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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hike above Arizona's plateau lake country

Coconino National Forest 

A quiet little place with a surprisingly in-your-face outdoor experience, the Hutch Mountain trail showcases amazing views of Northern Arizona’s plateau country. This adventure consists of two parts: the visit to the tower and the trail hike. To find the trail, start at the gate near the parking area and hike up the dirt road for .12 mile to a point where the road swerves sharply to the right. From here, you’ll see the unmarked trail heading downhill. Along the trail, big views of Anderson Mesa dominate the first half-mile before the steep, narrow path dips into a shadowy canyon embellished with rich red earth and bold green swaths undergrowth splattered with blood-red berries and lemony daisies. The path ends at Gooseberry Springs campsite---a grassy depression in an airy mountain valley where there’s a spring that flows nearly year-round. To visit the tower, hike back up the trail to the main road, go left and continue uphill. Built in 1936, the 31-foot-tall tower hovers over a blanket of close-knit forests of fir, spruce and pine trees that melt into Northern Arizona’s volcanic highlands. 

LENGTH: 4 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 8,535 – 8,000 feet DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 180 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, go north on I-17 to exit 339, Lake Mary Road (FR3). Go 33 miles south on Lake Mary Road to Forest Road 135 near milepost 311. Go 2.6 miles on FR 135, bear left at an unsigned junction and then left again onto Forest Road 135B. Go 2 miles on FR 135B to the parking area where an access gate sometimes bars vehicles from driving to the tower. No worries, though. Hikers can continue beyond the gate on foot. A high clearance vehicle is required. INFORMATION: Flagstaff Ranger District, Coconino National Forest: (928) 526-0866 

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