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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Munds Canyon Trail to Horse Park

As forests and recreation sites start to reopen, please continue to observe safe practices as you begin stepping back out on the trails. Here's another less-used gem where there's room for physical distancing.

Water lingers at the bottom of Munds Canyon

In the pine forests that straddle the hilly acres between Lake Mary Road and Interstate 17 south of Flagstaff, a network of shared-use trails connect Arizona’s plateau lakes region with the community of Munds Park. 
There's lots of shade on the Munds Canyon Trail
The system of long, loopy routes is integrated with the Kelly Motorized Trail System and forest service trails adopted by the Munds Park Trail Stewards (MUTS), a volunteer group dedicated to working with land management agencies for the establishment and maintenance of multi-use trails in the Coconino National Forest.
Watch for wildlife near a tank along Rocky Road Trail
With over 100 miles of new and re-purposed trails, the Munds Park-Kelly Canyon Trail System provides recreational access with the goal of preventing destructive trailblazing while preserving access and forest health.
Woodhouse's Phlox blooms spring through fall
Over 100 miles of trails in the Kelly-Munds Park systems
Munds Park - Kelly trails are multi-use
The route is well-signed and easy to follow.
Open to hikers, bikers, equestrians and smaller motorized vehicles, the Munds Canyon Trail 240 is a pleasant walk through shady terrain that dips and climbs through the contours of a shallow gorge.  The 2.3-mile route  is well-maintained and signed and may be used in conjunction with several connecting trails for longer treks. Beginning at the roomy Pinewood trailhead where there’s plenty of parking for vehicles and trailers, the hike begins with an easy walk through pine-oak woodlands and meadows. The trail soon encounters the edge of Munds Canyon where a series of flowing switchbacks glide off the rim and into green drainages cluttered with brambles and wildflowers that thrive in the moist ecozones. 
Larkspur grow in pine forest clearings
Munds Canyon Trail ends at the junction with the Rocky Road Trail 241. Turn back here for a 4.6-mile hike, or head right on Rocky Road for a longer adventure with a few surprises thrown in.
An odd sinkhole stands out on the Rocky Road Trail
This section of Rocky Road lives up to its name with lots of loose stones that make foot travel manageable but potentially ankle-twisting. Watch your step and you’ll be fine. At the 2.9-mile point, the trail crosses a cattle guard and meets a massive sinkhole. The abrupt, boulder-jumbled crater looks strangely out-of-place among tracts of arching oaks and colorful blooms.  Not far beyond the stone pit, a noticeable increase in wildlife activity—birds, squirrels, fox, racoon, elk-- hints at the presence of a water source.  Watch for a large earthen berm off to the left which contains a wildlife water tank that attracts dozens of animal species such as skunk, herons and bobcats. During the final half-mile of the hike, the forest opens up as it enters the sunny grasslands of Horse Park.
Pine thermopsis blooms April - July
The Munds Park Trail Stewards recently constructed log fences to keep motorized traffic out of the previously damaged sensitive environment. To help in its recovery and to keep from disturbing wildlife, even hikers should respect nature by staying on designated trails.  Trails and campsites are for people. The rest of the forest is for plants and animals. 
Munds Canyon Trail descends into a forested draw
Fencing protects the recovering flats of Horse Park
Even minimal foot traffic can disrupt fragile habitats.
Rocky Road Trail is rocky, as advertised.
Lemmon's Star blooms spring through early summer
Rocky Road Trail meets Forest Road 700 at the 3.9-miles, the turnaround point for this hike.
LENGTH: 7.8 miles round trip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6,646 – 6,955 feet
From Interstate 17, take the Munds Park exit #322 and continue 2 miles east on Pinewood Boulevard (Forest Road 240) to the parking area on the left.  Trail begins at the north end of the lot. Roads are paved with a short section of maintained dirt that's fine for all vehicles.

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