Monday, August 18, 2014



Crossing of Porter Creek

Of all the wonderful routes in the White Mountain Trail System, Ice Cave Trail #608 is a hiker favorite.
Known for its easy tread and cool, pine-juniper forests, the trail's big attraction is the eponymous lava tube located mid-way along the path.  Because of its popularity, the trailhead fills up quickly, which is why the Osprey Connector #636C is gaining recognition as an alternative access route. A relatively new addition to the 25 trails within the system, this one was built to link the Timber Mesa and Blue Ridge Mountain clusters of trails.  But to view this woodland traipse as just a means to an end is to miss the point---it holds its own as a standalone hike. Passing through the gorge and surrounding wetlands of Porter Creek, the trail makes a steppingstone-assisted water crossing before ascending along the ridgeline above Scott Reservoir. 
However, as visiting the White Mountain ice cave is a hiking itch that must be scratched, here's how to use this route to get to the prize. Begin by hiking 0.5-mile on the Timber Mesa Trail #636, turn right onto the Osprey Connector and follow it 2.5 miles to the Ice Cave Trail junction.  From here, it's 0.5-mile to the cave.  Despite the hype, (and to the chagrin of many hikers) the cave itself is little more than a glorified sinkhole--with no ice. The forest service has fenced off the cave for preservation (the gate has been open on all my visits) and it's smart to avoid climbing into the potentially dangerous abyss.

Scott Reservoir viewed from Osprey Connector

LENGTH: 7 miles roundtrip to the cave and back
RATING: easy
ELEVATION:  6350' - 6890'

Trail signs correspond with online maps

In Pinetop-Lakeside, go south on AZ260 (White Mountain Blvd.) to the Porter Mountain Road traffic light at milepost 350.  Turn left and continue 2.2 miles to the Timber Mesa trailhead or 2.4 miles to additional parking at a gate along the road. Parking at the gate cuts 2 miles off the roundtrip distance.

INFO: Pinetop-Lakeside TRACKS


Thursday, August 14, 2014



Pumphouse Wash

Seven miles south of Flagstaff along Interstate 17, Pumphouse Meadow near Kachina Village harbors family-friendly hiking trails. You've probably whizzed right by it on your way back from a mountain retreat or even stopped at the off ramp gas station. So, next time, why not stay awhile and take a walk on the easy paths that explore this 128-acre wetland habitat at the headwaters of Oak Creek Canyon, a major tributary of the Verde River.   Spring-fed Pumphouse Wash can be toured via the 0.75-mile, Pinon Trail.  Enhanced with stone viewing blinds and interpretive signs describing the ecosystem and its resident flora and fauna, the dirt path is hidden under the cover of pines on a bluff above the wash, to optimize wildlife viewing opportunities.  Patient hikers can expect to see fox, waterfowl, raptors, elk, lizards and countless other birds and mammals. Additionally, the site has a barrier-free walkway leading to an artfully crafted platform with a viewing scope.  Restrooms, water, ball fields and shaded picnic ramadas at adjacent Raymond County Park add comfort to the journey whether enjoyed as a short detour or daylong outing.
Viewing blind
LENGTH: 0.75-mile one-way
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6720'-6740'

Viewing platform

From Flagstaff, travel 7 miles south on I17 to the Kachina Village exit 333.  Turn right onto Kachina Blvd., continue less than a mile to Kachina Trail, turn right and go a short distance to the parking lot at Raymond County Park on the right. Hike down to the viewing platform and pick up the footpath heading northwest.
Restrooms, water, picnic tables
INFO: Coconino County Parks & Recreation
Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience

Monday, August 11, 2014


BNSF trains pass by about every 15 minutes

The multi-faceted hiking network of the Flagstaff Urban Trails System (FUTS) is the perfect complement to the hundreds of miles of wilderness and national forest trails surrounding the city.
FUTS (say, "foots") uses sidewalks, gravel roads and dirt single tracks for a seamless web of hiking/biking routes that link in-town strolls and meanders through suburban wetlands to more rigorous peripheral trails. Although many of the system's offerings appeal to those looking for a quick way to burn some energy without having to drive miles to a trailhead, several routes located at the
urban-woodland interface mimic the feel of more remote locations.  Tunnel Springs Trail is sort of a city-rural-wildland hybrid hike melding the convenience of easy access just off busy Route 66 with a moderate climb through Ponderosa pine forests.  Passing under and above BNSF railroad tracks, the trail's companion cacophony of metal-on-metal screeching and mournful freight car rumbling is the hike's signature characteristic. The clamor of wailing rails fades as the trail ascends Observatory Mesa along a smooth, gravel road.
Trail signs are few and unmarked crossroads can cause confusion. Here's the plan. From the trailhead, follow the walkway between the private homes down to a road paralleling the railroad tracks.  Turn left here, pass through the tunnel and veer left again. Pass a gate and go right to stay on the widest road heading uphill. At the green tanks (Lowell Tanks), go left and continue to another gate at the (unsigned) Mars Hill Trail junction. Return the way you came or continue 1.6 miles to Thorpe Park.

View from Observatory Mesa

LENGTH: 1.9 miles one-way
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 7014' - 7404'

From Flagstaff, travel west on Route 66 to Railroad Springs Blvd. (just before mile post 194,Chevron station on corner), turn right and go 0.4-mile to a "T" intersection with Adirondack Ave. The trail begins on a path between two residences directly ahead. Park along the street.

City of Flagstaff
F.U.T.S. Map:

Friday, August 8, 2014


Coconino County

San Francisco Peaks

During summer monsoon season, mornings at Rogers Lake County Natural Area are heralded by veil-like strands of mist exhaling from the San Francisco Peaks like a great smoking giant awakening at the edge of sprawling acres of blooming calliopsis daisies. This dreamy scene rewards early bird hikers at the pastoral 2,250-acre site located 10 miles southwest of Flagstaff. More than half of the area is a boggy wetland where vividly-colored daisies, lupines, paintbrush, vetch, butter and eggs, wild mint and penstemons competing for territory in the loamy soil splatter shocks of "natural graffiti"
across an expansive high-altitude meadow. The "lake" vacillates from a post-snowmelt season crystalline reflecting pond to a patchwork of soggy, dog day puddles.
Despite the dubious water, the surrounding land is a hiking destination in the midst of its adolescent growth spurt. The property was acquired by Coconino County in 2010 with the goal of preserving its significant wildlife habitats and cultural sites while adding recreational opportunities.
Existing dirt roads, an abandoned railroad bed and meandering social trails can be used for hours of exploring. To minimize impact to the sensitive terrain, stick to these established paths. Future plans for the area include the building of developed trailheads, 6-miles of trails, wildlife viewing platforms and connecting paths to Fort Tuthill County Park.  Numerous parking aprons along Woody Mountain Road provide easy access.  I like to one where there's a dirt road leading to a sunny clearing with views of the peaks and the beginnings of tantalizing new trail construction piggy backing on the abandoned rail bed.  Although there's plenty to enjoy here right now, the anticipation of a formal trail system will stoke interest in this exciting new hiking destination.

LENGTH: 6 miles planned
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 7255' - 7275'

From Flagstaff, go west on Route 66 to Woody Mountain Road (FR231), turn left and continue 7.7 miles south to a dirt road on the left signed, "no camping". There are additional access points at the 6.5 and 7.9-mile points near the big signs.

INFO: Coconino County

Monday, July 28, 2014


Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, Cave Creek
Photo of a 2010 flood in Cave Creek
The Jewel of the Creek could use a good flood.  So says Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area Ranger Kevin Smith. It's been four years since the last deluge purged the bumper crop of plants and invasive species like crawfish that have taken root in the hiatus. Although this opportunistic  thicket of willowy shoots and swaying cattails resembles a lush tropical jungle, the pressure it puts on water resources is not so healthy for the ecosystem.  Who knew? This is just one of the enlightening topics covered in Ranger Smith's 2.5-hour "Life Along the Creek" guided hikes.
A satisfying retreat for urban-centric and   destination hikers alike, the county park straddles an emerald gorge of riparian opulence along Cave Creek. Known as the Jewel of the Creek, this cloistered oasis in the desert is managed by Desert Foothills Land Trust and is on high rotation for ranger-led events, especially in summer when cooler, early morning air and cottonwood shade offers welcome relief for heat-weary hikers. Although the beauty of this place is obvious, the rare and fragile site holds many secrets. Guided hikes reveal features that the casual trekker may walk right by without noticing. Ranger Smith uses archival photos and a deep knowledge of the area's natural history to point out remnants of the area's gold-mining heritage, ecological concerns, edible legumes, indigenous animal species and plants with super survival strategies. 
The Jewel of the Creek

Although ranger-led hikes offer extra safety and opportunities to gain knowledge about the desert wilds surrounding Metro Phoenix, it's important to remember to bring ample water and wear sun protection--hat, light weight long sleeves, SPF 30+ and sturdy footwear.
How much water do you need to bring on a hike? John C. Lincoln Health Network* offers these hydration tips.  Before hitting the trails, drink 16-20 ounces of water and then consume 6-10 ounces of fluid every 10-20 minutes while walking. So, for a 2-hour, easy hike, you'll need a minimum of 36-60 ounces of fluid (that's 2 to 4, 16 oz. bottles). You'll need even more during the heat of the day and when on strenuous trails. When in doubt--bring more water than you think you'll need.  You can always hand off your extra to a poor, dehydrated soul who didn't bring enough.
Ranger Smith talks about area mining history

GETTING THERE: 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 parking area.  The last 1.5 miles can be confusing; continue north on the graded dirt road past the green house, through the tall gateposts and on past the horse corrals to the signed parking area on the right.
FEE: $3 daily fee per person (exact change required)
FACILITIES: restrooms
The Jewel of the Creek

INFO: Maricopa County Parks & Recreation, 480-488-6601
Desert Foothills Land Trust
*John C. Lincoln Health Network

Friday, July 25, 2014


Registration opens Saturday, August 2 at 10:30 a.m.

The Phoenix Summit Challenge offers a series of challenges to hike to the top of peaks throughout Phoenix's desert preserves. Hikers can choose from Four, Five and Seven Summit events, which all are $75 and the All Access Challenge on the city's accessible trails, which  is $35. Registration opens on Aug. 2 at 10:30 a.m. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


View from the High Point Trail

After barely escaping the ravages of the 2011 Wallow Fire, Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area lives on as a family-friendly nature discovery destination.  Just over 5 miles of groomed hiking trails take visitors through the property's diverse landscape of wetlands, high-elevation pinion-juniper woodlands and rolling grasslands. A good way to get an overview of area’s conservation efforts is to hike the 1-mile High Point Trail, which loops up to the site's zenith.  Here, a 20x spotting scope provides enhanced vision for critter peeping and gasping at the hulking dome of 10,912-foot Escudilla Mountain.  In addition to its animal-haven benefits and "selfie"-worthy viewpoints, the site is also home to Rudd Creek Pueblo, an abandoned 13th-century village. Archeological digs have uncovered a plethora of artifacts and tantalizing insight to the culture and technologies of the ancestral Pueblo people who lived here for nearly 75 years. Interpretive signs along the route explain some of the research and samples of intricately painted pottery and hunting tools found at the pueblo are on display in the visitor center.  Sadly, the preserve’s Old Nelson Homestead succumbed to the fire, but the meadow-swaddled trail leading to the charred foundation is open for exploration.

Escudilla Mountain on the horizon

High Point Trail: 1-mile loop (moderate)
Rudd Creek Loop: 3 miles (easy)
Homestead Trail: 1.5 miles (easy)
Trinity Trail: 300 yards (barrier-free)
ELEVATION: 7625’ – 7836’

From Eagar, travel 2 miles south on US191/180 to the signed turn off on the right at milepost 405.  Follow the maintained dirt access road five miles to the parking area.  The road is sedan-friendly, however there is one section that floods during period of heavy rain. The property has a visitor center with restrooms, water, picnic tables, educational displays and friendly site hosts. The center is open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., from mid-May through mid-October.  In-season hunting is allowed on the property. No fees.

INFO: Arizona Game & Fish Department,

Monday, July 21, 2014


Arizona Trail Happy Jack Passage #29
Forest near Bargaman Park

On the Mogollon Rim near Happy Jack, a loose-knit web of dirt roads connects stock tanks, ephemeral lakes, and a smattering of private ranches. Here, the Arizona Trail has incorporated some of these tracks into its state-traversing journey.   Book-ended by recreational sites around Mormon Lake and C.C. Cragin Reservoir (a.k.a. Blue Ridge), ample trail signs keep hikers on track where footpaths and vehicle ways collide and diverge in this deeply-wooded, 30-mile respite from the commotion of campgrounds and RV parks.  Easy to follow and mostly flat, Passage #29 of the Arizona Trail can be accessed via two major trailheads  (Gooseberry Spring and AZ87), but for those looking for an alternative way to day hike among the moss-humid springs and murky watering holes that populate the passage's mid-section, the lesser-known Pine Spring trailhead is the best port of entry.
A bevy of stock tanks situated around the circular depression of meadows known as Bargaman Park are located within a few miles of the trailhead.  Ringed with water-loving plants like the delicate water buttercup, the tanks are wildlife magnets. Rough-hewn hunter blinds built along their banks provide cover for camera-stalking hikers on the lookout for elk, deer, coyotes and the occasional black bear. For a quick 4.6-mile, out-and-back hike, head southeast to Wild Horse Tank, or go northwest to visit Shuffs and Maxie Tanks for a 13.8-mile exploration. Maps available on   show the route with all its points of interest.
Wild Horse Tank

LENGTH: 30.7 miles one-way
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6702' - 7616'

Pine Spring Trailhead (as described here):
From Payson, go north on AZ87 to Lake Mary Road (FR3) just north of Clints Well.  Turn left and go 14.4 miles north on FR3 to milepost 305 and turn right onto FR294.  Continue 4.8 miles on FR294 miles to FR 135 (just before a cattle guard) turn right and go 100 feet to the trailhead on the right.

AZ87 Trailhead:
From the AZ87/260 junction north of Pine-Strawberry, travel 19.5 miles north on AZ87 to FR138 (signed Moqui Campground), turn right and go 100 yards to the trailhead on the left.

Shuffs Tank

Meadow near Pine Spring
Gooseberry Spring Trailhead:
From Payson, go north on AZ87 to Lake Mary Road (FR3) just north of Clints Well.  Continue 21.1 miles on FR 3 to milepost 312.2 turn right (east) onto a gated dirt road for Gooseberry Spring (FR 935) and drive 100 yards to the signed parking area on the right. 

INFO: Arizona Trail Association


Fay Fire: 7 p.m., May 20 update (final for this evening)

Flagstaff, Ariz. – The Fay Fire, reported just before 4 p.m. today, is located approximately 4 miles northwest of Sedona in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness area of Fay Canyon.

The fire’s progression to the north and west is slow and the most active parts of the fire remain in the south and east sections.  Smoke is moving in a northwest direction and combining with smoke from the Willard Fire—a fire between Oak Creek Canyon and I-17 being managed for resource purposes.  Smoke from both fires is visible from Sedona, Flagstaff, surrounding communities and people driving on I-17, State Routes 89, 89A and 179.

Size: Approximately 25 acres.

Containment: 0%

Location: Originated in Fay Canyon, approximately 4 miles northwest of Sedona.

Date Reported: Sunday, July 20 at 3:41 p.m.

Cause: Single engine aircraft crash. Four fatalities have been reported. The Forest Service does not have any details in regards to reasons why the aircraft went down or what type of aircraft it was.

Fuels: Pinyon-juniper, heavy brush and mixed conifer.

Resources Currently on Scene: Approximately 30 personnel including two helicopters, two engines, one fuels crew and Sedona Fire. 

Resources Planned for Tomorrow: One hotshot crew and three helicopters.

Closures: Fay Canyon Trailhead is closed at this time.

Evacuations: None.

Structures Threatened:  None.

Injuries Reported:  None.

Monday, July 14, 2014


Little Colorado River

A short, meandering stretch of the Little Colorado River is a better place thanks to the introduction of coconut matting and recycled Christmas trees.
These biodegradable materials are just two of the many tools being used by conservation agencies (Arizona Game & Fish Department, Apache Natural Resource Conservation District, USDA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Arizona Dept. of Water Resources and Arizona Water Protection Fund) to restore riverbank stability and inprove wildlife
Footbridge river traverse
habitats. Project managers are quick to conceed that some of these rehabilitative practices are more successful than others, leaving the verdits up to visiting hikers who can draw conclusions based on interpretive singage placed along the experimental test grounds. The biodegradable mats and trees augered into the riverbank are hardly noticable and are slowing down erosion to help reinstate the river's natural flows for a healthier riparian ecosystem. A robust community of water-loving bullrush, grasses and showy milkweed at the water's edge have taken root in the mesh of introduced materials. This is providing shelter for nesting waterfowl and ample building supplies for busy beavers. In fact, so many birds visit the area that the site has been designated as an Important Bird Area by Audubon Arizona . One shady section of the 1.2-mile, streamside hiking trail exhibits the sun-dappled ambience of a Monet garden replete with water-caressing willows and a wooden footbridge. Where the path enters the surrounding floodplain and open rangeland, it becomes easy to see how precious this ribbon of moisture is to sustaining life in the White Mountains.
Although this close-to-town, short hike isn't likely to get you into your target heart rate zone, it's educational value and profound beauty makes it a worthwhile diversion---coconut mats and all.
View of Springerville's Coyote Hills on horizon

LENGTH: 1.2 miles one-way
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6920' - 6945'
From Springerville, go 1 mile west on US60 (Main Street) to the parking area on the left.

INFO: Arizona Game & Fish Department, 928-367-4281

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Beavertail Trail

Within the deeply incised Little Colorado River canyon, Wenima Wildlife Area protects the biodiversity of a scenic 2.5-mile strip of property encompassing three types of ecosystems.
Managed by Arizona Game & Fish to provide essential habitat for native wildlife, the 357-acre site includes riparian stream corridor, upland pinion-juniper grasslands and open pastures.  Two easy trails paralleling the stream are outfitted with interpretive signs and convenient rest areas with benches.  Beavertail Trail heads north through a lush jungle of willow arbors,
Beavertail Trail
house-high grasses, groves of walnut trees and hop-vine-laced brambles before culminating at an old cabin beneath soaring basalt bluffs. Powerhouse Trail winds south exploring a more arid upland habitat of rugged cliffs, creek side grape vines and beaver-built pools where the threatened Little Colorado spinedace fish dart like silver bullets. The ruins of an abandoned native stone shed, pipes and dam equipment mark the end of the route. The property’s surrounding meadows and forests also are open to hunting, fishing and off-trail hiking making for an eclectic mix of public recreational opportunities.
Powerhouse Trail

Beavertail Trail: 2.5 miles one-way
Powerhouse Trail: 1.2 miles one-way
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6700’ – 6800’
From Springerville, travel 2 miles northwest on US60 to the US180/191 junction. From here, continue 0.25-mile north on 180/191, turn right onto Hooper Ranch Road and continue 1.5 miles to the parking area. Access road is sedan-friendly gravel and there are restrooms at the trailhead. The area is open daily from sunrise to sunset.  No fees.  The trails are located 0.2-mile farther up the road from the trailhead.  Beavertail Trail is on the left before the bridge and Powerhouse Trail is on the right past the bridge.
Wildflower meadows

Powerhouse Trail
INFO: Arizona Game & Fish Department

Monday, June 30, 2014


Howard Draw-Priest Draw Loop

Pleasant hiking with side show attractions

Holy bat cave--shared use forest trails don't get more interesting than this one.
Well known as a world-class destination for the sport of bouldering, Howard and Priest Draws are side-by-side shallow canyons with a yawning meadow in the middle. Cavernous limestone bluffs with cantilevered overhangs, slabby shelves, cracks and fist-sized depressions anchor both draws---a perfect topography for the nimble climbers who dangle from the stone like acrobatic bats.
In my experiences, the climbers don't mind spectators as long as they keep a respectful and safe distance as the climbers work on their "problems". On my visit, a couple of them struck up a conversation with me and answered my (albeit ignorant) questions like "How do you do that?" (Uh, you just do it.) And "What are those folding mattresses called?" (Crash pads.  Duh.).  Even on busy weekends when dozens of  "bat people" clamor for choice rock, the commotion is absorbed in scattered pockets of solitude where the trails meander among pine woodlands, aspen fringes and flower-speckled seas of hip-high forbs. 
Although directional signage is non-existent, trodden and true footpaths are simple to follow.
From the parking area, head right, descend a series of steps and hike 1.5 miles through Priest Draw to a path taking off on the left near FR235A.  Follow this track 0.7 mile to a T-junction, turn left and hike 1.6 miles though Howard Draw back to the trailhead.
A choice bouldering "problem"

LENGTH: 3.8-mile loop
RATING: easy
ELEVATION:  6830' - 6880'
Limestone closeup

From Flagstaff go south on Lake Mary Road (FR3) to Crimson Road which is on the right just past the Canyon Vista Campground turnoff.  Turn right onto Crimson and then make an immediate left onto CR132.  Continue 3 miles on CR132 to a dirt road on the right, signed "Priest Draw parking area". Follow this rough dirt road (FR238) 0.3-mile to the trailhead.  Day use only.  No fees. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Coconino National Forest has announced plans to close to ALL public access areas of Oak Creek Canyon that have been affected by the Slide Fire. In addition to campgrounds and trails already closed, most of the forest in Oak Creek Canyon up to and including the switchbacks on AZ89A will be off limits begining on July 7, 2014 or with the onset of the monsoons.  Flooding, mudslides and unstable snags are of major concern. 

The following areas are currently closed due to the Slide Fire Closure Area:
  • A.B. Young Trail #100
  • Banjo Bill Picnic Site
  • Bootlegger Picnic Area
  • Call of the Canyon Picnic Site
  • Cave Springs Campground
  • Halfway Picnic Site
  • Pine Flat Campground
  • West Fork #108
  • Other trails (not mentioned here but that are in the closure area): Harding Springs, Thomas Point, Cookstove, Wilson Mountain, Sterling Pass, Jim Thompson and Casner Canyon.

Monday, June 23, 2014


A petroglyph panel in Picture Canyon

Vociferous flocks of waterfowl and warblers are just a few of the more than 150 species of birds that   inhabit the wetlands of Flagstaff's Rio de Flag.  A favorite destination for birdwatchers, Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve is a 477.8-acre, city-owned property along the Rio undergoing habitat restoration, which will return the site to a more natural and sustainable condition.  This section of the Rio--located in Flagstaff's industrial east side--is fed by effluent discharge from the Wildcat Hill Wastewater Treatment Plant. The shallow stream drifts through pine-bolstered riparian greenery before tumbling over the vertical volcanic rock walls of Picture Canyon in a series of cascades that can be viewed from lookout areas along the rim.   Restoration plans include proposed recreational trails to complement the existing state-traversing Arizona Trail and 44-mile city-circumnavigating Flagstaff Loop Trail, both of which cut through the property, adding to the site's potential as a major hiking destination.
Waterfalls in the canyon
In addition to its wildlife habitat and geological significance, petroglyphs (the "pictures") and other evidence of ancient Sinaguan inhabitants are peppered throughout the corridor.
Although the Arizona Trail is signed, most of the other roads and paths within the preserve are not. This makes finding your way around the roughly 6-miles of hike-able dirt roads and paths somewhat of a challenge. To help with navigation, a map kiosk at the trailhead provides an overview of the layout and landmark beacons Mt. Elden and Sheep Hill to the east and Wildcat Hill on the southwest can be used to find your bearings.   Even with miles of trails and wildlife viewing opportunities, it's the "pictures” that most people come to see.  Here's the quickest way to get to them for a 2-mile round trip hike.
From the trailhead, hike on the main road trail and stay straight at the first fork. Go right at a second fork located past the gas plant near a "246" sign  and continue to where the Arizona Trail crosses the road. Turn right here and hike on the AZT to a 4-way junction just before a wooden bridge.  Go left here to reach the rock art gallery.  As with all cultural sites, artifacts should not be disturbed.

Rio de Flag

LENGTH: up to 6 miles
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6630' - 6766'

Flagstaff's only waterfall

From downtown Flagstaff, travel 5 miles east on Old Route 66 (a.k.a. Santa Fe) to El Paso Flagstaff, turn left and continue 1 mile to the trailhead on the right. Roads are 100% paved.  No fees.
Arizona Trail passes through the site

City of Flagstaff
Preserve Facebook page:
Friends of the Rio de Flag:


Monday, June 16, 2014


West Clear Creek Wilderness

A tributary of West Clear Creek, Clover Creek trickles through a pristine, green canyon on the Mogollon Rim. The route is a primitive path weaving back-and-forth across the shallow stream as it drifts through berry-laden brambles, willows and alders. When warmed by the sun (or trampled by the resident cattle) meadows of clover exhale an earthy-sweet perfume into the air, soothing the senses and attracting swarms of honeybees. To add physical challenge to this otherwise effortless hike, a campfire-stained cave tucked high into a
canyon wall makes for a short but steep side trip. This densely-wooded, secluded area was recently selected for “wilderness rehabilitation”, which means several old access roads were blocked off to aid in the recovery of the riparian corridor. So, when visiting this verdant canyon, be sure to tread lightly, leave what you find and yield the right of way to wildlife and resurgent vegetation.

LENGTH: 5 miles roundtrip
ELEVATION: 6,700 – 6,800 feet

From the junctions of SR260/87 in Payson, go north on SR87 to milepost 285 where you'll see a small parking lot and a series of forest service signs in a meadow---do not park here. Instead, turn left onto Forest Road 142, set your odometer and drive 0.5 miles to an unmarked road on the right—this is easy to miss---look for a sign that reads “no trailers, dead end”, do not take Forest Road 611---stay right. Continue on the unmarked road for 0.6 miles to the trailhead marked by a brown metal cattle gate and a sign that reads “closed to all vehicles”. Go through (or around/under) the gate and follow the informal footpaths along the water. When you get to the ruins of an old bridge/dam, veer left and follow the creek as far as you like. INFORMATION: Coconino National Forest, West Clear Creek Wilderness