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Monday, April 17, 2017



Coconino National Forest.
Hikers approach the Calf Pen Canyon overlook
Forest Service road maps can burn the eyeballs. Black tentacles sprawled across paper maps or smart devise screens bearing nondescript numbers and letters give clues about road conditions, where you can take a motorized vehicle and nearby towns and landmarks.
But, where do the roads go? Why would a road end abruptly at no particular destination? The best way to find answers is to park and hoof it.
Forest Road 9365R north of the town of Strawberry is a good one to try because its terminus-- marked only by an “X” on most maps-- is a memorable sight.  
View from Nash Point
Located on the Mogollon Rim just outside of Fossil Springs Wilderness Area, the road begins as a typical backwoods Jeep route. On a base of sandstone, smothered in a forest of Alligator junipers and Ponderosa pines, hikers pass through a pinecone cluttered corridor bolstered by massive rock slabs. At about a mile into the trek, the road meets a clearing with wide views of Deadman Mesa on the border of Coconino and Tonto National Forests. At this point, it’s possible to spot the hike’s objective—a basalt knob poking up from the edge of a bluff off to the right. From here, the route heads downhill passing a mucky stock tank and barbed wire relics. After a brief traipse through a low saddle, the rock underfoot changes from tawny sandstone to ashen volcanic boulders and pebbles. Here, the degraded path goes uphill on a juniper-populated slope overlooking Calf Pen Canyon. Fossil Creek flows through the colorful, rugged gorge, but you’d be hard-pressed to see it from this vantage point. On clear days, Flagstaff’s San Francisco Peaks are visible on the horizon.
Calf Pen Canyon
From the Calf Pen vista, the highpoint of the hike stands out as a wall of lichen-encrusted steel-gray basalt at road’s end. Nash Point rises to 6546 feet at the edge of Gila and Coconino Counties. A moderate scramble to its summit reveals enhanced views of Calf Pen and the Fossil Springs area. Although it’s not clear why anybody would have built a road to such an odd place, the jumbled perch provides satisfying closure and animates an uninspiring “X” on a map.
Views along FR 9365R
Nash Point. PHOTO: Randy Cockrell (used with his permission)
LENGTH: 5.3 miles round trip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6250' - 6526'
From the junction of State Routes 260/87 in Payson, go 17.5 miles north on SR87 to Fossil Creek Road in the town of Strawberry. Continue on SR 87 for another 2.2 miles to just before milepost 273 and turn left into a dirt parking lot.
Pass through the gate (close it behind you) and hike the road. At the 0.25-mile point, continue straight at a fork and at the 0.5-mile, veer right and a second fork. From here, the route is obvious.
Coconino National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Maps, April 2017 Updates:

Sunday, April 16, 2017


View of Mingus Mountain and Jerome from Backbone Trail
Spanning the space Northeast of the Verde River between the communities of Bridgeport and Cornville is a system of trails that just got a shot in the arm. Although the trails have been around for awhile, a recent influx of grant dollars has helped fund new trailheads, signs and fresh trail construction. The Cornville Non-Motorized Trails project is being coordinated by Yavapai County and the Cornville Community Association in partnership with the Forest Service. The overall goal is to establish a 12-mile network of routes to link the two towns. The work-in-progress is coming together quickly and is now open to hiking, biking and equestrian use.
New signs were installed in March 2017
The trails located between Zalesky and Tissaw Roads are mostly complete, signed and easy to follow. This segment of the system is anchored by the Backbone Trail which passes through a wash-riddled high desert with views of Jerome and Mingus Mountain to the west and Sedona to the north.
Backbone Trail
Cliff-rose and paintbrush
Two loops—Zalesky and Side Oats—attach to Backbone making for roughly 6-7 miles of hiking between the two trailheads. The single track dirt and sand paths brush by subdivisions, farm houses and plenty of open country with limestone escarpments and a smattering of juniper trees dotting grassy plains. This exposed landscape hosts a plethora of blooming plants including Cliff-rose, Crucifixion-Thorn, Mormon Tea and dozens of ankle-high wildflowers. Near Tissaw Road, the trail climbs a tiny mound for glimpses of Sedona's House Mountain and the Verde River watershed.
Sego lilies bloom along the trails 
Across Tissaw Road, the system continues to evolve with new construction happening on the Dog Leg, Creosote and Black Grama Loops.

LENGTH: 12 miles total
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION: 3170' - 3560'
Zalesky Road Trailhead (Bridgeport):
From Interstate 17 north of Camp Verde, take the McGuireville exit 293 and go 12.3 miles west on Cornville Road to State Route 89A. Turn left and continue 1 mile to Zalesky Road, turn left and go 0.1 to the trailhead on the left.
Tissaw Road Trailhead (Cornville):
From Interstate 17 north of Camp Verde, take the McGuireville exit 293 and go 11.2 miles west on Cornville Road to Tissaw Road. Turn left and continue 1 mile to the trailhead on the right.