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Monday, April 30, 2018


Fay Canyon
Not to be confused with the Fay Canyon Trail in Sedona, Flagstaff’s version is a totally different experience. The meandering trail that follows the course of a gully that feeds into majestic Walnut Canyon southeast of town is a mellow, woodsy walk.  Located just east of the heavily-traveled Sandy’s Canyon trail off Lake Mary Road, the Fay Canyon route is a quieter trek with similar qualities.  
Creeping Barberry
The unsigned route is a little tricky to follow. Hike up Forest Road 9477B to the 0.3-mile point, veer left at a gate and pick up a single track heading north.  For reference, there’s a sign warning of heavy horse traffic a few yards down the trail. 
A ravine bisects Fay Canyon
Within a short distance, the trail makes a sharp turn to the right and begins a downhill plunge on long switchbacks.  This piney segment decends on an easy grade to emerge in at the head of the canyon.  Over the next two miles, the gorge gradually transforms from a steep-walled sliver to a gaping valley. Bisected by a water-scoured ravine, the canyon has horse trails on both banks. These can be confusing, but they eventually merge. Just keep heading north and you’ll be fine. 
Arizona valerian
Along its expanding course, the trail passes by pockmarked limestone cliffs, rock shelves and shallow caves.
Fay Canyon
A closer look at the limestone reveals crystal-filled geodes, entrenched fossils and glinting quartz nodules. 
Tiny crystals in limestone
In moister areas beneath the mixed conifer canopy, an understory of thorny-stemmed wild roses, gooseberries and willows grow in profusion among clumpy grasses and patches of creeping barberry, Arizona valerian and daisies galore.
At the 2.6-mile point, the trail ends in an airy meadow where the Arizona Trail passes through. 
Lizards are easy to spot in Fay Canyon
This is the turnaround point for an out-an-back hike, however, trail signs show distances for continuing to the Flagstaff Urban Trails System, Marshall Lake or Fisher Point.  One fun option is to make the short, but steep walk up to Fisher Point. Known for wild winds that churn up speed as they funnel through a network of forested gorges, the area surrounding Fisher Point is a fascinating enclave of contorted rock formations softened by wildflower fields and swaying pines. 
Dunes beneath Fisher Point
To get to the lookout point 400 feet above the major trail junction, follow the signs 1.2-miles and enjoy the breezy vistas. 
Wild rose
View from Fisher Point
LENGTH: 2.6 miles one-way for Fay Canyon, or 8.2 miles round trip with Fisher Point option.
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: Fay Canyon : 6,620'-6,950' or 7,033' to Fisher Point
From Flagstaff, go 4 miles south on Lake Mary Road to S. Wildlife Road (at the “Hitching Post Stables” sign).  Turn left and drive a few yards to a “T” intersection, veer left and continue less than 0.1 mile to the sign that reads Walnut-Skunk-Fay Closure Area, No Motor Vehicles.  Parking is very limited.  Please respect private property in the area by not blocking roads or driveways.

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