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Monday, May 6, 2013

Watershed sentinel

Coconino National Forest
Summit of Apache Maid Mountain: 7307'

Just east of  I-17, 30 miles south of Flagstaff, the isolated silhouette of Apache Maid Mountain  juts above a muted emerald expanse of juniper-dotted grasslands.  Because of its unchallenged dominance on the landscape, a climb up this peak rewards with breath taking vistas of Sedona's red rocks, the mountains of Prescott and the canyon-riddled watershed highlands of Wet Beaver Creek and the Verde River. Although this peak also can be conquered via a 17-mile one-way (3864' - 7307') hike on the Apache Maid Trail that begins on the Bell Trail at Wet Beaver Creek, the way is difficult, dry and best suited for highly experienced hikers.  However, if getting to the high point is your main objective, then scratch the tortuous miles  and instead tackle the massif from its base.   The trail is FR 620, a wide red-soil track hacked out of the mountainside.  Twisting  up the south and west faces of the hill in long, gradual hairpin coils the road makes for a pleasant, not-too-tough climb through a mishmash of Ponderosa pines, oak and scrub while a frenzy of wildflowers  splatters color on disturbed road shoulders and sun washed meadows.  About a half-mile from the top, a jumbled boulder ledge frames exceptional views of Red Rock Country as an abrupt break at the edge of a spralling windswept prairie. On the summit, a fire lookout built in 1961 teeters over its watershed ward.  The tower is open  by invitation only when a worker is present, otherwise, visitors may relax at the picnic table tucked into a shady glen of oak trees.
Apache Maid Lookout
LENGTH: 9.2 miles roundtrip (shorter options described below)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6063' - 7307'
FACILITIES: restroom, picnic table and hitching post on the summit.  Nearby camping.
From Phoenix travel north on I17 to exit 306 for Stoneman Lake.  Turn right and go 6.4 miles on Stoneman Lake Road (FR 213)  to the signed intersection for FR229.  Follow FR229 (heading toward Apache Maid LO) 4.5 miles and bear right at a "T" intersection with FR230 to stay on FR229. Continue 0.4 mile to a curve in the road where FR 229 swerves left and FR 620 bends to the right. Here, there's a green gate marking the entrance to Apache Maid Cabin. Park in the turnoffs along the road.  From here it's a 4.6-mile one-way hike to the summit. Alternatively, you can continue driving up FR620 to a parking apron at a gate that's  1.8 mile from the summit. We also noted good parking opportunities near FR 2938J which is 3.4 miles from the summit and also cuts about 200 feet of climbing. 
ROAD CONDITIONS: FR 213 is paved for a while then turns to good dirt suitable for all vehicles. FR 229 and beyond is a mix of smooth dirt and deeply rutted, washboard.  Although we saw sedans parked along the way, a high-clearance vehicle is a much better idea. 
oak trees along the trail

INFO: Coconino National Forest
Rent Apache Maid Cabin:

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