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Monday, June 12, 2017

WOODY MOUNTAIN

WOODY MOUNTAIN

Coconino National Forest
View of Rogers Lake
In the blockbuster theater of Flagstaff-area peaks, Woody Mountain plays more of a supporting role. Rising to just over 8,000 feet, the pine-covered cinder cone volcano stands above the wetlands of Rogers Lake not as soaring crests like nearby Bill Williams Mountain and the San Francisco Peaks, but as a low-profile mound.  In terms of mountain-conquering hiking experiences, this one makes for a satisfying starter trail that gets you to a beautiful high point without having to invest a lot of sweat or route-finding.
Roadside stock tank just outside of the natural area boundary
Located partially within the Rogers Lake County Natural Area south of Flagstaff, the service road that goes to the summit serves as the trail. The road can also be accessed by way of the Gold Digger Trail which you can pick up at a trailhead a half-mile beyond the start point. But, if your eyes are solely on the summit prize, beginning at the road gate is the most direct route.  At the parking area, the grassy swale that is Rogers Lake sits among pine bluffs, ranches and acres of summer wildflowers.  Local cows graze and laze in the lake’s mucky flats and if you’re lucky, you’ll also see the elk, deer, raptors and coyotes that come to drink from the lake’s residual pools. The first mile of the road hike is a moderate but continual climb through a sunny pine-oak forest. It’s an unremarkable hike unless you turn around occasionally to take in ever changing views of the lake and mountain peaks emerging over coniferous woodlands. At the 1.3 -mile point, the road passes a gate and leaves the natural area.  Here, a reedy stock tank fosters aquatic buttercups and clouds of butterflies. The double-humped mound to the left is your destination---look closely and you’ll see the top of the fire tower poking out from among tall pines. From the tank, the road begins its northward swing around the mountain and the mood moves from bucolic to deep-woods. The forest thickens as the road ascends barber-pole-style presenting a visual carousel of Flagstaff landmarks, the mountains of Williams and the pasture lands around the lake.  Near the 2-mile point, the historic Woody Mountain fire tower comes into view.  
A Red-tailed hawk glides above the road
The original tower was a simple tree stand that was used from 1910 to 1921. In 1922, the bare bones perch was upgraded to a wood tower which remained in service until 1936 when it was replaced with the posh-by-comparison steel and glass cabin that’s still in use today. The tower is on the National Register of Historic Sites. It rises 46 feet above ground, supporting a 7’ x 7’ cabin.
Historic Woody Mountain Lookout
Lookouts are sometimes stationed in the tower during fire season. When a lookout is on active duty, you should never enter a tower unless  invited and you must comply with all their instructions.  
Trailhead gate at Rogers Lake
Unless cordoned off or signed to stay out, it’s okay to climb the tower ladder at your own risk to get an aerial view of the lake that rolls out in concentric rings with puddles in the middle and marshes fading from a bright emerald core to a golden-brown fringe as summer sucks up snow-melt moisture.
Service road to the summit of Woody Mountain
When done taking in the historic sites and natural wonders, descend the way you came or, if you’re up for more miles, pick up one or both of the county natural area trails. The 4-mile, moderate-rated Gold Digger trail wanders the foothills below the peak while the easy, 2-mile Two-Spot trail stays low for optimum wildlife viewing.
Western Yarrow blooms June - September
LENGTH: 4.2 miles round trip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  7060’ – 8045’
GETTING THERE:
From Flagstaff, go 1.9 miles west on Route 66 to Wood Mountain Road (Forest Road 231), turn left and continue 6.4 miles to the gate on the left located just past the Rogers Lake sign.
Park along the road.
The summit road may also be accessed from the Gold Digger Trail and Two-Spot trailheads located 0.6 and 1 mile farther down FR231.
INFO & MAP:

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