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Saturday, September 17, 2011


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
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,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Hikers, we're just a few weeks away from glorious high country fall foliage hiking, and I've been a busy girl getting ready to share tidbits on when and where to go for the best shows.
Please join me at the Paradise Valley REI on Tuesday, October 4, 2011, 6:30 -8:30 p.m. for a presentation about how to use this blog to research trails with great autumn color and also get an in-depth look  at my fall hiking article in the October issue of PHOENIX magazine. SIGN UP HERE:
ON SALE SEPT. 22, 2011

#2 READ:
Pick up the OCTOBER, 2011 issue of PHOENIX magazine for some great FALL COLOR hike ideas!
All trails have been personally hiked, photographed and reported by yours truly.
Here’s where you can find PHOENIX magazine: Safeway, Fry’s Marketplace, Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Sunflower Markets, Sprouts, Borders, Barnes & Noble, CVS, Walgreens, Sky Harbor Airport, Albertson’s, Fresh & Easy, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target, Whole Foods, Basha’s, A.J.’s, La Grande Orange, The Kitchen, Area hospital gift shops. WEB SITE: ORDER BY PHONE: 480-664-3960

Sunday, September 11, 2011


When creeping barberry leaves take on a red blush, the last days of summer in Arizona’s high country are upon us. And so it was with this harbinger of frost underfoot that we set out to enjoy the last few bittersweet weeks of northern Arizona hiking. To do so, we selected yet another “who knew” trail in Flagstaff.  With numerous limestone caves, ancient sand dune rock formations and acres of alpine meadows, Arizona's other Fay Canyon is a joy to explore.  Unlike the famous (and crowded) red rock, Fay Canyon located in Sedona’s high desert, this trail sees much less activity.  That's likely because there are few resources describing this hidden gem of a hike.  Conveniently located in the Mormon Lake area, this route through a shallow valley connects with the Walnut Canyon Passage of the Arizona Trail, Flagstaff Urban Trails System and Sandy's Canyon.  The trail is almost completely shaded as it travels the margins of a lush gorge flanked with bizarre geological structures and deep canyon drop offs.  To add length, we included a side trip to Fisher Point. Here’s how:
HIKE DIRECTIONS: from the trailhead, hike 0.3 mile along the double-track dirt road paralleling Lake Mary Road.  At the gate/fence located where the road makes a sharp right hand turn, pass the gate and continue straight (north) along a footpath.  From here, the trail is well maintained and easy-to-follow.  At two points along the route, the trail splits—in both cases, stay to the left and take the higher paths. (I’m pretty sure the splits merge eventually, but it’s just smart to stay on the main trail).  At the 2.6-mile point, Fay Canyon Trail ends at a “Y” intersection with the Arizona Trail. Here, head right (east) along a well-signed path to continue on to Fisher Point and the dunes.

Whether hiked alone or as a leg on longer treks, this quiet canyon trail offers a perfect way to enjoy one last summer mountain trek.
Creeping Barberry turns red when temperatures drop

LENGTH: 8.2 miles roundtrip as described here. Fay Canyon alone: 2.6 miles one way
RATING:  moderate
ELEVATION: 6,220' – 7,033' (this description), Fay Canyon only: 6,620'-6,950'
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX:  148 miles one way
From Phoenix, go north on I-17 to exit 339, Lake Mary Road (Forest Road 3) located just south of the I-40/I-17 interchange in Flagstaff.  From the bottom of the off ramp (across from a Circle K), turn right and go 4 miles south on Lake Mary Road to S. Wildlife Road (at the “Hitching Post Stables” sign).  Turn left here and drive a few yards to a “T” intersection, veer left and continue less than 0.1 mile to the sign that reads: “ Walnut-Skunk-Fay Closure Area, No Motor Vehicles”. Parking is very limited.  Please respect private property in the area by not blocking roads or driveways.
PRINT MAP : Emmitt Barks Cartography “Flagstaff Trails Map”
Flagstaff Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-526-0866