The trail along Secret Mountain offers
long views of Loy Canyon.
© Larry Lindahl
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Editor's Note click to expand
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Secret Mountain TrailBecause of Facebook, Flickr, et al., there aren’t many secrets anymore. This gorgeous hike is an exception.
By Keridwen Cornelius
Unlike Victoria's Secret or the popular book The Secret, Secret Mountain Trail 109 really is a secret. The 27 miles of dirt roads between it and the highway help ensure it'll stay that way. If you have a quick two hours before dinnertime, this is not the hike to embark upon. It is the hike to embark upon if you have time to bump along back roads, mosey through virgin pine forest, peek into a historic cabin and take in views so majestic you expect some voice to boom, "Behold, Rivendell!"
Starting on Forest Road 231 in Flagstaff, you'll weave through forest and meadows on lanes suitable for a regular passenger vehicle, despite frequent bumpiness. Toward the end of the drive, you'll be stopped by a fallen tree in the middle of the road. But there's a clearing where you can detour a few yards around it. It's that kind of place: It requires a spirit of adventure, and a little patience.
Fortunately, the Shangri-La-esque views at the trailhead are well worth it. Below you, ravens float in hazy sunlight that filters through a valley hidden between tree-cloaked mountains.
The pine needle-carpeted trail — marked by a square and rectangle carved into pine trees — meanders through mixed ecosystems as it gently climbs Secret Mountain. Ponderosas and firs tower over grandfatherly alligator junipers, which in turn offer shade to agaves and prickly pears. This forest has never been logged, so it isn't as dense as many others, or as vulnerable to drought and bark beetle infestations.
At .6 miles, the trail enters woodland crosshatched with numerous trees that fell in a 1994 fire. It passes through a lovely grove of manzanitas, then descends into a swale where, at 1.5 miles, you'll find Secret Cabin and a corral.
This 20-by-12-foot ruin was once home to a Mormon family evading polygamy persecution. One wonders if, after cramming multiple wives and children into one room for yet another meal of roasted Abert's squirrel, the husband wished he had just remained single.
Later, the cabin was occupied by horse thieves who led their equine booty from Sedona along the Loy Canyon Trail (which you'll have passed earlier) to this hideaway before selling them throughout Northern Arizona.
Follow the cairns to the right of the cabin to a stunning viewpoint. From here, you can either follow the trail south for .75 miles to another lookout, or if you're feeling tired, just turn around. There's no one else out here, and it can be your little secret.
Trail Guideclick to expand
Length: 3.2 or 4.7 miles round-trip
Elevation: 6,400 to 6,607 feet
Directions: In Flagstaff, take Forest Road 231 (also called Woody Mountain Road) south for approximately 15 miles to Forest Road 538. Turn west (right) onto FR 538 and follow it for about 12 miles to the parking area by the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness sign.
Information: 928-282-4119 or www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/recreation/red_rock/secret-mtn-tr.shtml.
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