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Monday, April 24, 2017



Munds Park Trail System
Mud Tank
Just off Interstate 17 a few miles south of Flagstaff, a mix of Coconino National Forest roads and footpaths have been adopted by the Munds Park Trail Stewards-- a non-profit organization that maintains and builds recreational routes around the mountain community. The Munds Park Trail System offers a varied menu of both ATV and hiker options enhanced with a plethora of eye candy and points of interest.
Typical scene on the Mud Tank Trail
The Iron Springs Trailhead serves as the system’s nerve center with a map kiosk showing an overview of the entire matrix as well as providing a launch point for the Mud Tank Trail, Brad’s Trail and Frog Tank Loop.
A good way to get warmed up before exploring the system’s longer routes is to step out on the Mud Tank Trail.  This effortless walk among Ponderosa pines is open to hikers, bikers and equestrians and culminates at a stock pond. The watering hole is a quiet, pretty place surrounded by oak trees and a muddy fringe of animal footprints. A stroll along its perimeter reveals the signatures of elk, deer, raccoons, birds and the familiar impressions of dog paws. You’ll want to hang out for a while to absorb the songs of Mountain bluebirds and Stellar’s jays riding on pine-infused breezes before heading back to the trailhead to pick up Brad’s Trail. Named for forest service volunteer Brad Bunsell (1958-2011) who, according to a tribute at the kiosk, never met a rock he couldn’t move, the path serves as a non-motorized connector to the Frog Tank Loop.
Frog Tank
The mile-long trail is also the main artery for paths that access private communities. Look for directional signage tacked to trees to stay on course. The Frog Tank Loop junction marks the beginning of a delightfully irregular, 3.1-mile trip through thick, coniferous forests, sunny meadows and scenic water features. Heading right from the junction, the route descends on a rugged shared-use road to meet the distressed channel of an intermittent stream.
Meadow on the Frog Tank Loop
Keep an eye out for motorized traffic while ogling the eroded banks, reflecting pools and trickling rivulets. The loop connects to a maze of forest roads that can cause confusion if you’re not paying attention. Just look for the Frog Tank Loop signs at each intersection and you’ll be fine. As the trail swings westward, it emerges into a moist, green pasture that drains into Frog Tank. Only foot traffic is allowed around the pool’s sensitive berms, so travel lightly or better yet, take a break beneath one of the massive trees on the perimeter and try to spot some of the animals that come there to drink and swim.
Pine Thermopsis bloom April through July
Beyond the tank, the trail crosses a canyon-bound waterway cluttered with high-country wildflowers like Pine Thermopsis and wild roses before heading uphill to a point just above the steep-walled passage. Once at the top of the climb, look for a couple of spur paths leading to the lip of the gorge. Carefully peer over the edge for dizzying glimpses of vertical basalt walls and a log-jammed creek. Around the next bend, community paths and cabin rooftops signal the end of the loop where you'll backtrack on Brad’s Trail to the start point.

Intermittent stream on Frog Tank Loop
Mud Tank Trail: 1.6 miles roundtrip
Brad’s Trail: 2 miles roundtrip
Frog Tank Loop: 3.1 miles
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION: 6500’ – 6700’
Sign on Brad's Trail
Iron Springs Trailhead:
From Interstate 17 in Munds Park, take the Pinewood Blvd (Forest Road 240) exit 322 and continue 0.8 miles to Crestline Road. Turn left and go 0.8 miles (road will turn into Oak Dr.) to Iron Springs Road, turn right and go 0.2 mile to the trailhead gate. Park along the street, pass through the gate and hike 0.3 mile to the big trailhead kiosk.

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