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Monday, June 3, 2019


DAVENPORT HILL: Kaibab National Forest
Dogtown Lake & Bill Williams Mtn from Davenport Trl
Situated in the far southwest corner of the San Francisco Volcanic Field--a swath of impressive igneous features that arcs from the northern Arizona town of Williams to Flagstaff-- Davenport Hill is an anthill among giants.
Pines frame views of Kaibab National Forest
The 7805-foot mesa-like mound near Dogtown Lake 8 miles southeast of Williams barely registers a blip on hiker radar and recedes when compared to nearby lava domes and composite volcanoes like Bill Williams Mountain (8,800 feet), San Francisco Peaks (12,633 feet) and Kendrick Peak (10,418 feet).  Like its contemporary mounts, Davenport Hill sports a scenic trail that leads to its summit. For a less physically-demanding but rewarding summit trek, a hike up this little hill delivers the goods without the pain.
Summit of 7805-foot Davenport Hill
Lupines thrive in oak woodlands on Davenport Hill
Deeply wooded for its entire length, the trail twists up the hill’s north face through several vegetation zones, terrain types and vista orientations for a continually-changing sensory experience.   
Small-leaf pussytoes bloom May - August
The trek begins on the Ponderosa Trail, a 1-mile interpretive loop that passes through pine forests at the edge of green wetlands behind the Dogtown Lake dam. The moist swale that bisects this easy loop is a magnet for mountain bluebirds, robins, Steller’s jays, waterfowl, elk, bears and furry critters. In summer the moist drainage area fosters Rocky Mountain irises and dozens of other high-elevation wildflowers that add color to the forest floor. At the 0.3-mile point, turn right at the Davenport Hill trail sign where the route passes a gate before taking on the mountain in a leisurely mix of short, steep climbs and lingering inclines. Although the trail ascends 755 feet, flowing switchbacks take most of the sweat and toil out of the climb. The first mile is an effortless stroll through woodlands of Gambel oak, Ponderosa pines and sunny clearings. The uphill trudge begins where the trail crosses unsigned Forest Road 717 and moves onto the first of several edge-hugging switchbacks.
Wetlands on the Ponderosa Trail
Now comes the best part—breaks in the tree cover reveal views of the mountains and prairies of the Kaibab National Forest and the faint clank and hum of passing trains.
A hike around Dogtown Lake adds 1.8 miles to the hike
Look carefully in the direction of the mournful rattles and horns and you might spot a train snaking across the plains. On clear days, the bright white turbines of the Perrin Ranch Wind Energy Center can be seen dotting the plains 13 miles north of Williams.
White firs shade the upper portion of the trail
When operating at full capacity, the array of sixty-two, 262-foot-high turbines provide clean energy for more than 20,000 Arizona homes.  Farther up, the trail ducks into a sheer canyon shaded with moss-draped Douglas and white firs.  The slim path traverses the canyon walls landing hikers on the final uphill haul where picture-perfect views of Dogtown Lake and Bill Williams Mountain dominate the horizon.  Once past a second gate (with a stubborn barbed wire latch) the trail emerges on the summit ridge for a short, flat walk to the highpoint.
San Francisco Peaks seen from Davenport Hill summit
Robust stands of oak arch over the footpath that’s lined with lupine and globs of russet basalt that confirm the hill’s volcanic origins. 
Wind turbines visible in the distance
A massive rock pile made of the same reddish lava blobs (and artfully- arranged animal bones) found along the trail marks the summit proper.
Lupines color the forest floor
Beyond the super cairn, views of the San Francisco Peaks stand out on the northeast skyline. Given its position on the dubious side of hiker radar; chances are pretty good that you’ll have this quiet mountain top all to yourself.
Dense tree cover frames great views
A rustic gate marks the summit approach
Descend back to the Ponderosa Trail junction along the same path but take the opposite fork to complete the loop. If you’re still up for more, step out on the informal angler path that circles the lake for an additional, easy 1.8 miles of shoreline hiking around the high-elevation fishing hole that’s prized for its abundant trout, bass and catfish as well as for watercraft recreation.
Bill Williams Mountain looms over Kaibab NF woodlands 
View from the summit of Davenport Hill
LENGTH: 5.6 miles roundtrip (not including lake circumference hike)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 7050 - 7805 feet
In Williams, go 3.8 miles south on Fourth Street (County Road 73/Perkinsville Road) to Forest Road 140. Turn east (left) onto FR 140 and go 2.8 miles to Forest Road 132, turn north (left) onto FR 132 and go 1.2 miles to the boat ramp at Dogtown Lake campground. From the boat ramp parking area, follow the Ponderosa Trail 0.2-mile to the Davenport Hill trail junction.
There’s no fee for day-use parking and there are restrooms and picnic tables nearby. Camping is by reservation only.
INFO: Kaibab National Forest

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