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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Barrier-free hiking on Flagstaff's McMillan Mesa

Flagstaff Urban Trails System/Arizona Trail

I've decided to call this one a sandwich hike. Like the great American lunch staple, the good stuff of this trek happens in the middle while the scenic equivalent of white bread bolsters the fringes.   The hike takes off near the main entrance of Buffalo Park, swinging south onto a route that's now part of the most urban passage of the Arizona Trail where there's a large sign with a tribute to Flagstaff educator and trail founder, Dale Shewalter.  Within a few yards, the trail crosses over Cedar Avenue on Matt Kelly bridge--which is named for a young bike rider who was killed by a drunk driver.
Past the bridge there's some serious ugly---a power plant and quarry. Still, this is billed as an urban trail, so I guess I don't have a complaint coming. Farther along, the wide, gravel route crosses McMillan Mesa-- the good stuff-- a grassy ridge sandwiched between downtown and the upper eastside of Flagstaff.  Sparsely populated with junipers, pines and firs, the view to the southeast is surprisingly lovely.  To the northeast, the busy city sprawls and carries on below. The trail is suitable for strollers, wheelchairs and walkers, making this a popular choice for multi-generational families.  Also, benches are placed at scenic spots along the way, including one that's perfect for train-spotting the BNST railroad that parallels Route 66. 

LENGTH:  1.5 miles one-way
RATING: easy, stroller-friendly, barrier-free
DOGS: leashed dogs allowed
Buffalo Park (North):
From Flagstaff, travel north on Fort Valley Road (US180) to Forest Ave.  Turn right and continue to the stop light at Gemini Drive.  Turn left and follow the signs to the park.
Hemlock Way (south):
From Flagstaff, travel east on Route 66 to Switzer Canyon Road.  Turn north (left) and go 0.6 mile to Turquoise Drive, turn right, go 0.3 mile to Ponderosa Pkwy, turn right and go 0.5 mile to Locust, turn left and go 0.1 mile to Apple, turn right and go 0.1 mile to Hemlock, turn left and continue 0.1 mile to the trailhead.
INFO: City of Flagstaff
Arizona Trail Association


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