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Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Rogers Lake Natural Area
Southwest of Flagstaff, two recreation areas with divergent personalities are now linked.  The recently completed 5.4-mile Rogers Trail tethers the event-centric, party atmosphere of Fort Tuthill County Park with the subdued wilds of Rogers Lake Natural Area.
Switchbacks on Rogers Trail
The non-motorized, flowy trail that straddles the open space between the two Coconino County properties has several access points and many opportunities to create short day hikes, long loops or car shuttle excursions. 
A bee harvests nectar from Butter and Eggs
One convenient out-and-back circuit begins at a trailhead on Forest Road 532.  From the roomy dirt parking lot, pick up the Flagstaff Loop Trail heading west and follow it 0.9-mile to the beginning of Rogers Trail.  Roughly paralleling Woody Mountain Road, the meandering, single track holds steady at around 7100 feet, sweeping easily through wildflower meadows, and shady glens. 
The San Francisco Peaks seen from Rogers Trail
Watch for swarms of butterflies and bees drawing nectar from Butter and Eggs, New Mexican vervain and field bindweed blooms.  After passing by the Arboretum at Flagstaff, where there’s a short access path, the trail turns southwest heading toward the pine-smothered mound of 8045-foot Woody Mountain.  Near the four-mile point, a set of syrupy switchbacks take on the southeast flanks of the mountain. The smartly constructed trail eliminates much of the huff-and-puff of the 600-foot ascent. (I ran into several volunteer forest service workers who were improving drainages on this section.  It’s important that trail users don’t cut switchbacks because doing so will cause the path to degrade and create dangerous conditions.) 
Gambel oaks are common along the trail
The uphill segment winds through thick stands of Gambel oak, New Mexican Locust and Ponderosa pines.  Even with the dense tree cover, glimpses of the San Francisco Peaks can be seen through breaks in the foliage. Trailside basalt boulders, an understory of pine cones and clumpy grasses plus the rustlings of ravens, hawks and mountain blue birds in the canopies complement the trail’s pleasant, away-from-it-all feel.  The route levels out as it approaches its high point at the natural area border. 
New Mexican Vervain attracts pollinators
Continue hiking past the boundary to enjoy vistas of Rogers Lake rolling out 400 feet below.  The sprawling, high-elevation wetland is an important refuge for wildlife and native plant species and it’s common to sight pronghorn and elk skulking around the fringes and domestic cattle converging around puddles.
Acres of pinecones 
At the 6.1-mile point, a metal post marks the spot where Rogers Trail connects with the natural area system. Two Spot Trail heads off to the left while Gold Digger Trail takes the right fork.  For a satisfying 12-mile roundtrip day hike, turn around here.
View of Rogers Lake from the trail's high point
Otherwise, go either way at the junction for a two-mile downhill trek to viewing decks at the edge of the lake.
LENGTH: 5.4 miles one-way (6.1 miles one-way as described here)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  7030 – 7680 feet
EAST ACCESS (as described here):
From Flagstaff, go west on Historic Route 66 to Woody Mountain Road (Forest Road 231) on the left.  Go 1.8 miles south to Forest Road 532, turn left and go a few yards to the parking area on the right.  Follow the Loop Trail 0.9 mile to connect with Rogers Trail.
Woody Mountain Road is washboard-rough but passable by sedan.
Rogers Trail links Ft. Tuthill Park with the Natural Area
There’s a 0.3-mile spur path directly across from the entrance to Flagstaff Arboretum (3.7 miles south of Route 66 on Woody Mountain Road) and parking aprons where the trail crosses FR 390A and FR 9026 south of Woody Mountain Road.
Go 7.8 miles south on Woody Mountain Road to the Gold Digger trailhead.
The Two Spot trailhead is located another mile down the road.

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