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Wednesday, February 4, 2009


MORMON MOUNTAIN TRAIL Coconino National Forest Often starring as background characters in horror flicks, bats have been portrayed as rabid harbingers of doom, when all they really wanna do is eat bugs and sleep. The much-maligned flying mammals are far from villains and in Arizona, they are an essential component of forest health. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the slopes of Mormon Mountain, the smallest “major volcano” in the Flagstaff area. The Mormon Mountain trail #58 ascends the rounded slopes through a thick, old growth forest of mixed conifers, oaks, and aspens. Dead trees known as “snags” act as “bat condos” where layers of peeling bark make convenient belfries (roosts). Rarely harmful to humans, bats actually make taking a walk in the forest safer and more comfortable. That’s because they have voracious appetites for insects including ever-pesky mosquitoes. In addition to the bat show, this pleasantly shaded route is loaded with active wildlife including turkey, elk, bear and myriad wild birds. The trail ends in a sunny clearing near the crest of the mountain where it connects with forest road 648 for the final climb to the 8,500-foot summit. Although it has been heavily logged and houses a couple of radio towers, the pinnacle features sweeping views of boggy Mormon Lake and the San Francisco Peaks. Highlights: Gradual climb, old growth forests, views of Mormon Lake, bats. Length: 6 miles round-trip Rating: moderate Elevation range: 7,200’ – 8,440’ Driving distance from Phoenix: 170 miles one-way Getting there: From Phoenix, travel north on I-17 to Lake Mary Road (Forest Road 3). Continue south on Lake Mary Road for  20 miles to the Forest Road 90 intersection. Turn west (right) on FR 90 and drive another 3.6 miles to the Montezuma Drive turnoff. Follow the dirt road for 0.3 mile to the signed trailhead. Information: (928) 774-1147 or

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