2015 AH Classic Wall CalendarShop the AH Store >>

Our 2015 calendars are now available!

Classic Wall Calendar

CL15 $10.99

Our classic 13-month spiral-bound calendar features 30 full-color photographs and a handy map of Arizona on the back.

Order Now >>
Purchase Camping GuideShop the AH Store >>

Featured Book

Arizona Highways
Camping Guide

AGCS3 $22.95

Our newest book, which includes Arizona Highways iconic photography and maps, is sorted by region and is written for car-campers and families. Detailed information about accessibilty, amenities and fees is included for each campground.

Order Now >>
2011 AH Wildlife CalendarSee Selection of Images >>

Featured Prints

Poster Prints
Special Edition Prints

Many of the extraordinary images found in our award-winning magazine, scenic coffee-table books and exquisite calendars can be purchased as fine posters and prints.

Order Now >>
Shop the AH Store >>

Featured Gift Item

Centennial Issue Reprint

SPCENN2 $4.99

If you missed our February 100-page Centennial Issue on newsstands earlier this year, here's your second chance to get a copy of this special collector's edition of Arizona Highways magazine..

Order Now >>

  • print page
  • Tell a Friend
  • Post to Facebook
  • YouTube
  • past to del.icio.us
BULLEThiking archive
Scenic Drives Archive Photo
Scenery along the Mormon Mountain
Trail includes distant vistas of
the San Francisco Peaks.

© Tom Bean

>> Click on image to view
it larger in a separate window.

Editor's Note click to expand
Arizona Hiking Guide BookFrom "backyard"
hikes to overnight
excursions, our
Arizona Hiking
guidebook has
for everyone.
To order, call
or click here.

Mormon Mountain Trail
Along with views of Mormon Lake, this quiet hike features an old-growth forest of ponderosa pines and several meadows that will likely be awash with wildflowers.

By Robert Stieve

Ponderosa pines can get old. Not in the figurative sense of, "Eh, if I see one more ponderosa, I'm going to scream," but literally old. Some can live up to 500 years. Compared to bristlecone pines, that's nothing, but in Northern Arizona, it's impressive. That's why old-growth forests like the one surrounding the Mormon Lake Trail are so special.

Like all old and well-established forests, this one is made up of big trees, snags (large, standing dead trees), downed logs, clumps of younger trees, seedlings and small clearings. The snags in particular are vital to the survival of the forest because they provide habitat for birds and other small creatures, which then become food for the resident hawks, eagles, bears, coyotes and foxes. It's all part of a sophisticated ecosystem, and you'll get a firsthand look on this hike.

The quiet trail begins at the rear of the group-camp area at Dairy Springs Campground. For the first few minutes, the trail overlaps a self-guided nature trail in the campground. Before long, though, you'll come to a gate, beyond which is an intersection with the Arizona Trail. In case you're wondering, it's 28.4 miles from this point to Flagstaff, and the Arizona Trail as a whole is 819 miles from Utah to Mexico. But you're not taking the Arizona Trail. Not now, anyway. Instead, you're going straight.

After about 15 or 20 minutes, the forest of mixed conifers and oaks opens up briefly, offering your first glimpse of Mormon Lake, as well as the grassy flats and forest-covered hills that surround it. Depending on the time of year, and what the weather's been like, the lake may or may not have water in it. Either way, you'll get your bearings. You'll also see signs of elk, which use this trail to get wherever it is they're going. Yet another highlight as you move along is the abundance of wildflowers. Initially, you'll see a few flowers springing up among the trees, but when you hit the 60-minute mark of the hike, you'll come to a small grassy meadow that's often flooded with lupines and more.

Just beyond the meadow, the first aspen appears off to the right. There are a few others along the way, but this is primarily a ponderosa forest. By the way, you can tell the age of a ponderosa by its bark. For the first 120 to 150 years of its life, its bark is blackish. As it gets older, the bark changes to a yellowish-red color and forms the flat "plates" you're familiar with.

The trail stays much the same for the next half-hour, climbing gradually through the pines and occasional aspens. Then, after about an hour and a half, the underbrush thickens with grasses and shrubs. This is your best bet for seeing an elk. Heed the advice of Elmer Fudd and you might get lucky.

From there, it's a quick scamper to a large meadow that marks the end of the trail. At this point, you can either turn around and head back or follow Forest Road 648 to the 8,449-foot summit of Mormon Mountain. If you have the energy, you might as well go to the top. Among other things, it'll give you a little more time to appreciate the special nature of this old-growth forest.

Trail Guideclick to expand

Map of AreaLength: 6 miles round-trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation: 7,200 to 8,449 feet

Directions: From Flagstaff, go south on Forest Highway 3 for 20 miles to the intersection with Forest Road 90. Turn right (west) onto FR 90 and drive 3.5 miles to the Montezuma Lodge turnoff. Drive 0.6 miles to the trailhead. All roads are paved except the last 0.6 miles.

Vehicle Requirements: Accessible to all vehicles

Dogs Allowed: Yes, on a leash

USGS Map: Mormon Lake, Mormon Mountain

Information: Peaks/Mormon Lake Ranger Districts, 928-526-0866 or www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino

Leave No Trace Ethics:
  • Plan ahead and be prepared.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly and pack out your trash.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Respect wildlife and minimize impact.
  • Be considerate of others.
  • >> Back to Hiking Archive

    Story ArchivesFind previously published stories online... [more]

    Global SnapshotsSend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

    Photo of the DaySend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]


    Social MediaJoin our Facebook, Twitter and Flickr communities for behind-the-scenes glimpses at Arizona Highways... [more]

    Events & PromotionsEscape, experience and explore Arizona, one event at a time... [more]

    Best of AZ50 of our favorite things around the state, including photography, nature, dining, adventure, lodging... [more]

    site map  |  terms of use  |  privacy policy  |  corporate sales  |  about us  |  contact us

    Arizona Highways Television AZ Dept. of Transportation AZ Dept. of Public Safety Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

    © Copyright 2014 Arizona Department of Transportation, State of Arizona. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. The images on this Web site are copyrighted, digitally watermarked and registered with the Digimarc tracking system. All rights reserved. Copying and downloading images from this site are strictly prohibited.