fencing protects aspen seedings from marauding wildlife. Here, just downhill from a prolific spring area, reliable moisture fosters a bevy of wildflowers. Fields of wild bergamot, Mexican silene, wild geranium and red cinquefoil bloom bright in a boot-brushing color mania. Beyond the aspens, a conga line of concrete water troughs arc around the green pastures of Navajo Spring. This is a good turn around spot for an easy day hike, however, for those who want a longer trek, the Arizona Trail and the MLL system are just yards away. Mormon Lake Lodge offers a free trails map for resort guests (also posted here). The map, which  was created by David Babcock, Arizona Trail Association Webmaster/trail steward and Larry Snead, Mormon Lake Lodge Environmental Programs Manager (and former AZT Executive Director), shows the layout of roughly 13 miles of linking routes.
Here's one loop to try: Follow Navajo Springs Trail 1.1 mile to the AZT junction, turn right (north) and continue 1.6 miles to Forest Road 90N (not signed, but it's the first big road intersection). Head right (north east) on FR90N and hike 0.4 mile to the Fakowie Trail (Forest Road 90J), turn right and hike 1.7 miles back to the trailhead following the "lodge" directional signs.
Troughs at Navajo Spring

LENGTH: 2.2 mile up-and-back or 4.8-mile loop
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6,880' - 7,550'
Aspen "nursery" on the Navajo Spring Trail

From the State Routes 87/260 junction in Payson, continue 37 miles north on SR 87 to Lake Mary Road (County Road 3) located just past the village of Clint's Well. Turn left, go 27 miles on CR3, turn left onto Mormon Lake Road ( Forest Road 90) and drive 2 miles to Mormon Lake Lodge. Park in the dirt lot behind the reservation office and horse corral. Hike begins at the Environmental Education Center across the road between the pizzeria and the "National Bank".
INFO: Arizona Trail Association
Mormon Lake Lodge


Monday, August 3, 2015


Rocky Mountain Bee Plant blooms June-September

Flagstaff's Campbell Mesa Trail System is an 11.3-mile maze of 5 loop routes. It's a popular hub for hiking, biking and horseback riding that wanders among pine-oak forests and open meadows north of Walnut Canyon National Monument. Located adjacent to residential communities on the east end of town, the system is a convenient launch site for casual day hikes, dog walks or more ambitious treks through and around the city. Excellent signage throughout and connectivity with the Arizona Trail and the Flagstaff Loop Trail makes for a wide variety of recreational opportunities. One way to sample the beauty of this area is to step out on the Walnut Meadows Trail, connect with Arizona Trail Passage #31 and hike to the edge of Walnut Canyon. The hike begins at the sign just south of the trailhead where it immediately enters a field of sunflowers then passes a Loop Trail post before ducking into the pines. At the 2.4-mile point, pick up the Arizona Trail, which roughly traces the canyon's ragged brim. Within a half-mile, you'll notice tributary gorges opening up on south side of the trail. Then, at the 4-mile mark, Walnut Canyon proper appears as a precipitous gash in the terrain. This makes for a good turnaround point. But, if you're up for a challenge, continue on as the route descends via steep, hairpin twists then climbs up again to make its way to Fisher Point and Sandy's Canyon.
Field of sunflowers viewed from Walnut Meadows Trail

LENGTH: 8 miles (as described here)
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6,363' - 6,882'

Switchbacks on Arizona Trail into Walnut Canyon

From Phoenix, go north on Interstate 17 to the Interstate 40 junction in Flagstaff. Go east (toward Albuquerque) on I 40 to the Country Club Road exit 201. Turn right and go 1 mile south on Country Club Road to Old Walnut Canyon Road (Forest Road 303), turn left and continue 1 mile to the parking lot on the left. Trailhead is locate 300 feet beyond the gate.
Campbell Mesa Trail System
Arizona Trail Passage #31

Monday, July 27, 2015


Apache Sitgreaves National Forest
Aspen Trail #411

Okay Boomers, sing along with me. Signs, signs, everywhere a sign, blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind. Signs, the 1971 protest anthem by the Five Man Electrical Band would make a fair theme song for the Carr Lake Trail System on the Mogollon Rim. That's because there are a bunch of brain-boggling signs on the trails. Although the directional markers do not mimic the song's "evils of conformity" theme, they are a befuddling lot. The trail emblems on the Aspen #411, Carr Lake #412, Boulder Hop #413 and General

A wet meadow on Aspen Trail #411
Crook #140 trails merely indicate where you are instead of where you should go. Forest Service maps of the area are marginally helpful but don't include the complete lay of the land or distances. Perhaps the most telling sign of all is at the trailhead. It suggests you use gps, map and compass to stay on track. For experienced, well-equipped hikers, getting around the Carr Lake System isn't too tough. The routes are tagged with diamond or chevron-shaped tree markers and most (but not all) junctions are well-signed. Novice trekkers could easily loose their bearings. However, with sound preparation, exploring the coniferous woodlands and wildflower-splattered meadows of this high county hiking hub is worth the extra effort.
Here's a narrative for one long loop option using the Aspen and General Crook Trails:
From the "ABC" sign at the trailhead, hike 0.2 mile to the General Crook #140/Aspen #411 junction. This is the beginning and end spot for the loop. Go right on #411. At 1.3 miles, where the Boulder Hop Trail #413 goes left, continue straight ahead on trail #411. Tricky move---where the trail meets an unsigned road at mile 1.7, turn left, hike a few yards and pick up the faint trail on the left. At the 2.5-mile point, there's a sign marking the junction with Carr Lake Trail #412. (This is a good turnaround point for a casual day hike). Go right and follow the trail (it transitions into a primitive 2-track road) to the 3.1-mile point where sign posts mark a sharp left turn.
At 5.7 miles, make another hard left at a somewhat confusing double arrow tree marker. The General Crook Trail #140 junction appears at the 6.3-mile point and is marked by white chevrons tacked to trees. From this point, continue hiking straight ahead following the chevrons. Over the next 3.4 miles, you'll encounter five more signed junctions---just follow General Crook back to the trailhead.
A typical junction sign
LENGTH: 9.7 mile loop
RATING: easy hiking, difficult route finding
ELEVATION: 7,105' - 7,881'
Chevrons and diamonds mark the trails

From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go 29 miles east on SR 260 to Rim Road (Forest Road 300, signed for Woods Canyon Lake). Turn left, go 5.2 miles and turn left at the Carr Trailhead sign (Forest Road 9350) and continue 0.1 mile to the trailhead.

Friday, July 24, 2015



Holbert Trail at South Mountain Park
Mark your calendars for the 11th edition of the Phoenix Summit Challenge. This non-competitive day of mountain hiking (formerly known as the Seven Summits of Phoenix) will be held on Saturday, November 14th, 2015, followed by the URock Celebration at South Mountain Park that evening. Registration will open SATURDAY AUGUST 8, 2015, so it's time to start training and forming your team.  Routes are already posted on the City of Phoenix website.
Here's the link for information and sign up:

Monday, July 13, 2015


Rogers Lake County Natural Area
View of Rogers Lake from the Gold Digger Trail

Located 10 miles south of Flagstaff, Rogers Lake County Natural Area is a 2,250-acre, high-elevation wetland within the Colorado Plateau Region. Since its acquisition in 2010 by Coconino County, the site is being managed for the protection of wildlife habitat, preservation of rare native plants, environmental education and scientific research while allowing for low-impact, non-motorized recreation. Two trails for hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use are in the final stages of construction.
The Gold Digger Trail is a 4-mile, single track path that makes a rocky climb on the foothills around Woody Ridge Wildlife Corridor. Although the trail itself is complete and open to the public, the trailhead, map kiosk, bike rack and metal route markers will be finished up this fall. The 2-Spot Trail, which makes a 2-mile loop near the edge of the ephemeral wetlands will be anchored by a wildlife viewing platform when completed later this year. As sustainability is a core objective for the site, recycled engineer mix and asphalt from ADOT and Flagstaff construction projects are being used to build the trails and parking areas. Another example of this goal appears halfway up the Gold Digger trail in the form of a shade ramada and picnic table made of repurposed timber and a roof that harvests rainwater for birds. Major junction trail markers are already in place, but the balance will not be installed until later this year, so, trekkers must pay attention to stay on track. Although the route is obvious to the experienced hiker's eye, there are a few of things to keep in mind. First, the trail is 100% single track. Where the route meets forest roads, it crosses them---you are never hiking on roads. Next, where wildflowers grow into the path, stop and scope out the trail ahead---you'll see it. And finally, at the ramada, the trail picks up south of the structure, to the left of the road.
While hiking here, you'll enjoy cool pine-oak woodlands with magnificent views and ample opportunity to view wildlife. Please be respectful of this sensitive terrain. Travel quietly, leave no trace and obey all posted regulations.
Bill Williams Mountain can be seen from the trail's high point

LENGTH: 5.1-mile loop
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6,878' - 7,650'
DOGS: must be on leash
HOURS: day-use only, no camping
The ramada on Gold Digger Trail

From Flagstaff, go 1.9 miles west on Route 66 to Woody Mountain Road (Forest Road 231), turn left and continue 6.5 miles south to the big Rogers Lake Country Natural Area sign. Continue 1.3 miles past the sign to the trailhead. Parking lot is on the right (west) side of the road and the trail begins at the green gate on the left (east) side (N 35 08.220 W 111 47.239). From the trailhead, hike roughly 50 yards to where 3 metal posts mark the loop junction. Go right for Gold Digger. At the 4-mile point, go left at a post to complete the hike on the east leg of the 2-Spot Loop Trail.
An additional trailhead located at 0.4-mile past the Rogers Lake sign will provide access to the 2-Spot Trail.
Woody Mountain Road is washboard-rough but passable by sedan.
INFO & RULES: Coconino County Parks and Recreation