Archive for the ‘Flagstaff hikes’ Category

Johnson Canyon Railroad Hike

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Another Behind the Hike. This hike appears in Five Star Trails: Flagstaff and Sedona. The hike itself is a fair bit west of Williams, but before you get to Ash Fork.

JCRR W tunnel

DATE: 8/29/10


START TIME: 12:45p




TH COORDINATES: N 35° 14.626 / W 112° 21.755 / 5926’



NEED TO KNOW: No water. Bit of a drive. No official trailhead.

The hardest part about the hike is finding the trailhead in the maze of marginally marked forest roads. One of the few poor reviews I’ve had of this book griped specifically how they could not find the trailhead from my directions.

This is one of the few hikes where I encountered no one on the trail. It is also the hike where I encountered a rattlesnake.

Her are my video notes, edited somewhat for your sanity.


Little Bear Trail reopens

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Little Bear Trail was definitely a Five Star trail before the Schultz Fire. Now it’s at least open again.

From the Coconino National Forest:

Little Bear Trail reopens after being closed for 6 years

Flagstaff, Ariz., Oct. 20, 2016, For Immediate Release — The Flagstaff Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest is pleased to announce the re-opening of the Little Bear Trail in the Schultz Fire burn area after many donations and years of volunteer efforts.

The trail was closed in 2010, when the entire area was closed for public safety concerns after the Schultz Fire impacted the area. Following the Schultz Fire, numerous hazards along the trail such as falling trees, rolling rocks and unstable trail conditions kept the trail closed, and monsoon storms continued to severely erode and flood the trail.

“Without the amazing efforts of our Flagstaff trail volunteer community, this re-opening would not have been possible,” said Sean Murphy, Flagstaff Ranger District Trails and Wilderness Technician.  “It is a privilege to work for, and with, such a dedicated and involved community!”

The trail’s revitalization was a huge effort from multiple partners with the Forest Service. Individuals and businesses within the community stepped forward, and more than $40,000 was spent to employ American Conservation Experience (ACE) crews in the interest of seeing the trail stabilized and made safe for public enjoyment.

Flagstaff Biking Organization (FBO) and the U.S. Forest Service used grants and work days to repair treacherous rocky terrain to once again provide a safe trail for bikers, equestrians and hikers.  Not only did Flagstaff Biking Organization have three volunteer events in 2016 to work on Little Bear Trail, but they collected $10,000 in grants and funds garnered from events managed by the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona (MBAA). This allowed for additional ACE crews to help realign one of the most problematic spots on the trail. Additionally, the Flagstaff Ranger District obtained another $30,000 in grant funds to keep ACE working through the fall.

Other organizations assisted in repairs, sponsored trail events and helped provide refreshments to those working on the trail. This included the Coconino Horseman’s Alliance, Coconino Trail Riders, Cosmic Cycles, Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution and Run Flagstaff. Fratelli Pizza, Kickstand Coffee and Biff’s Bagels graciously provided refreshments.

“Some of the things that ACE has completed on the trail are, quite frankly, works of art,” said Deborah Soltesz, volunteer trail worker and Coconino National Forest webmaster. “The work involved not just major rehabilitation labor, or the moving of dirt and rock sloughed over the trail, but fixing some washed out drainages and trail rerouting by building new trail near the old one, where repairing the old eroded trail was unfeasible.”

During the last trail day sponsored by Flagstaff Biking Organization on Oct. 15, more than 45 people participated, representing all types of forest users and community volunteers.

“The trail closure is one of the little wounds left by the Schultz Fire,” said Soltesz, “and the process of reopening it has been part of the community’s healing following the [Schultz] fire’s devastation.”

Little Bear Trail climbs the Dry Lake Hills from Little Elden Trail to meet Sunset Trail in a quiet nook between the Dry Lake Hills and Mount Elden.

The trail climbs through the skeletons left behind by the Schultz Fire and patches of surviving ponderosa pine and Gambel oak. It gradually winds through Douglas-fir, limber pine, and pockets of aspen trees at the top. The trail offers outstanding views of the San Francisco Peaks, Sunset Crater, several prominent volcanic peaks, and in the distant background the Painted Desert acts as a colorful backdrop.

Many wildlife species make their home in this area including mule deer, elk, porcupine and black bear for which the trail is named. In addition, red-tailed hawks, raven and the occasional turkey vulture will dazzle you with their aerial acrobatics.

The Coconino National Forest would like to thank all of those who helped support this effort over the years it took to rehabilitate this trail.  “This was a true multi-partner effort!” said Murphy.

For images of the Oct. 15 Trail Day, please visit the Coconino National Forest Flickr site at

More information and a map showing the location of Little Bear Trail is located on the Coconino National Forest public website at



Taking the Inner Basin off of my bucket list

Friday, September 18th, 2015

My single biggest disappointment about writing Five Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona was that I could not include the Inner Basin Trail #29. I was literally driving up there on [date] to set up camp at Lockett Meadow, and hike that trail the next morning, when I had to turn around.

They had closed AZ 89 north of Flagstaff due to the smoke from what would become the Schultz Fire.

Area affected by the 2010 Schultz Fire. The Inner Basin is under the key.

Even after that fire was finally out, Lockett Meadow had been trashed by use as a staging area for the firefighters, and was closed for a year to be rehabbed. By the time that was complete, I was already past deadline.

I finally had another chance this August.

The brief hike description below lacks the sort of detail and documentation you’d find in my book, because, to be honest, I don’t go out equipped to take those kind of note anymore.  I hike for fun now. But I will share what I remember.

I have pictures, but this site doesn’t have room for such new-fangled things as photos (which are known to be one of the biggest drivers of traffic to blogs – but I’m not the expert. Just sayin’). (The image above is a copied URL.)

You can see them on my Tumblr page though.

UPDATE: I can copy URL’s from my own blog….

Lockett Meadow

Inner Basin Train starts from the Lockett Meadow Campground north of Flagstaff. Lockett Meadow campsites require a fee, but trailhead parking is free.  You should know, though, that you are starting – starting – at 8900’ above sea level, and it only goes up from there.

The tall grass of Lockett Meadow grows over a shelf made by a collapsed section of the caldera wall of the San Francisco Peaks.  The SF peaks are remnants of a much taller single volcano that erupted catastrophically millions of years ago. The Coconino Plateau sits over a magma plume. That’s why the springs are sometimes hot, and the hills are covered with lava rock.

The first part is a climb through spruce and pine forest, skirting the farthest advance of the Schultz fire. Do not despair, for you soon climb past all of that, as the dirt single-track now winds and switches back through a huge stand of aspen trees.

Seriously, if you believe that you cannot possibly get enough of towering, trembling white aspens all around you, this trail will test that notion.

The trail evens out, and the aspen surrender to the spruce again, when the trail joins Waterline Road. This road, which circumnavigates the northern slopes of the Peaks,  was built and maintained for utility vehicles to service the water pumps  on the slopes, and in the basin. These facilities provide Flagstaff with much of its water. The road keeps winding up the mountain to a large pump station, where signs will explain this.

This is where most of the local hikers – who can be numerous on weekends with good weather, turn around. If this were for the book, I’d tell you this is the turn-around for the Easy version of the hike.

There is a spring at the place, water dripping out of a pipe, and another sign warns you that it is not treated in any way. This water has not, however, drained through cattle country, which is the source of the most common contaminants and parasites that make stream water perilous in these parts. So it would be reasonably safe. But it tastes just like the pipe.

From here, you can follow Waterline Road east then south (ish)and down towards Schultz pass (where the fire started). Or you can follow it around west then north(ish) over towards its junction with the Bear Jaw and Abineau trails (which I covered in the book). Or you can keep going south-ish, and definitely up towards the basin.

The road rounds steep, grass covered hills until the broad meadow of the Inner Basin opens up. Following the road through the tall grass and intermittent stands of spruce trees brings you to another water pump station. It was pumping along loud enough when I arrived that I had to shout to my son six feet away. That’s not always the case, happily.

This is the turn-around for the medium hike. You are about three miles from the campground at this point.

The road past that, further south and further up,, degenerating into rocky single-track as the forest of Christmas trees  mostly Engleman fir trees, close in around it.  It follows a steep ravine towards the edge of the Caldera, roughly beneath the shadow of Aggassiz Peak.

If you were to keep climbing (and I confess that we did not) the trail will wind and then switch back until it terminates at its intersection with the Weatherford Trail (also in my book) just below the tree-line. That’s the hard hike.

Now, because you got this far, here’s the secret hike. There is a closed road off to the side of the main trailhead. You cannot drive upon it. The gate is closed, and it’s choked by deadfall after a quarter mile in any case. But you can hike it.

The road parallels the trail, though pines and then aspen, only a little more direct, and a lot more secluded. On a Saturday afternoon, I has the road to myself to the point where I was worried about bears.

Oh yeah – the Peaks have some black bears. They are shy – which is why they’re still around to be honest – but this place was isolated enough that I could imagine encountering them. I didn’t.

After two miles or so (I wasn’t prepared to accurately mark the mileage) I heard voices. The Secret Road intersects with the Waterline trail near that same pump station with the spring.  I returned the way I came.

Inner basin trax map

My map generating skills aren’t what they used to be either.

Fire and Construction updates from Coconino NF

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

First, a press release about the Fisher Fire.

Fisher Fire – 8:00 a.m. update

 Flagstaff, Ariz. – The Fisher Fire, reported at 3:00 p.m. on April 11th, is located near Fisher Point in Walnut Canyon approx. five miles southeast of Flagstaff in the vicinity of the Fisher Fire from last year.

The fire remains at 175 acres and is 50% contained.  Today, crews will grid and mop up as topography and fuel conditions allow.  Terrain is steep with rolling rocks and snags.  No growth was reported on the fire and all lines held.  No structures are threatened.

Today, temperatures today could reach 71 degrees with winds becoming westerly and increasing in strength with possible 45 mph gusts this afternoon; the relative humidity is forecast between 10-15%.   The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for today in effect from noon to 8:00 p.m. MST due to strong winds and a low relative humidity.

The public should remain aware of area closures around the vicinity of the fire which include some of the trail system.  Reducing the risk to firefighters and the public is our first priority in every fire management activity.

Local, state, tribal, and Federal agencies support one another with wildfire response, including engagement in collaborative planning and the decision-making processes that take into account all lands and recognize the interdependence and statutory responsibilities among jurisdictions.


DATE OF DETECTION:  April 11, 2014

CAUSE:  Confirmed human-caused, specific cause undetermined; investigation ongoing.

CURRENT SIZE:  175 acres


LOCATION:  Fisher Point area, Flagstaff

AGENCY:  USDA Forest Service

RESOURCES:  7 Hotshot Crews, 3 Type Two Crews, 2 dozers, 5 water tenders, 1 lead plane, 1 Air Attack, 1Type 1 and 1 Type 3 helicopter, 10 engines, and numerous fire personnel.





Heather M. Noel

Public Affairs Officer (Acting)

U.S. Forest Service, Coconino National Forest

1824 S. Thompson St., Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Office (928) 527-3490  Cell (406) 370-7370



Some of those trails are in my guidebook (Five Star Trails: Flagstaff and Sedona). I revisited the area last summer.

Several hikes in that guide’s Sedona section originate or pass through the  Midgely Bridge Trailhead, which has been closed  for construction:


Sedona, AZ – The Midgley Bridge Trailhead and parking area will be temporarily closed for construction activity from Monday, April 21st – Friday, May 2nd.  A fenced enclosure will prohibit public access from 89A to the parking area in an effort to reduce risk and exposure to construction activities.  There will be no access to Wilson Canyon and Wilson Mountain Trails from Midgley Bridge.

During this closure, an accessible toilet will be installed and an accessible path will be built from the parking lot to the restroom.  As there was no toilet previously at the trailhead, this addition should assist in reducing pollutants from reaching the Oak Creek Watershed.  This work is possible through a grant received from the Oak Creek Watershed Council, administered by Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s water quality improvement grant program.

Plan accordingly during this time period if your recreation includes this area.

For more information concerning this project, please contact the Red Rock Ranger District at (928) 203-2900.


A toilet here would be a welcome addition.


Mormon Lake segment of the AZT – sort of.

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

This week, my son and I – for his birthday and his idea – hiked ore than 30 miles of the Arizona trail south of Flagstaff.

(Ben’s 16.)

We went roughly 35 miles over three days from a road north of Fisher Point to the Double Springs Campground near Mormon Lake. En route, we covered parts of two hikes I have written about: Sandys Canyon (above which towers Fisher Point) and Anderson Mesa.

We started on Monday (June 3, 2013) at about 12:30 pm at the furthest point south my dear, sainted mother could coax her Toyota Prius, which turns out to be about a mile south of Log Cabin Tank. From there, we followed the dirt road until it was heading clearly west. Realizing that this was running parallel t the AZT, but only a quarter mile north of it, we mad a brief run cross country due south, and soon found our target – the AZT on the rim of Walnut Canyon.

For the record, this was as close as we came to getting lost. So there.

I should also add that we greatly benefited from the recent maintenance and upgrades the AZT has received through this section. It is well marked and in good shape.

We paused for photos at Fisher Point, and then wound down into Sandys Canyon. The cave at the base of Fisher Point has acquired a hornet nest. The east flank of the canyon has suffered recent fire damage. Now you know.

The AZT leaves Sandys Canyon to bolt south over the greater part of Anderson Mesa. This was the only serious climb on day one, and the first time we began noticing our blisters.

You know how they always stress that you need to break in your boots before hiking in them. That;s good advice for day hikes, but that’s an absolute necessity for a multi-day hike. because whatever those boots are doing to your feet – they’re gonna keep doing, and it only gets worse (and worse) (and worse).

We made camp on top of the mesa just north of Marshall Lake. At this point, our blisters were only annoying.  We found some oaks to swing ur hammocks from. I saw elk. It was a good camp. In the morning, we pushed to the Anderson Mesa trailhead by the observatory (the working part – not the tourist part) where we had cached a gallon of water. That’s where we had breakfast.

We spent the rest of the day following the AZT across the lava-studded dome that is Anderson Mesa. Past Prime and Vail lakes (the part of the hike I wrote about) and further across what I called “either a meadow crowded with trees or a wide open forest, depending on how you wish to phrase it.” In general, despite the relative openness of the terrain, you can only see a hundred yards in any direction.

By this time, the blisters were a real problem.  I am between good hiking boots. Ben’s normal boots had failed zippers. But he and my wife and I are all within a half-size of each other. So he borrowed my work boots, and I borrowed my wife’s new hiking boots, and this worked for about 8 miles, and it was tolerable for the next five, but now 14 miles in we were both dealing with multiple blister points, and getting worse.

We contained the damage with a defensive rotation. I took the work boots – which are heavy, but broken in for me, and Ben continued on in my camp sandals. In this way, we continued without developing new blisters.

At the edge of the mesa, 24 miles in, we made camp deliberately close to the Horse lake trailhead. There was some optimism that some kind motorist would give me a ride to the car (still 12 miles distant) but this never worked out. I have forsworn any angry comments about this.

The next morning, feet have covered in bandages and duct tape, we started the last leg of our journey with careful steps.

These are my insights to hiking with blisters:

  • When you feel one coming – stop and treat it right then.  It really. really does only get worse.
  • You are going to go slower and stop more often. Pain saps energy. This is not a failure – it’s just damage control.
  • The worst part is starting after stopping for a while. Accept that you’re going to go slow, and let your pace develop gradually – like a semi-truck.
  • If you think about something else, your feet will find a stride. Oh – it will still hurt. Consider though, that thinking about every step doesn’t make it hurt less, but it does make the pain that much more obvious.
  • Keep some shoes or better sandals in the car. The sooner you get out of the boots, the better off you will be.

From the knees up, this last stretch of our hike was actually the most pleasant. The AZT passes through thick pines following the old RR grade, which is cool with both shade and history. It then skirts the slope of Mormon Mountain, which is a lot fo up and down, and much less fun. Perhaps the blisters color my perception here.

We stumbled into the Mormon Mountain TH, by Dairy Springs Campground, by lunchtime. We were psyching urselves up for the last two miles, when I was able to flag down a passing ATV truck thing, and those nice ladies gave a ride the last two miles to the car.


Will update later with pics and maps.

O’Leary Peak

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Onward with our behind-the-hike series on Five Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona.

O’Leary Peak

Hike date : 7/11/10

Companions none

Start 11:45am

Finish 5:30p

Total time 5:45

Total miles 10.26

The first part of the hike was done in the pouring rain, but happily that cleared up for most of the hike afterwards.

The lookout tower on top of O’Leary is manned throughout the summer. The lady in it when I was up there invited me up after some hesitation. At night, she told me, she could still see the embers from the Schultz Fire glowing across the mountainside.

She wasn’t happy that I was writing a hiking guide. She didn’t want a lot of visitors disturbing her. She did tell me about a woman writing a book about fire watch towers throughout Arizona. Pretty sure she meant this one. Good luck finding a copy.

This is a public land hike from start to finish, and her own agency touts it on their website. So her right to privacy is only protected by the 2000′ of elevation gain over the course of 5 miles. Nonetheless, there is no right to tour the look-out tower. If she ( or whoever has that station) doesn’t want company – that’s it. You get a view from the rocks.

Still worth it, of course.

BTW – the geo-cache on the saddle between the two peaks – that’s mine. Enjoy.

More on this hike on You Tube

O’Leary Peak on You Tube

One last thing – this is why comments are closed for most of my posts:

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I do allow replies when they are relevant. The burden of proof is on the replier. If in doubt – I say it’s spam. The best place to reply is the Choose My Next Book page.

Mount Eden Loop

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Part of an ongoing series of behind-the-hike descriptions for 5 Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona. This is Hike #3.

Big Elden Loop

DATE: 9/18/10



END TIME: 6:21p




Up the Upper Oldham Trail, West across the Sunset Trail, Back down the Brookbank Trail. Start at TH on Lookout Rd.

This was our second attempt at finding a worthwhile loop hike up and down Mt Elden outside of Flagstaff. Our first effort was done in by fire closures from the Schultz Fire. Some of that first hike was salvaged into Little Elden Springs. Some of it I can never describe in detail in writing.

This one went much better. Good start, good weather, good hike. We did not actually take the spur to the look-out tower. I used the GPS data from our first attempt.

There are several good geo-caches along Sunset Trail.

The road up to the peak is strictly 4WD. That would be why there’s always plenty of parking.

The You Tube video for this hike was actually put together by Ben.

Mt Elden Loop You Tube video

“Shore is perty up here…”

Fat Man’s Loop

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

As I did for the Tonto Guide, I’m going to provide some background notes for each hike in

Five-Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona 5 Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona cover

In the order they appear in the book.

Fat Man’s Loop

DATE: 9/10/10



END TIME: 7:30p


Ben is my son, and accompanied me on more hikes (by far) than any other companion throughout the book. He was 13 at the time.

We had a late start because we had done Cathedral Rock in Sedona earlier that day.

Later that night, we met up with some friends and shared their campsite for the Barn Burner bike race. My friends were HAM operators providing support.

The next morning, Ben and I did Bill Williams Mountain.

I wanted to include an easy (and relatively adult) hike close to town. It is the counterweight to Airport Mesa in Sedona.

So, the clip below is YouTube video #1 – and there’s a learning curve. Plus, I had run the battery dry earlier that day, and was filming on fumes both in available power and available sunlight. All that survived are a few stills and my DVR notes. That’s the raw observations that I later write a hike description from.  I also made  a few into the clip below, for whatever that’s worth.

Official: 5 Star Hikes – Flagstaff and Sedona is underway

Friday, May 21st, 2010

I have contracted with Menasha Ridge Press (our fine host here) to write 5 Star Hikes – Flagstaff and Sedona (or some very similar title. It’s not official until it gets an ISBN)

The following is adapted from the style guide:

Five-Star Trails combines elements of the popular 60/60 series (60 Hikes within 60 Miles of . . . [city]) with those of the D&O series (Day & Overnight Hikes in. . . [national forests, national parks, other wilderness areas]). […]
Like the 60/60 series, Five-Star books typically cover hiking in and around cities, but Five-Star books’ anchor locations are smaller urban areas than those chosen for 60/60. For example, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta are 60/60 topics, whereas Spokane, Boise, and Chattanooga are examples of cities that fit the Five-Star profile. Also, Five-Star books present only 30 to 40 hikes-or half- to two-thirds as many as the 60/60 series.
In common with the D&O series, a Five-Star Trails book provides starred ratings in several categories presented in a box at the top of each new hike entry.
Unlike the D&O series, Five-Star Trails is geared to day-hikes and rarely touches on camping or extended trail time.

I have already started work on the guide and have several Sedona area hikes completed (the hiking anyway):

Airport Mesa Loop

Brin’s Mesa / Soldier Pass

Bell Trail (Wet Beaver Creek)

Woods Canyon trail (Dry Beaver Creek) (Yes, these creek names are real)

Lime Kiln Trail (the whole 15+ miles)

Verde River Greenbelt

MRP’s publicity packet suggests I blog somewhere about how the hike actually went (since the book has almost no personal references), and a few notes to supplement the information in the guide.

What a swell idea.

You can expect some posts on those hikes, and all the others as we go.