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 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


Volunteers needed for new Maricopa Trail Stewardship Program

Everybody's favorite outdoor equipment store has just gifted one of the Valley's most epic trail projects.
Recreational Equipment Inc. (better known as REI), has awarded the Maricopa Trail and Park Foundation with a $15,000 grant to help fund the recruitment and professional training of volunteer trail stewards. And, that's where YOU come in.
Stewards will take on super-advocacy roles in partnership with the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department's Adopt-A-Trail program. Once trained, stewards will serve in leadership capacity in on-going trail maintenance work and environmental sustainability support. This is an opportunity to be part of one of the biggest and best trail-building efforts in the Greater Phoenix Area. The 310-mile, Valley-circumnavigating Maricopa Trail already connects ten county regional parks, and as it continues to evolve, it will eventually link to surrounding communities like Wickenburg, Buckeye and Cave Creek providing a contiguous, non-motorized recreational corridor for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.
Although approximately 70 percent of the trail is finished, the push is on to complete the gaps by 2017. This is a tall order and your help is needed to make it happen. You don't have to be a muscle-bound construction worker type to contribute. Whether you prefer to pull a rake, wield hedge clippers, organize events or run the sign-in table for hordes of enthusiastic sweat hogs, your skills can benefit the effort.  Sign up today!
Questions: Kim Richard, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Volunteer Coordinator,
928-501-9212 or ParkVolunteers@mail.maricopa.gov
Online volunteer application:
Maricopa Trail Maps:
Follow Maricopa Trail on Facebook:
Maricopa Trail and Park Foundation:

Monday, July 6, 2015


Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area
The solar oasis is a popular stop on Spur Cross Ranch hikes

With the Valley now fully saturated in triple-digit temperatures, some hikers (you, perhaps?) are having difficulty wrangling enough motivation to hit the trails. Necessary early starts to beat the heat, lack of company or aversion to making long drives to the cooler climes of Arizona's high country are common excuses for July-August hiking slumps. However, there is an easy solution for summer trekking doldrums: the hiking events at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area in Cave Creek. Located just 30 miles north of Phoenix where a combination of slightly higher elevations and mountain breezes make for cooler temperatures, the conservation area has seven miles of non-motorized-use trails that wind through a wide variety of terrains and historical sites.
Led by Ranger Kevin Smith, event hikes are presented in an interactive, learn-as-you-walk format. Hikes cover topics such as getting to know the area, riparian biomes, edible plants, geology and prehistoric cultures. A favorite among adults and kids alike are the full moon and nighttime flashlight/ black light tours. Many desert critters are most active after dark and there's always a high probability of reptile, mammal and raptor sightings with fluorescent scorpion exposures to boot.
Here's a partial list of upcoming hikes:
Saturday, July 11: Fruits of the Desert. Harvest saguaro fruits!
Friday, July 17: Exploring the Dragonfly Trail. Hike in a desert oasis and see a rock art gallery.
Saturday, July 18: Life Along the Creek. Amazing plant and animal discoveries.
Saturday, August 29: Full Moon Hike. This must-do, desert classic runs from 7:30-9:30 p.m..

A California King Snake sighting 

Morning hikes begin at 7 a.m. and last roughly 3 hours.
FEE: $3 per person. Free for ages under 16. Bring exact change for self-serve pay station.
REGISTRATION: not required, just show up on time.
Guided hikes are held weekly at Spur Cross Ranch

44000 N. Spur Cross Road, Cave Creek.
From the intersection of Carefree Highway and Cave Creek Road head north on Cave Creek Road about 2.5 miles to Spur Cross Road. Turn north for approximately 4.5 miles to the public parking area. After 3 miles the road turns to all-weather graded. The last 1.5 miles can be confusing; continue north on the graded road past the green house, through the tall gateposts and on past the horse corrals to the signed public parking area on the right.
INFO: Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

Monday, June 29, 2015


Apache Sitgreaves National Forest
Ponderosa pines shade the trail

Sardine Trail #536 is an unsung hero within the Willow Springs Lake area trail system. Over its 2.5-mile length, it acts as a recreational super highway connecting the popular 7.6-mile Willow Springs Bike Loop with campsites and myriad routes debarking from four trailheads around Willow Springs Lake. This shaded route is mostly used as a transit corridor by mountain bikers linking loop trail hubs and by anglers toting poles to the lake's secluded coves. Well-marked by bright orange diamonds, the trail roughly parallels State Route 260. Although mild traffic noise is ever present, the fact that this path stays close to heavily traveled roads is a comfort to those looking to experience the woodlands and water of the Sitgreaves National Forest without wandering too far from civilization.
One way to explore the virtues of this trail is to begin at the Willow Springs trailhead. From the parking area, cross FR 149 and pick up the trail heading east toward the lake. The hike twists though classic Ponderosa pine forests with glimpses of water peeking through the trees. The trail makes many goose neck turns that can be confusing so be sure to spot the next orange blaze before moving on. Don't let the minor route-finding, towering green canopies and mountain breezes distract you from noticing the overhead display of ospreys gliding on air currents and brilliant blue Stellar's jays squawking in the treetops. The trail's special feature is two rustic footbridges that span drainages where moisture loving wildflowers run amok among an understory of ferns and fragrant patches of clover. Beyond the first bridge, an optional short walk along fisherman's paths leads to a cattail-choked finger cove surrounded by limestone ledges. At the 2-mile point, the trail meets the junction for the 7.6-mile Bike Loop and the Horse Trap Trailhead. Tack on the Loop for an 11.6-mile round trip hike or return the way you came to conclude an easy 4-mile walk in the forest.
Watch for wildlife around Willow Springs Lake

LENGTH: 4 miles or 11.6 miles (as described here)
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION: 7,045' - 7,623' (7,700' with bike loop)
Yellow Columbine blooms Apr.-Sept.
Willow Springs Trailhead:
From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go 29.6 miles east on AZ260 to FR 149 near milepost 283, turn left and continue 0.4 mile to the trailhead on the left. Roads are paved.
Rim Top Trailhead:
From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go east (right) on SR260 to FR300 (Rim Road) located across from the Mogollon Rim Visitor Center and signed for Woods Canyon Lake. Turn left on FR 300 and continue 0.25-mile to the Rim Top trailhead on the right. The hike begins behind the big General Crook Trail sign near the restrooms.
"Footbridge" Trailhead: 
From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go 30.2 miles east on AZ260 to just before milepost 284 and FR148, turn left into the dirt lot marked by a "day use only" sign and a stone wall.
Horse Trap Trailhead:
From the AZ87/260 junction in Payson, go 31 miles east on AZ260 to the Horse Trap trailhead on the right between mileposts 284 and 285 (across from Young-Heber Road).
Black Mesa Ranger District, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest 928-535-7300


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Footbridge at the trailhead

For years, I have driven past this no-name dirt lot on State Route 260 halfway between Payson and Heber, never bothering to stop and find out why all the cars were parked there. Turns out, it's an access point for the 2.5-mile Sardine Trail #536 and a finger cove of Willow Springs Lake. Although it's employed mostly by fishermen; hikers and bikers also use this as an alternate trailhead. Hike or ride less than a mile east to join up with the 7.6-mile Willow Springs Bike Loop, or go 2.2 miles west to Sinkhole Campground and access to Rim Lakes area trails. Or, for a short walk, hike a few yards down to the footbridge and follow the path-of-use 0.2-mile to the lake. It's a handy spot to know about.
Cove on Willow Springs Lake

 From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go 30.2 miles east on AZ260 to just before milepost 284 and FR148, turn left into the dirt lot marked by a "day use only" sign and a stone wall.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

PHOENIX magazine July 2015

Check out these great trails with swimming holes!

ON SALE 6-25-15
Here’s where you can find PHOENIX magazine: Safeway, Fry’s Marketplace, Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Sunflower Markets, Sprouts, Borders, Barnes & Noble, CVS, Walgreens, Sky Harbor Airport, Albertson’s, Fresh & Easy, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target, Whole Foods, Basha’s, A.J.’s, La Grande Orange, The Kitchen, Area hospital gift shops WEB SITE: http://www.phoenixmag.com/ ORDER BY PHONE: 480-664-3960

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Coconino National Forest
Walker Lake fills a volcanic crater

Arizona's own crater lake resides quietly within the eroded innards of a nondescript volcano north of Flagstaff's Hart Prairie.  From a distance, the pine-speckled hill doesn't appear to be anything special.  But a short walk up a closed road turned trail  reveals a shallow lake filling a vent that spewed lava in its former life. The road makes an easy climb to the lip of the crater where it transitions into a footpath that follows the fortress-like rim. The high vantage points offer
fantastic views of the San Francisco Peaks, Kendrick Mountain, White Horse Hills and Hochderffer Hills---volcanos all. Numerous paths also lead down to the ephemeral lake that in summer shrinks to a patchwork of shallow  puddles besieged by clouds of colorful dragonflies.   The crater forms sort of a  wet "meadow in a bowl" fostering acres of wild field mint, daisies, silverweed, and New Mexico vervain as well as a herds of thirsty elk that frequent its reliable watering holes.
View from the crater's rim

LENGTH: 1-2 mile roundtrip
RATING: easy
ELEVATION:  8,060' - 8,511'
Common silverweed 

From Flagstaff, go north on US180 for 19 miles to the northern exit for FR151 (Hart Prairie Road) just past milepost 235.  Turn right and continue 1.6 miles on the good dirt road to FR418.  Turn left and go 0.2 mile to the second road on the left (across from a log cabin).  Go left onto this dirt road (FR9007S), continue 0.2 mile to a roundabout, veer right onto FR9004S (sign is not obvious) and continue to a circular parking area near where FR 9219T heads right.  The trail begins at the “road closed” sign in the northwest end of the parking area. Dirt roads are passable by carefully driven sedans.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Trails are marked with Nordic ski symbols

Conveniently located off State Route 260 near Greer, the Pole Knoll Recreation Area is a year-round destination for outdoor sports. The site's 12 trails combine for 18 miles of both cross-country ski routes in winter and hike-bike-horse paths in summer. Nordic ski symbols mark the trails. Green circles indicate easy trails, blue squares are for moderate and black diamonds mark the most difficult. The trail system loops through a mix of alpine meadows, pine forests and aspen-fir groves. Although most of the trails here offer moderate grades and well-engineered climbs, the diminished oxygen of this high elevation site tends to slow down visitors from the lowlands who may find themselves huffing and puffing even on the easier routes. You may need to suck more air here, but persistence pays off with gorgeous mountain and lake vistas. Having to catch your breath every so often is the perfect excuse to stop and savor views of classic White Mountain peaks like 11,421' Mount Baldy and the 10,133' tower cluttered slopes of Greens Peak---the tallest cinder cone in the Springerville Volcanic Field. (And, yes, you can hike its edge-hugging summit road). Route options include the easy 6.2-mile Pole Knoll Loop that traces the meadowy base of the aspen embellished volcanic hill and the more difficult Summit (2.1 miles) and View Point (1.3 miles) trails that ascend to near the top. Although trails do not go to the actual summit, peak baggers (hikers focused on reaching mountain tops) with GPS skills can easily hike cross country to the high point prize. Whether you trek along the base or trudge high into heavenly hypoxia, this easy to access destination offers a satisfying spectrum of hiking options for all levels of experience.
Aspen, fir, spruce and pine trees shade the trails

LENGTH: 18 miles of interconnected loop trails
RATING: easy-difficult
ELEVATION: 8,700'-9,700'
FACILITIES: restrooms, picnic ramadas
The easy-rated Pole Knoll Loop runs through alpine meadows

From the intersection of State Routes 260/73 in Pinetop-Lakeside (near the Hon-Dah Casino), continue 25 miles east on SR260 to the turn off on the right just beyond milepost 383.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Area mayors and state legislators break ground

Brace yourselves hikers: a new West Valley hiking destination is on schedule to open in November or December 2015. The official groundbreaking ceremony for Skyline Regional Park was held on Wednesday, June 10th. Mayors and state legislators representing surrounding towns and districts
turned the dirt in view of a crowd of outdoor enthusiasts, members of the business community and homeowners from nearby neighborhoods. In addition to the photo opp ceremony, Wild at Heart native bird rescue was
Ceremony display shows the park layout
on hand to release a rehabilitated Red-tailed hawk into her new home.
Located just a half mile north of Interstate 10, the 8,700 acre Buckeye park will initially have 14 miles of non-motorized use trails with more planned as development phases roll out.
Another rich feature of the park will be its connectivity with residential communities, adjacent recreation areas like White Tank Mountains Regional Park and the Greater Phoenix circumnavigating Maricopa Trail.
Construction is officially underway
The entry gate will be located a half-mile north of Interstate 10 on Watson Road (exit 117) in Buckeye.
A Red-tailed hawk is released into the park
INFO: City of Buckeye

Monday, June 8, 2015


White Mountain Grasslands Wildlife Area
Stock pond at White Mountain Grasslands Wildlife Area.

Have you ever wondered where money from the Arizona Lottery ends up? Besides lining the pockets of a few lucky winners, lottery proceeds also support numerous public programs including the Arizona Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund Program for threatened, endangered and sensitive species and their habitats. For the past 20 years the fund has made many positive contributions to the state's wildlife and natural areas conservation efforts while preserving public access and recreational opportunities. One success story is the White Mountain Grasslands Wildlife Area near the town of Eagar. The 2,850-acre site is comprised of two former ranch properties acquired in 1999 and 2000. The 2.6-mile Ocote trail (named for one of the ranches) wraps around pinion-juniper woodlands, riparian habitat, ponds, a wet meadow, open grasslands, an historic log bunkhouse and rustic ranch house with a windmill. Interpretive signs placed long the trails give details about the surrounding plants, animals and the how the property's various ecosystems help wildlife thrive. Although the trail is short and can be hiked in about an hour, a better plan is to allow plenty of time to sit quietly at strategically-placed viewing areas to catch sight of the pronghorn antelope, elk, squirrels, fox and dozens of bird species that inhabit this profoundly diverse slice of White Mountain terrain. While there, kick back at a shady picnic table and contemplate all those bum lottery tickets you've angrily torn up over the years. They weren't losers after all.
Historic buildings grace the property.

LENGTH: 2.6-mile loop
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 7,440' - 7,587'
HOURS: sunrise to sunset daily

From Eagar, travel 5 miles west on State Route 260 to County Road 4128 (signed for Springerville Transfer Station). Turn right and follow the paved road 0.6 mile and take the left fork onto a gravel road. Continue 2.4 miles then turn left at a fork and pass over a cattle guard signed for Arizona Game and Fish Department property. Drive 0.3 mile to the trailhead on the left. Gravel road is suitable for carefully-driven sedans.
A cinder cone and Escudilla Mountain on the horizon.

INFO: Arizona Game and Fish Department
About the Heritage Fund:

Monday, June 1, 2015


Kaibab National Forest
Spring Valley Tank with Kendrick Mountain in the distance.

By time the Sitgreaves Complex Fire swept through the woodlands north of Parks, it was 98 years overdue. Nearly a century of unbridled vegetation growth coupled with drought years had created tinderbox conditions and the forest was ready for a good cleansing. So, when a lightning strike near Sitgreaves Mountain on July 13, 2014 ignited layers of forest litter, fire managers used the incident to effectively treat 11,080 acres of unhealthy land. All but 53 acres of the blaze burned at low-to-moderate levels of severity, creeping along the
Meadow on the Eagle Rock Loop.
ground taking out brush and small trees thus reducing the likelihood of future devastating fires. What was left behind by the fire is a patchwork of forest conditions that benefit wildlife habitats and promote diversity of forest resources.
The site is being rehabilitated and can be explored via the Spring Valley Cross-Country Ski Trails that pass near and through the  footprints of both this event and also the 2010 Eagle Rock Fire. Roughly a third of the 8-mile RS Hill and Eagle Rock Loop system has been impacted by fire. The trailhead is intact as are the first couple of miles, but halfway through the Eagle Rock leg, the trail enters the first of a mosaic of burn sites. As would be expected, heavy damage to the trails requires stepping over snags and dodging scoured gullies. Thankfully, new signs clearly mark the route. Hiking here involves leap-frogging from marker-to-post-to-tree-blaze, so be sure to sight the next sign before proceeding. In between the charred patches, pine seedlings have been planted and fences installed to protect aspen sprouts from browsing elk. Two beautiful stock tanks, plus views of Kendrick Mountain the San Francisco Peaks and the moist green fields of Spring Valley augment this trip through the genesis of a healthier high country forest.
The 2010 Eagle Rock Fire burned parts of the trails.

LENGTH: 8 miles per the forest service map. Our gps readings measured 8.8 miles for the two loops.
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 7160' - 7893'
Pine seedlings in protective cones on the RS Hill Loop.
Fences protect newborn aspen trees.

From the Interstate 17/40 junction in Flagstaff, travel 15 miles west on I-40 to the Parks exit #178. Go 0.2 mile, turn right at a stop sign and continue 0.2 mile to a second stop sign on Old Route 66. Turn left, drive 0.6 mile to Spring Valley Road (CR 141), turn right and go 5.5 miles to the trailhead on the left signed for Sanderson Pass Road and FR787B. Roads are paved and sedan-friendly cinder.
INFO: Williams Ranger District, Kaibab National Forest, 928-635-5600