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Monday, June 30, 2014


Howard Draw-Priest Draw Loop

Pleasant hiking with side show attractions

Holy bat cave--shared use forest trails don't get more interesting than this one.
Well known as a world-class destination for the sport of bouldering, Howard and Priest Draws are side-by-side shallow canyons with a yawning meadow in the middle. Cavernous limestone bluffs with cantilevered overhangs, slabby shelves, cracks and fist-sized depressions anchor both draws---a perfect topography for the nimble climbers who dangle from the stone like acrobatic bats.
In my experiences, the climbers don't mind spectators as long as they keep a respectful and safe distance as the climbers work on their "problems". On my visit, a couple of them struck up a conversation with me and answered my (albeit ignorant) questions like "How do you do that?" (Uh, you just do it.) And "What are those folding mattresses called?" (Crash pads.  Duh.).  Even on busy weekends when dozens of  "bat people" clamor for choice rock, the commotion is absorbed in scattered pockets of solitude where the trails meander among pine woodlands, aspen fringes and flower-speckled seas of hip-high forbs. 
Although directional signage is non-existent, trodden and true footpaths are simple to follow.
From the parking area, head right, descend a series of steps and hike 1.5 miles through Priest Draw to a path taking off on the left near FR235A.  Follow this track 0.7 mile to a T-junction, turn left and hike 1.6 miles though Howard Draw back to the trailhead.
A choice bouldering "problem"

LENGTH: 3.8-mile loop
RATING: easy
ELEVATION:  6830' - 6880'
Limestone closeup

From Flagstaff go south on Lake Mary Road (FR3) to Crimson Road which is on the right just past the Canyon Vista Campground turnoff.  Turn right onto Crimson and then make an immediate left onto CR132.  Continue 3 miles on CR132 to a dirt road on the right, signed "Priest Draw parking area". Follow this rough dirt road (FR238) 0.3-mile to the trailhead.  Day use only.  No fees. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We saw this hike in the Arizona Republic this morning and took off an hour later. Great reason to get out of Phoenix and the heat. The trail was beautiful and the views of the meadows of Flagstaff are hard to beat. We did see several people with mattresses strapped to their backs and were intrigued by the sport of bouldering. This will be a hike we tell our friends about. Thanks for the recommendation.