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Monday, July 11, 2016


Entrance to the Skunk Canyon slot
This pleasant stroll links a short, lesser known route with two of Flagstaff's most popular trails.
Offering a backdoor into a heavily used recreational corridor, Skunk Canyon Trail is a sleepy little gem accessible off of Flagstaff's Lake Mary Road near Walnut Canyon that shares dirt with the Flagstaff Loop and Arizona Trail. Over its 2.7-mile course, the 2-track trail follows the contours of a shallow gorge that morphs from a sun drenched, gaping meadow of hip-deep grasses and wildflowers into a skinny path in a woodsy slot canyon dripping in moss. Inside the slot "jewel" of the trail, towering pines, shallow limestone caves and tangled brambles complement its deeply shaded drainage.
Flagstaff Loop Trail 
After emerging from the dark forest, the trail enters another meadow before plugging in to Passage # 33 of the Arizona Trail. The AZT leg of the hike is a mile-long walk on a closed road under a canopy of Ponderosa pines to the junction with the Flagstaff Loop Trail. Sustainably constructed, the FLT makes a non-motorized hoop around town using sections of existing forest trails, abandoned roads and urban paths. When complete, the 42-mile project will anchor an interlaced trail system that will minimize negative environmental impacts and preserve green space for outdoor enthusiasts. This portion of the hike follows a single track on the slopes above Skunk Canyon and features glimpses of the San Francisco Peaks and Mount Elden. Loamy soils and a patchwork of sun and shade provide ideal habitats for flowering plants like Richardson's geranium, wild lima bean, Western blue flax, sunflowers and the mint-scented blooms of New Mexican vervain.
Stock tank along Skunk Canyon Trail
Hike Directions:
From the trailhead, hike out on the Skunk Canyon Trail--a dirt 2-track heading northeast. At the half-mile point, veer right onto a wider dirt road heading into a meadow. Ignore all unsigned spur paths. Do not be confused by the bikers you will probably see racing along a trail to the left---that's the Flagstaff Loop Trail and this trip's return route. Stay on the 2-track that passes by two stock tanks before narrowing into a single track that enters the slot canyon.  At 2.7 miles you'll come to an unsigned "T" junction at the Arizona Trail. Turn left here and hike 1 mile to the signed Flagstaff Loop junction, turn left and hike 1.3 miles back to the Skunk Canyon Trail and retrace your steps 1.3 miles to the parking area.
Richardson's geranium
LENGTH: 6.3 miles
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6,475' - 7,027'
Western blue flax
From Phoenix, go north on Interstate 17 to exit 339, Lake Mary Road (Forest Road 3) located just south of the I-40/I-17 interchange in Flagstaff. From the bottom of the off ramp (across from a Circle K), turn right and go 2.1 miles south on Lake Mary Road to S J Diamond Road on the left. Follow this good dirt road 0.2 mile to the end where there's a small parking area and gate. Generic forest service and game & fish signs are posted, but nothing indicating “Skunk Canyon”--no worries though, you're in the right place.
Flagstaff Loop Trail:
Arizona Trail Association

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