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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Legions of lizards on Ledges Trail #138

Mormon Lake near Flagstaff

Short in length but long on scenic beauty, this easy trek climbs to a stone outcropping overlooking Mormon Lake. For fans of wildlife viewing, the "ledges" are a terrific platform for spotting elk, waterfowl, raptors and other large game.  In addition, legions of leapin' lizards, loquacious loggerhead shrikes, screeching Stellar's jays and butterflies a plenty keep things interesting along the trail.
The hike begins at site #25 in Dairy Springs campground, ascending gently but with loose rock underfoot.  Alligator juniper-framed first views of the lake emerge near the 0.3-mile point where the route levels out amid lava-boulder-strewn fields of wildflowers.  This environment is prime lizard habitat---they are everywhere. At one point, so many of the little creatures were darting across the path, I though I had interrupted some sort of reptile fly catching convention or something. Lucky for me, lizards can be excellent photo models--they freeze when cornered.  The path meets the "ledges" at the 0.6-mile point.  Here, lake vistas are breathtaking.  I saw a wandering herd of elk waaaay in the distance and chided myself for not bringing binoculars.  From the ledges, the trail heads left and downhill along a quagmire of footpaths passing several private homes.  Just pick a path---they all lead to Mormon Lake Road where you can return the way you came or hang a right and walk back to the parking lot.

LENGTH: 1.5 miles one-way
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 7,237' - 7,400'
DOGS: leashed dogs allowed
BEST SEASON: April-November
From Phoenix, take I17 north to exit 339 for Lake Mary Road (FR3) located south of the I40 interchange just before entering Flagstaff.  Follow Lake Mary Road south (right) 20.6 miles to Mormon Lake Road (milepost 323.6), turn right and drive 3.7 miles to the turn off for Dairy Spring campground.  Turn right again and go roughly 0.2 mile to the "trailhead parking" on the right or continue another bumpy/rocky 0.1mile to the Mormon Mountain trailhead.  Trailhead parking areas are free, but if you park in the campground, you'll be subject to fees.  Hike begins in the campground near site 25.
INFO: Flagstaff Ranger District, Coconino National Forest


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