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Saturday, September 17, 2011

SUMMIT MOUNTAIN


Looking east toward Bill Williams Mountain
Kaibab National Forest
overlooking Garland Prairie and the San Francisco Peaks
Aptly named, Summit Mountain delivers a quintessential peak-conquering experience—but without the pesky sore muscles and taxed lungs.  Ascending through thick broadleaf-coniferous woodlands, the trail is a cinch to follow, gaining elevation gradually via long, easy switchbacks.  Trees lining the path seem to know when it's time to move aside to reveal sigh-worthy views of the surrounding landscape, treating hikers to a continually-changing menu of eye candy. Near the top, the trail flattens out as it emerges on a windy mesa with two excellent viewpoints.  The first is a precipitous shelf of volcanic boulders teetering above the colorful and tumultuous gorge of Sycamore Canyon Wilderness.  Here, a mixed bag of raw geological features spills out in a 180-degree arc resembling the frenzied canvas of a tortured artist.  After exhausting your camera batteries (photo ops abound), proceed toward the communication towers and a second (even more precipitous) cliff overlooking a pine-fleeced basin laced with dirt roads and railroad tracks in the shadow of Bill Williams Mountain.
Because it's a long drive to the trailhead for us Phoenicians—consider combining this hike with nearby Benham, Dogtown Lake, Davenport Hill or Overland Road trails for a greater return on investment. (see separate blog entries)
The only downside of this hike is the obnoxious ATV cinder track located adjacent to the trailhead.  When we visited on Labor Day weekend, the place was a manic mash pit cocktail of gas-fume-spewing machines and screaming kids with a chaser of beer-and-cigarette-wielding adults---behind the wheel, mind you, in a TINDER. DRY. FOREST. Grrrrrrr! However, I'm gonna suck up my angst and attribute this booze-addled mayhem to the end-of-summer holiday weekend festivities and not let it sway me from highly recommending this trail. Also, although the Summit Mountain Trail #68 is off limits to motorized traffic, a dirt vehicle road comes up from the opposite side of the hill, so you may encounter ATVs, quads and motorcycles on the summit.  Hug a tree and take a deep, cleansing breath.....
a "Kodak moment" at the first viewpoint

LENGTH: 2.2 miles round trip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 7,147' -7,797'
BEST SEASON: May - October
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 180 miles one way
GETTING THERE:
View of Sycamore Canyon Wilderness
From Phoenix, go north on I-17 to the I-40 junction in Flagstaff.  Travel 27 miles west on I-40 to exit 165. At the bottom of the offramp, veer left and follow Railroad Road 2.6 miles through Williams to 4th (Fourth) Street on the left.  Drive 8.3 miles south on 4th Street (a.k.a. Perkinsville Road, CR73) to milepost 177 and turn left onto FR110. Continue 2 miles on FR110 to the signed turn off for “Summit Mountain Trailhead” at FR2113A  on the right. (NOTE: the forest service Web site and other sources call this FR 706, but it is not signed as such.) Turn right onto FR2113A and go 0.5 mile (veer right at the 2111 fork) to the trailhead on the right.  Roads are paved, dirt & gravel—all suitable for cautiously-driven passenger cars.
INFO: Kaibab National Forest, Williams Ranger District,
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