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Friday, October 7, 2011

PRESCOTT FALL COLOR 2011: NORTH MINGUS MOUNTAIN

View from the top of Mingus Mountain, Oct. 10, 2009.
Surprise!  Flagstaff got snow this week.  Six inches on the peaks and a dusting at the lower elevations.  Although warmer temperatures today and through the weekend are likely to melt the white stuff; for those who prefer hiking without encountering snow, try the Prescott area.  Here's one very scenic fall color hike with excellent views of the Verde Valley, Jerome and Sedona:
Oaks and maples converge on the trail 
Near the top, the trail hugs rock escarpments and crosses a volcanic rock fall
NORTH MINGUS MOUNTAIN,Prescott National Forest An eclectic mix of scenery and forests are the highlights of the North Mingus Trail No.105. Although there are two trailheads for this route, most hikers choose to start at the top of Mingus Mountain and hike downhill. That’s because the route is easier to follow when hiked in this direction. Right from the start, this popular trail will “wow” you with magnificent views from atop a pine-shaded hang glider launch pad. Here, the rugged Verde Valley rolls out 1,600 feet below. The hike begins with a pleasant stroll across the mountain summit under a canopy of warm gold Gambel oaks huddling beneath enormous confirs. After this short “warm up” section, the trail dips downhill along the north face through colorful corridors of Bigtooth maples, boxelders and velvet ash. Soon, the path enters an enchanting passage where a mass of volcanic boulders cascade down a slender slot canyon where vertical stony walls and a stand of aspens thrive in the cooler microclimate. Past the aspen grove, the trail enters a more arid clime with intermittent sections of grasslands, fields of agave and ridgelines studded with whispy mountain mahogany. An abandoned mine marks the point where the trail merges with an old Jeep road that leads downhill to Mescal Spring, the turnaround point for the hike. This trail also can be hiked one-way using a car shuttle at each trailhead. LENGTH: 8.5 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 6,000 – 7,800 feet GETTING THERE: Mingus Mountain trailhead: From Jerome, go 7 miles southwest on Highway 89A to Mingus Mountain Road (Forest Road 104). Turn left and continue on FR 104 for 2.4 miles to where it ends at a “T” intersection in the campground. Turn left here and go uphill to the trailhead near the hang glider launch pad. This option starts at the summit and goes downhill-- you'll climb up on the way out. Mescal Spring trailhead: From Jerome, go 4 miles southwest on Highway 89A. Just before sign for Prescott National Forest, between mileposts 339 and 338, turn left onto an unmarked dirt road (Forest Road 338). FR 338 is a very rough 4x4 road so those without appropriate vehicles should park in the turnouts along the highway.  Continue down FR 338 for a half-mile to the cement tank that marks Mescal Spring. From here, veer right (southwest) and go uphill. Bear left at all unmarked junctions until you reach the signed turn off for trail No. 105 on the right. This route adds one mile to the hike description above. This option starts at the bottom of the mountain. INFORMATION: Verde Valley Ranger District, Prescott National Forest, 928-567-4121, http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/prescott/recreation/trails/verde/nomingus105.shtml

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