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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Not so secret Secret Trail

Coconino National Forest
the overlook

No, really, the name of this trail is "Secret Trail". Blazed by mountain bikers and realigned by the forest service, this old/new trail explores the rolling terrain west of Flagstaff's Dry Lake Hills area.  From the trailhead sign, head north (left when facing the sign) to the wooden sign marking the start of the hike. In less than a mile, you'll encounter Orion Spring---look for a vivid green draw full of ferns.  The spring was not running on Sept. 15th, however, it does trickle after heavy rains and the area stays moist enough to foster a carpet of wildflowers. The pine-shaded trail is marked by arrows tacked to trees that help navigate among the many social (unofficial) trails intersecting the route. You’ll also notice where the forest service has blockaded some of these paths.   Along the way, the trail dips into shallow draws and passes among gigantic boulders.  At the 3-mile point, a stony corridor opens up to a beautiful overlook.  Here, a rocky ledge falls away to reveal views of Elden Mountain and a dense forest of aspens just beginning to show the blush of autumn.  Beyond the overlook, the trail continues another 0.3 mile to a 3-way junction marked only by generic arrows.  Off to the left, look for an old cabin/hunter blind near a massive rock outcropping. Past here, the trail meets the Upper Moto Trail which veers south to connect with the Fort Valley Trail System.  We returned the way we came.
Aspens starting to turn gold, Sept 15, 2012

LENGTH:  6.6 miles (out and back)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 8,070' - 8,275'

From the traffic signal of Route 66 and Humphreys St Flagstaff, turn left onto Humphreys St and go 0.6 mile to the US 180 junction.  Turn left and travel 3 miles north on US180 (Fort Valley Road) to between  mileposts 218 and 219 and turn right onto Shultz Pass Road (FR 420).  Follow FR 420 for 0.5 mile to a fork, veer left to stay on FR420 and continue another 5 miles to the Sunset Trailhead on the right.  FR 420 has a few bumpy spots, although high clearance is the best option, we've gotten through in carefully-driven sedans in dry conditions.

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