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Monday, August 26, 2019

Flagstaff Urban Trails System-Arizona Trail Loop

Hike in the Urban-Forest Interface
FUTS routes close to town connect with the Arizona Trail

 “You can’t get there from here,” my hiking partner told a confused pair of trekkers who asked us for directions to an Arizona Trail junction. He gently kicked my shin to signal he was joking as the couple fumbled with a map. Waiting a beat to satisfy his warped sense of humor, my pal continued, “Just kidding, of course you can get there from here. This is Flagstaff.”  He’s not wrong.
I-40 passes above Duck Pond on the Arizona Trail
With hundreds of miles of national forest trails and city pathways, there are dozens of ways to access the iconic 800+-mile Arizona Trail (AZT) that swings through the northern Arizona city.
Mexican Hat flowers bloom along FUTS
The state-traversing route draws hikers, bikers and equestrians from all over the world to this Arizona Trail gateway community---a city or town that embraces and gives ongoing support to the trail and its users. In addition to deep-forest trailheads and popular campgrounds the Arizona Trail may also be accessed by using the Flagstaff Urban Trails System (FUTS). With over 50 miles of existing trails in place and plans for 80 more, the network of paved walkways, re-purposed dirt roads and single track paths make walking off a busy city street into a quiet forest as effortless as moving from room-to-room in your home. One stunning example of the connectivity offered by this community-driven system is located near the intersection of Interstates 17 and 40 southeast of downtown.
Russian knapweed (invasive) grows in meadows
View from the trailhead near Coconino Community College
You'll see planes from nearby Flagstaff Pulliam Airport
The moderate loop has some steep sections
The moderate 6-mile loop hike samples several flavors of FUTS. From a groomed trailhead near Coconino Community College, the hike begins by heading 0.2-mile north on the paved Lone Tree Trail. Next, turn right onto the Broken Arrow Trail which leaves the pavement and heads east on a dirt track.  After 0.4-mile, the trail continues on a dirt road through a drainage area surrounded by pines and wildflower meadows.
FUTS paths connect with Coconino NF trails
The route is obvious except for where a solitary tree stands at a fork in the road at the 1.6-mile point. Veer left here and continue 0.3-mile to Duck Pond and the junction for the Arizona Trail Passage 33.
A dragonfly rests near Duck Pond
Despite the rumble and hum of vehicles rolling over a bridge on Interstate 40, the reedy lake is a pleasant little place with active waterfowl and swarms of dragonflies. After exploring around the water, head right (southeast) at the AZT sign and make a short but steep uphill slog that leads into a sliver of Coconino National Forest that sits between country clubs and subdivisions.
FUTS paths provide non-motorized travel through Flagstaff
Along this 1.7-mile leg of the trip, freeway noise is gradually muffled by the hilly terrain, but aircraft using the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport that’s located a few miles to the southwest are regular reminders that this woodsy buffer zone is very much within the urban-forest interface. Follow the AZT signs to a 3-way junction with a gate and a sign for Fisher Point. To complete the loop, head right and follow an unsigned dirt road. After 0.6-mile of traipsing through sunny fields and shaded bends, the route rejoins the FUTS system. 
Part of the loop follows closed dirt roads
Continue 0.4-mile on the Fisher Point Trail which skirts the edge of a posh golf community then hang a left at the JWP Trail.
The loop is a seamless walk between city and forest
The final 0.8-mile return leg is on the non-motorized path that parallels John Wesley Powell Boulevard. This tiny taste of FUTS and its connectivity shows how with only a bike, horse or a pair of hiking boots, you can get just about anywhere in Flagstaff--and beyond.
LENGTH: 6-mile loop
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6766- 6979 feet
From Flagstaff, go 1.2 miles south on Lake Mary Road to J.W. Powell Blvd. Turn left and continue 1 mile to the trailhead at the corner of Lone Tree Road.
 INFO: Flagstaff Urban Trails System (FUTS)
Arizona Trail

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