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Monday, July 9, 2012

Cool & easy Flagstaff summer hike

Coconino National Forest

Passage 34 of the Arizona Trail runs through 36 miles of stunning high country territory beginning in the cool pine forests around Schultz Tank and ending on the arid scrublands near Cedar Tank Ranch. With numerous easy-access trailheads, it's a cinch to hike this passage in a series of short day hikes like the one we did last Saturday. Beginning at the Schultz Tank/Weatherord trailhead, our objective was to do a 7-to-10-mile, out-and-back trek.  About 50 yards up the Weatherford trail a nice wood sign marks where the AZT heads left and also states that it crosses the Moto Trail at 3.5 miles. Given that the sky was churning with ominous storm clouds, this sounded like a do-able turnaround point. As it turns out, there's no sign at the Moto junction (although some graffiti points the way to Snowbowl and So. Flagstaff).  Because the trail is so flat and easy (and the rain clouds were dissipating), we decided to continue hiking. It's at about this point where the mountain bike traffic really picks up.  That's because the Moto trail connects with the Fort Valley Trails System---another favorite of bikers.  And its easy to see why--the relatively new trail is smooth, free of rocks and full of long hairpin turns gliding through fern gullies, fields of lava boulders and coniferous forests.  The route crosses several dirt service roads and various off-the-maps mountain bike trails (a biker who stopped to chat identified one as the "Dog Food" trail) as it gradually climbs up to the aspens along Snowbowl Road--a good turnaround or car shuttle point.
LENGTH: (all one-way from Schultz Tank)
to Moto Trail junction: 3.5 miles
to Kachina trailhead: 7.6 miles
to Snowbowl Road: 7.8 miles
RATING: easy-moderate
to Moto: 8020'-8800'
to Kachina: 8020'-9321'
to Snowbowl Road: 8020' - 9310'
BEST SEASON: May thru October
Schultz Tank Trailhead:
From Flagstaff, travel north on US180 (Fort Valley Road) to milepost 218.6 and turn right on Schultz Pass Road (FR420).  Follow FR420 0.7 mile to a fork, veer left to stay on FR420 and continue 4.8 miles to the Schultz Tank/Weatherford trailhead on the right. Schultz Pass Rd is bumpy dirt-- passable by sedans but high clearance is recommended.
Snowbowl Road /Humphreys Trailhead:
From Flagstaff, travel north on US180 (Fort Valley Road) to milepost 223, turn right onto Snowbowl Road and continue 4.2 miles to the trailhead on the left. Roads are paved all the way to the parking lot.


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