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Sunday, May 12, 2013

RIO DE FLAG


RIO DE FLAG NATURE TRAIL
Flagstaff
Inside the canyon

Another in my series of  “who knew” hikes, this one hides behind Flagstaff’s Museum of Northern Arizona.  After shrugging it off for years, I finally made the detour this weekend and was pleasantly surprised.  Instead of the dull “edutainment” trail I was expecting, this one is free of signs and packed with interest.  The trail begins on the rim of a 50-foot-deep, sheer walled canyon, then descends via a set of stone stairs into a beautiful riparian corridor cluttered with arroyo willows, brambles and Rocky Mountain irises.  Winding among enormous volcanic boulders and Ponderosa pines, the route cuts a figure-eight path with a couple of fun detours.  First, look for another stone staircase that leads up to the canyon’s west rim, here, you’ll follow a rambling, leaf-littered path to an aspen-ringed cove and the stony harbor of an intermittent spring.  Also, on the east rim near the museum, a simple path paralleling US180 leads to a wooden observation deck with a pond and green swale fed by the trickling waters of Flagstaff’s only “river”.
Rio de Flag

LENGTH:  0.6-mile loop
RATING:  easy (rocky, uneven surface)
ELEVATION: 7048’ – 7120’

GETTING THERE:
From Phoenix, go north on I17 to Flagstaff.  Continue through town and connect with US180 (Fort Valley Road).  Go roughly 3 miles north on US180 to past milepost 218 and turn left into the parking lot for the Museum of Northern Arizona.  Trail begins near the museum entrance.

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