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Tuesday, September 16, 2008


On the floor of Sandy's Canyon
the dunes
junction with Arizona Trail
Sandy’s Canyon Trail #87 Coconino National Forest Hidden deep within the walls of a majestic Northern Arizona canyon are an amazing collection of ancient sand dunes that formed in shallow seas more than 250 million years ago. Today, the weathered and cross-bedded limestone heaps with “elephant-skin” veneers stand as bizarre, stone sentinels among the pines in Sandy’s Canyon. Following the southernmost portion of Walnut Canyon --which severs the high plateau country near Flagstaff with a sweeping, fluid gesture--Sandy’s Canyon trail is one of the best ways to explore the gorge and get to the dunes. The pine-shaded first half-mile of the trail skirts the rim of the canyon for outstanding views of the area’s complex geology. The trail then plunges downhill through a forest of mixed conifer and oak. In addition to being home to some of the best “butterscotch pines” around (look for light-colored crackled bark and take a whiff) the rich, moist environment also fosters thickets of delicate Arizona roses, silver puffs and canyon grape. Once through the forest, the trail opens up and meanders through a sunny meadow and continues to the intersection with the Arizona Trail and the official end of the Sandy's Canyon trail.  However, from here,  hiking options abound. Go right to get a close-up look at the dunes and a small wind cave at the base. Past the cave, a primitive path leads into a tributary gorge of Walnut Canyon.  Or, go left on the Arizona Trail and follow it uphill to Fisher Point, a scenic lookout area above the dunes. LENGTH: 2 miles roundtrip on the "official" trail OR 4.8 miles round-trip with the optional trek into Walnut Canyon OR 7.2 miles roundtrip including Fisher Point.  RATING: moderate ELEVATION:6,600'-6,800' (6,600'-7,033' to Fisher Point)    GETTING THERE: From Phoenix travel north on I-17 to the exit 339 for Lake Mary Road (FH 3) located just before the I-17 and I-40 interchange. Go 5.5 miles south on Lake Mary Road to milepost 300, turn left at the sign for  Canyon Vista Campground (just past a cattle guard) and  drive 0.2 mile through the campground  park near the Canyon Vista Trailhead. The signed trail begins at the north end of the parking area. Facilities: restrooms
INFO: Flagstaff Ranger District, Coconino National Forest

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