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Monday, August 25, 2014

SCHOLZ LAKE


SCHOLZ LAKE
Kaibab National Forest
The wild north end

Tucked into a shallow gorge at the western edge of Garland Prairie, Scholz Lake may be the best-kept hiking secret in Kaibab National Forest.  This is probably because most hikers instead make a beeline for nearby superstar destinations like Sycamore Rim Trail, Overland Road Historic Trail or the strenuous routes on Bill Williams Mountain.  The high-altitude lake is open year-round, however, the north end is closed to all access annually from February 1st through August 1st to allow waterfowl and raptors to nest in peace.  The hike begins with a quarter-mile walk on a dirt trail that emerges on the south shore dam. From here, primitive angler paths circle the lake.  In drier months, the water settles into a patchwork of glassy ponds, rivulets and swales of frog-populated Lady's Finger smartweed. The T-shaped lake is fringed with Ponderosa pines and dozens of creaking snags that provide cover and perches for ospreys, ravens, geese, and eagles.  Keep an eye out for Hummingbird moths sipping nectar from thistles and herds of elk charging through Frenchy Canyon at the northwest end of the wetlands.  Although the hike is short and effortless, the scenic drive to the trailhead, proximity to longer routes and prodigious wildlife viewing opportunities make a visit to Scholz Lake worth a detour.
LENGTH: 3 miles
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6730' - 6750'
GETTING THERE:
From Flagstaff, go west on Interstate 40 to the Parks exit 178.  Go 11.4 miles south on Garland Prairie Road (Forest Road 141, paved and sedan-friendly gravel) to Forest Road 62 and the signed turn off for Scholz Lake, turn right and drive 1 mile to the trailhead.  Forest Road 62 is good dirt for 0.5-mile, after that it gets rougher but is still passable by carefully driven sedan. There's a parking circle just before the road degrades for those who prefer to avoid the potholes and walk an extra half-mile. There's a restroom at the trailhead. Day use only.
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