Find A Trail. Start Your Search Here:

Monday, May 17, 2021

Little Horse Trail


Water pools in a drainage on Little Horse Trail

When driving north on Interstate 17 toward Flagstaff, there comes a point when high-desert scrub gives way to Ponderosa pines.  

Deep woods on a ledgy section of Little Horse Trail

The vegetation transition begins on an uphill grade around milepost 311 and quicky evolves into full-blown high country pine forests.  This is a happy summer rite of passage for travelers looking to escape desert summer heat.  By the time the freeway reaches Munds Park, a mountain hamlet 20 miles south of Flagstaff that’s known for its abundant outdoor recreation opportunities, heat-weary travelers are ready to pull over and take a walk in the woods.
Hike begins at the Pinewood trailhead in Munds Park

Munds Park is a great place to do so.  The area is home to the Munds Park and Kelly OHV trail systems which combine for over 100 miles of hiker and shared-use trails, that debark from easy-to-reach trailheads.  A good start point for exploring this shady stretch of Coconino National Forest just west of Mormon Lake is the Little Horse Trail that begins at the Pinewood trailhead located just 2 miles from Interstate 17.

Nelson's larkspur grows in sunny meadows

The shared use route wanders through cool woodlands between Munds Park and Mormon Lake.

Simple and shaded, the hike follows a dirt path that’s open to hikers, equestrians, bikes and small motorized vehicles. 

Water and pines make for a cool summer hike

The first mile roughly traces Forest Road 240 where dispersed campsites fill up quickly in summer before swerving away from the road and onto ledges above a shallow canyon. 

There are over 100 miles of trails in the area

Over the barely noticeable 200-foot climb, the route passes through dense tree cover dominated by Ponderosa pines, Gamble oaks and New Mexico locust.  Two miles in, glimpses of the green

drainage area below, and if you have a sharp eye, communication towers on Mormon Mountain to the east peek through tree branches. 

Rocky Mountain iris bloom in May -June

Right about where the route begins an easy dip into the drainage, a pool of residual water sits in a sunny clearing surrounded by a jagged rock wall and a moist swale where Rocky Mountain irises add blazes of purple in May and June.  

Woodhouse's phlox grows abundantly on the trail

A few yards east of the water, the trail crosses the drainage, heads up an embankment and meets Forest Road 700 F.  Up to this point, the trail seems to cater more to foot traffic and bikes, but once past FR700F, it’s an OHV paradise.  That’s why, for hikers, the road is a good turnaround point for an easy six-miler.
Watch for signs where the trail crosses a drainage

LENGTH: 6 miles roundtrip  to FR 700 F and back

RATING: easy

ELEVATION: 6,781 – 7,008 feet


Pinewood Trailhead

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.



No comments: