Thursday, September 18, 2008
The best time to hike North Peak is in early spring when the snow-capped mountains of Flagstaff stand out on the horizon from this northern-most summit in the Mazazal mountain range. But this rewarding panorama doesn't come cheap. You must work for it. The haul up North Peak is a 4-mile 3,209-foot climb--straight up with only 3 notable switch backs and the slope is nearly vertical on the final stretch to the 7,449-foot summit. Mineral Spring flows along the trail for the first easy mile. Cottonwoods and pinion pines shade the wide track making this "warm-up" section fragrant and cool. After hopping the spring three times, the trail narrows and makes a distinct change from placid to precipitous. Climbing to the 6,000-foot level is moderately strenuous with loose footing and patches of snow and ice. At the 3-mile point (6,220 feet) there is a clearing with magnificent views. It's here where the hike goes off-trail (to the left or SW) and vertical, up the final half-mile to the summit. Route-finding skills are required to successfully bush whack your way up the final 1,400 feet. The struggle pays off, though, with breathtaking views from the solitude of a seldom-visited mountain peak.
LENGTH: 8.2 miles round-trip
ELEVATION: 4,240-7,449 feet
GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take AZ 87 (Beeline Highway) north to Payson. Turn left onto Main Street and continue to where it turns into FR 406. From there, stay on FR 406 for 5.2 miles to the signed turn off for FR 414. Follow the signs another 5 miles to the Mineral Creek trailhead.