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Monday, July 19, 2021

Munds Wagon Trail

MUNDS WAGON TRAIL

Monsoon water lingers in Bear Wallow Canyon

Sedona classic, Munds Wagon Trail, follows the course of an historic cattle trail that was used to drive herds and move goods from Sedona to summer pastures and markets south of Flagstaff.  The dirt wagon road was an essential, albeit dicey, transportation corridor used from the late 1800s to the 1930s when it was replaced by Schnebly Hill Road, which makes a precipitous, bumpy climb up red rock canyon walls to connect with modern-day Interstate 17.

Basket cairns mark the Munds Wagon Trail

Years after its demise, the route was relocated and repurposed into a non-motorized recreational trail.  The path slips through gullies and ridges between the road that traces the edge of Munds Mountain Wilderness Area and Bear Wallow Canyon. 

The route traces the edge of Munds Mtn Wilderness

From the Huckaby-Munds Wagon Trail trailhead, the hike begins with a slight dip over slickrock, roughly paralleling the road for excellent views of Sedona’s iconic Capitol Butte and Mitten Ridge formations.  
View of Munds Mountain Wilderness

The route is muddled with confusing paths-of-use, so be sure to follow the baskets cairns to stay on the official trail.  
Goodding's verbena blooms April - September

After two road crossings, the route begins the first of several dives into the canyon.  Shaded by cypress, juniper, pinion pines and pops of willows and hop trees, the rock-bound course of Bear Wallow Canyon harbors an ephemeral stream with dozens of tiny pools and rivulets that fill during snow melt runoff and summer monsoon rains. 
Yuccas & agaves line the high-desert route

Extend the hike on the Hangover Trail

The trail stays close to the canyon bottom for most of its 3.8-mile length, passing by waterfalls and shallow caves with stony traverses overlooking the gorge and an abrupt wall of sheer wilderness mountains. Where the trail ascends the agave-lined rims above the canyon, the rumble and roar of tour company Jeeps transporting boisterous groups up Schnebly Hill Road are clearly visible inching their way up the rutted, dirt passage.
Inside Bear Wallow Canyon

Evidently, passengers enjoy calling out and waving to hikers walking on the adjacent trail, which adds to the singular nature of the trek.  A group of picnic tables at the 1.3-mile point are something to keep in mind for a return trip lunch break. 

Catclaw acacia blooms April - October

Tadpoles scramble in the ephemeral canyon stream

At 1.8-miles, the trail meets the Hangover Trail junction. 

Trail crosses Schnebly Hill Road several times

For a longer and more difficult option, pick up this trail and follow it 3.6 miles to where it reconnects with Munds Trail at the Cow Pies trailhead. This detour involves much slickrock and exposure, so it’s not for the faint-of-heart. 
A shallow cave above Bear Wallow Canyon

To bypass the scary stuff, continue hiking on Munds Trail, as it the road two more times before it leaves the canyon and heads uphill to its north terminus near the top of Bear Wallow Canyon and colorfully-layered Merry-Go-Round Rock on Schnebly Hill Road.

LENGTH:

To Hangover Trail Junction: 1.8 miles one way

To Cow Pies Trail junction: 2.8 miles one way

To end of trail: 3.8 miles one way

RATING: moderate

ELEVATION: 4,640 - 5,591 feet (on Munds Trail only)

GETTING THERE: From traffic circle located at the Oak Creek bridge on State Route 179 in Sedona, turn right onto Schnebly Hill Road and go one mile to the trailhead on the left. Roads are suitable for all vehicles. There is a restroom at the trailhead.

FEE: A Red Rock Pass or equivalent is required at the Schnebly Hill trailhead. There is a permit kiosk at the trailhead.

INFO: Coconino National Forest

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recarea/?recid=74313

Monday, July 12, 2021

KINNIKINICK LAKE

KINNIKINICK LAKE

Scrub land surrounds Kinnickinick Lake

Fishing and hiking share a common component--hoofing it to get to the good stuff.  Anglers typically trudge miles along streams and lake shores in search of the ideal spot to cast a line, while hikers will go out of their way to explore quirky, out-of-the-way sights.

Kinnickinick Lake, located 38 miles south of Flagstaff, is one place where anglers and hikers can unite in purpose.

Reeds grow around the lake's dam

The small trout fishery is situated on a desolate plateau, dotted with scraggly junipers a few miles southeast of Mormon Lake in Coconino National Forest.  Vast grasslands where domestic cattle browse among sporadic stands of Ponderosa pines and water tanks define the dusty, 9-mile drive in on kidney-jarring back roads.

Calliopsis bloom along the water Jun-Sept

 

 

At approximately 100 surface acres in size, the lake sits at 7,000 feet in elevation and is open for day-use  fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing and boating.  
Pines and junipers provide spotty shade along the hike

Largely shade-less with an eerie kind of allure, Kinnickinick, which is a Native American word used to describe plant-based mixtures for smoking, makes for an unusual trek.

The 2-mile circumference hike around the water involves following faint paths-of-use along a mix of mucky fringe, jumbled boulders and pine-shaded shores. 

The rocky fringe of Kinnickinick Lake

The route passes several barbed wire fences—close all gates and never cut or alter any parts—alternating among low bluffs above the lake and shoreline scrambles. 
The airy terrain of Kinnickinick Lake

The lake is bound by a dam at the head of Grapevine Canyon where acres of reeds serve as camouflage for waterfowl like ospreys, Great Blue herons and ducks and well as the herds of elk and pronghorn that roam the area.  
The lake is a haven for birds and waterfowl

A fun way to hike the lake is to do a hybrid kayak-walk trip.  This option circumvents the barbed wire and much of the loose-rock footing while providing better opportunities to view wildlife.
Poison milkweed attracts pollinators

 

Either way, this off-the-beaten-path, primitive destination offers an alternative to the typical party atmosphere of spending a day at the lake.

The hike follows faint paths-of-use

Curly dock flourishes in muddy areas around the lake

LENGTH:  2-mile circumference hike

RATING: moderate

ELEVATION:  7,010 – 7,095 feet

GETTING THERE:

From Flagstaff go 24 miles south on Lake Mary Road (County Road 3) to Forest Road 125 on the left signed for Kinnickinick Lake.  Go 5 miles on FR 125 to Forest Road 82, veer right and continue 4.5 miles to the lake.  Forest roads 125 and 82 are rough dirt but passable by most carefully-driven vehicles.  The lake is open for day use only and there are no fees. There is a restroom near the boat ramp and picnic tables are spread out along the shore.

INFO: Coconino National Forest

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recarea/?recid=55002

Friday, June 25, 2021

CHILL ON THESE COOL, KID-FRIENDLY VALLEY TRAILS

CHILL ON THESE COOL, KID-FRIENDLY VALLEY TRAILS

There's lots of shade at Gilbert Riparian Preserve

In Arizona, a summertime trifecta of wildfires, forest closures and excessive heat can challenge even the most determined hikers.  While escape to the high country and cooler mountain climes is often not an option, the scramble to find suitable hike destinations that are close by, offer a little shade, are entertaining for antsy kids and satisfying for adult hikers can be challenging.

But it is still possible hike safely during the Phoenix inferno months by hitting local trails

early in the morning (we’re talking, be done by 9 a.m.), take plenty of water, don a hat, sun-protective cloths and sturdy footwear and always tell somebody where you are going and when you expect to return.  Here are a few gems that are great choices for quick escapes.

 

CENTRAL PHOENIX

Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area

A restored section of the Salt River flows through the site

Just two miles south of downtown Phoenix, where the Salt River once flowed, a former dumping ground has been transformed into a thriving 595-acre oasis in the desert.

Dozens of species of dragonflies live by the river

With the cooperation of the Army Corps of Engineers, the Flood Control District of Maricopa County and droves of volunteers, tons of waste were cleared out of the Salt River channel and replaced with ponds, waterfalls and tens of thousands of indigenous plant species. Although the revitalized strip of riparian habitat looks as if it occurred naturally, it’s a “demonstration wetland” that was created by tapping into the groundwater beneath the river channel and pumping more than 2.65 million gallons of water per day to sustain the habitat.
Birds and waterfowl are easy to spot on the hike

Trail segments are organized to feature specific desert habitats such as Cottonwood-Willow, Lower Sonoran, Mesquite Bosque and Palo Verde. The area is flush with native plants that were harvested from seeds or cuttings within a half-mile of the Salt River. Snowy egrets, raptors, toads and dozens of other species have settled into the reedy shores and shaded coves.  

LENGTH: 13.8 miles of trails

RATING: easy and informative

GETTING THERE:

Northeast 7th Ave. Trailhead: 2801 S. 7th Ave.

Northeast Central Ave. Trailhead: 2439 S. Central Ave.

Southeast Central Ave Trailhead: TEMPORARILY CLOSED

Southwest 7th Ave. Trailhead: 3212 S. 7TH Ave.

16th St. Trailhead: 3203 S 16th St.

HOURS: Sunrise to 7 p.m. or sunset, whichever comes first.

FACILITIES: restrooms at some trailheads

City of Phoenix

https://www.phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/rio-salado-habitat-restoration-area

 

EAST VALLEY

Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

Waterfowl thrive in the preserve's 7 ponds

The sound of waterfowl is deafening.  Even with its proximity to U.S. 60 and a busy community center, a hike in this wetland complex of seven ponds and a fishing lake mimics a stroll in a wilderness marsh.  These created groundwater recharge basins are surrounded by massive, green riparian vegetation attracting thousands of shorebirds, making for a cool, shady hike, even in warm weather.  

Over 4 miles of shady trails wind through the site

Great blue herons, Snowy egrets, long billed dowitchers, mallards, grebes, killdeer, warblers and hummingbirds are extremely easy to spot.  Short loop trails with interpretive signs weave among flower gardens, mesquite bosques, nesting sites and feeding grounds.  For hard-core birders, viewing blinds are set up along the shores. 
Trails are easy and barrier-free

In addition to the hiking trails, the site features a kiddie playground with educational (dinosaur dig, anybody) opportunities, an observatory and a hefty events calendar.

LENGTH: 4.5 miles of trails

RATING: easy, barrier-free

ELEVATION: 1,200 feet

DOGS:  Leashed dogs are allowed, and owners must clean up after their pets.

GETTING THERE:

2757 E. Guadalupe Rd.

HOURS: 5:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Trails open dawn to dusk

FACILTIES: restrooms

City of Gilbert

https://www.gilbertaz.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/riparian-preserve-at-water-ranch

 

WEST VALLEY

Skyline Regional Park, Turnbuckle Trail

View from the top of Valley View Trail

Anchoring the maze of paths that wind through 8,600-acre Skyline Regional Park, the Turnbuckle Trail offers an excellent introduction to the park’s mix of easy strolls and challenging mountain climbs among the washes and foothills of the southern White Tank Mountains. Although it's located just 2 miles north of Interstate 10, the blissfully quiet site has a wild yet accessible feel to it.

Desert vistas abound on Turnbuckle Trail

Like most hikes in the park, Turnbuckle begins with a stroll across a graceful, oxidized bridge spanning Mountain Wash. It loops around a prominent mountain peak and connects with Valley Vista Trail for an optional 0.33-mile, difficult climb to a vertigo-inducing summit. This short hiker-only trek involves some steep, narrow sections with drop offs.  Begin at sunrise to get up and back before the heat of day sets in.

LENGTH: 4 miles round trip

RATING: moderate

ELEVATION: 1,500 - 2,300 feet

FACILITIES: Restrooms, picnic tables, campsites

HOURS: Trails open sunrise to sunset. Gates close at 10 p.m.

GETTING THERE:

2600 N. Watson Road, Buckeye

INFO: City of Buckeye

https://www.buckeyeaz.gov/residents/skyline-regional-park-trails

 

NORTH VALLEY

Jewel of the Creek Preserve, Cave Creek

A desert oasis along Cave Creek

Showcasing the desert foothills and thriving riparian environment surrounding the “Jewel of the Creek” area of perennial Cave Creek, this unexpected strip of lush creek-side willows, alders, walnut trees and cattails is hemmed in by rugged Upper Sonoran Desert terrain making for a breathtaking hybrid desert-wetland hike. While there, you’ll also wander through a mesquite bosque, the 5th rarest eco-system on earth. Although most hikers prefer to grab a map at the trailhead and head out on their own, the park ranger, Kevin Smith—who knows just about everything about the local flora, fauna, geology and human history of the area, conducts regular guided tours for those who would like an educational experience.

Many eco-zones are represented on the hike

There's year-round water at Jewel of the Creek

Check out the link below to find out when the next one is happening. We can thank the efforts of the Desert Foothills Land Trust for securing the preservation of this delicate eco-system and for also raising the funds needed to plan for and build the trail.
Rare desert water runs through the preserve

LENGTH: 1.9 miles for the creek loops only

RATING: moderate

ELEVATION: 2,400 -2,150 feet

FEE: $3 per person (exact change is required)

FACILITIES: portable toilets at Spur Cross Ranch trailhead

SUMMER HOURS: 5 a.m. – 9 p.m.

GETTING THERE:

44000 N. Spur Cross Road

Desert Foothills Land Trust

https://www.dflt.org/

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

https://www.maricopacountyparks.net/park-locator/spur-cross-ranch-conservation-area/

 

 

Monday, June 21, 2021

FOREST CLOSURES 2021

FOREST CLOSURES


Due to dry conditions and wildfire activity Arizona national forests are going into TOTAL CLOSURE MODE beginning Wednesday June 23, 2020.

This means NO ACCESS at any time.

Closures will be rescinded when sufficient rain reduces the risk of wildfire danger.

CHECK STATUS BEFORE YOU GO!

 

COCONINO NATIONAL FOREST

https://www.fs.usda.gov/coconino/

 

APACHE SITGREAVES NATIONAL FOREST

https://www.fs.usda.gov/asnf

 

PRESCOTT NATIONAL FOREST

https://www.fs.usda.gov/prescott

 

TONTO NATIONAL FOREST

https://www.fs.usda.gov/tonto

 

CORONADO NATIONAL FOREST

https://www.fs.usda.gov/coronado/

 

KAIBAB NATIONAL FOREST

https://www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab

Friday, June 18, 2021

I'm Still Here!

 STAYING OUT OF THE WAY


Yup, I'm still here.  My summertime hiking blog posts can get sporadic due to wildfires, road closures and extreme heat.  I stay away from areas that are being impacted by fire, evacuations and smoke so that first responders can do their jobs without having to deal with extra traffic and the potential for more search-and-rescue pressure.

Before heading out on a hike during fire season (which is pretty much all year now) check the Incident Information System https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/  for the locations, closure notices and status of wildfires. 

Let's do our part by staying out of the way.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Sandy Seep Trail

SANDY SEEP TRAIL

Sandy Seep Trail below east slopes of Elden Mtn

Short, easy and scenic, the Sandy Seep Trail offers quick access to a network of routes on the east flanks of Mount Elden in northeast Flagstaff.  While the 1.5-mile path makes for a sweet standalone hike, it also serves as an on-ramp for the 42-mile, city-circling Flagstaff Loop Trail and the 800+-mile, state-traversing Arizona National Scenic Trail. 
Extend the hike at the "sign vortex"

In addition, the route can be used to access two heart-pumping trails---Little Bear and Heart--that climb steep slopes to the ridgelines of Elden Mountain. 
Slimleaf lima beans bloom May - October

Located just a few clicks north of downtown off US 89, the old standard trail has been a stalwart pillar of the Mount Elden/Dry Lakes Hills trail system in Coconino National Forest. 
Mt. Elden seen from Sandy Seep Trail

Having already survived several devastating wildfires including the 1977 Radio Fire and the 2010 Schultz Fire, the trail is also within the scope of proposed changes that will improve forest health and enhance user experience in the popular recreation hub.  You can weigh in on how the changes might roll out.
Western blue flax blooms in clearings Apr-Sept

Coconino National Forest is asking for public input regarding proposed improvements to the non-motorized trails in the Mount Elden/Dry Lake Hills area in northeast Flagstaff.  Popular hiking, biking and equestrian trails in the heavily-used area have been deteriorating and a maze of unauthorized paths have resulted in environmental damage, trail-user confusion and safety concerns.  The proposed project includes plans for sustainable new trail construction, re-routes of existing trails, trailhead improvements and closure of some wildcat paths.

The public may comment online or at scheduled in-person events between June 1 and July 1, 2021.  Here’s the link to the plan maps, environmental analysis, contacts and comment form: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/coconino/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD917886

View of the seep from the Arizona Trail

In the meantime, hit the Sandy Seep Trail to gain an appreciation for this beautiful mountainous region and see for yourself what a re-boot will do for the area.  From the trailhead, the path is wide and easy to follow.  You’ll pass the first Arizona Trail/Flagstaff Loop junction at the 0.1-mile point before the path veers right through spotty pines and oak glens.  Views of 9,299-foot Mount Elden and 9,018-foot Little Elden Mountain bolster the trail’s western edge.  Sandy Seep Trail ends at the “sign vortex” at the 1.5-mile point.  Interestingly, the seep is not located on the eponymous trail, but a few yards ahead on the Little Elden Trail.  
Look for Spreading Dogbane June-August

Use this trail to access the Little Bear Trail

To get there, follow the Little Elden/Arizona Trail another 0.2-mile to where an Arizona Trail sign steers hikers to the right.  Within a few yards, the trail rises above a sunken basin ringed with reeds and wildflowers.


Sandy Seep is an onramp to the AZT and Flagstaff Loop

Sometimes soggy, but mostly dry, the seep is a favorite hangout for local wildlife like deer, squirrels and rabbits.  For an easy stroll, make the seep your turnaround point, or another good day hike out-and-back option is to continue another 2.7 miles to the Little Elden Springs trailhead.
Scenic spot on the Little Elden/Arizona Trail

LENGTH: 3 miles round trip for Sandy Seep or 8.4 miles roundtrip to the Little Elden Spring trailhead and back.

RATING: easy

ELEVATION: 6,885 – 7,270 feet or 6,885 - 7,320 feet

GETTING THERE:

Sandy Seep Trailhead as described here:

In Flagstaff, take US 89 north toward Page. One half mile beyond the Townsend/Winona Road intersection, turn left onto Forest Road 9139 and continue a few yards to the trailhead.

Little Elden Spring Trailhead option:

Drive 5 miles northeast of In Flagstaff go 5 miles north on US 89 to Elden Spring Road (Forest Road 556), turn left and continue 3.5 miles to the Little Elden Springs trailhead on the right.

INFO: Coconino National Forest

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recarea/?recid=55170

Arizona Trail Association

https://aztrail.org/explore/passages/passage-32-elden-mountain/

Flagstaff Loop Trail

https://www.flagstaff.az.gov/1521/Flagstaff-Urban-Trails-Bikeways-Map

Monday, May 24, 2021

Dawa Loop

DAWA LOOP

“Where’s Fay Canyon,” the bewildered couple asked of me on the Cockscomb Trail.  “Across the road from the trailhead,” I replied.

Conifers shade a crossing of Dry Creek

With the faint aroma of marijuana drifting from their air space, they added, “Thanks, that’s the trail we want. This one stinks.”

Stinks?  Being one who picks her fights, I let the offhanded dis roll, bid them a good day and continued hiking on one of the best “stinky” trails in Sedona.

View of Doe Mountain from Cockscomb Trail

 

While Fay Canyon and the many other classic trails like Doe and Bear Mountains located along Boynton Pass Road in northwest Sedona are terrific, so are the dozens of routes that mill around the canyon-riddled landscape below the iconic big-name draws. 

Barberry shrubs bloom Apr-Jul

Offering quieter, less congested tours of Sedona’s spectacular scenery, the trails that explore the woody terrain around Dry Creek serve up myriad high-desert hike options. 
New Mexico locust bloom May-July

Like many Red Rock Country trails, the cluster south of Doe Mountain are short, interlaced and designed for easy customization. 

The route crosses Dry Creek several times

The Ok Trail traces a ledge above Dry Creek

Excellent map signs posted at trailheads and along the trails make it easy to plan a hike to suit individual preferences.  There are no bad choices.  None stink.  One circuit to try uses the Cockscomb, Dawa, Ok and Arizona Cypress trails for an interesting lollipop loop.  From the Fay Canyon trailhead, head out on the Cockscomb Trail. 
Tufted evening primrose bloom Apr-Nov

This 0.9-mile tether trail passes through sunny meadows and rolling hills with great views of Doe Mountain to the west and Mescal Mountain on the northeast horizon. where At the signed Dawa Trail junction, veer left to begin the first leg of the hike’s loop segment. 
Cockscomb formation seen from Dawa Trail

Here, mountain views begin to recede as vegetation thickens with pinon pines, cypress and New Mexico locust towering over prickly barberry shrubs. The first of several crossings of Dry Creek, which usually lives up to its name, comes just before the 1.7-mile point, where the route turns right onto the Ok Trail.  Over its shady, 0.2-mile length, the Ok Trail traces the ledges above the creek before it meets the Arizona Cypress Trail. 
A late-blooming Strawberry hedgehog cactus

At the junction sign, continue straight ahead, past a huge Arizona Walnut tree to where the trail makes another crossing of the creek.  Strewn with colorful river rocks and tumbled pebbles, the creek channel here includes a ragged wall of scoured red earth.
Desert four o'clock bloom Apr-Sept

 
Engelmann's prickly pear cacti bloom Apr-Jun

Living up to its name, the Arizona Cypress Trail is lined with hundreds of the eponymous shaggy-bark conifers, including a massive, decaying specimen just past the creek cross. 
Mescal Mountain (center) seen from Dawa Trail

It takes at three-person chain to hug the trunk of the not-quite-totally-dead tree.  Look closely and you’ll see a few living branches sprouting from the last viable sapwood of the ancient tree.  
Narrowleaf penstemon bloom Jun-Aug

This mostly viewless leg of the route parallels the creek for a half-mile, then reconnects with the south arm of the Dawa Trail.  As the path climbs out of the creek channel, it unpacks a fresh set of vistas.  
The Arizona Cypress Trail lives up to its name

To the southeast, the familiar forms of Courthouse Butte, Capitol Butte and Chimney Rock stand out above green canopies.  Gradually, the close-knit creekside greenery gives way to exposed ridges where cacti, wildflowers and blooming shrubs thrive in red-tinged soils.  
Teeny-weeny Miniature wool star bloom Mar-Jun

In just under a mile, the route returns to the first Dawa Trail junction, where you’ll retrace your steps on the Cockscomb Trail back to the trailhead or use the map signs to add more miles.
Map signs make navigation easy

LENGTH: 4.2-miles

RATING: easy

ELEVATION: 4,334 – 4,569 feet

GETTING THERE:

Fay Canyon Trailhead.

From the State Route 179/89A traffic circle in Sedona, veer left and go 3.2 miles on SR 89A to Dry Creek Road. Turn right and continue 4.5 miles on Dry Creek Road to the Boynton Canyon Road intersection, turn left onto Boynton Pass Road and go 0.5-mile to the trailhead on the left. There’s a restroom at the trailhead. A Red Rock Pass is not required.

INFO:https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recarea/?recid=54974