Northern Arizona Hiking Guide page 2 >>
Grand Canyon's Interior PeaksTwo miles down the Bright Angel Trail, it's possible to trade the engineered switchbacks, drinking fountains, directional signs and emergency phones for crumbling slopes, fallen trees, loose rocks, thick brush, angry cactuses and poor footing for an another adventure – climbing The Battleship, a jutting rust-red ridge that forms one of the Grand Canyon's interior summits. Bushwhacking to a ridge anchoring The Battleship to South Rim's Mohave Point consumes an hour. At the saddle, guzzle water and study the 500-foot bulk of The Battleship. Cairns mark the hint of trail around the butte's east flank. The trail leads to the base of a seemingly insurmountable cliff. But on closer inspection, a tall cairn on a ledge signals a route through a labyrinth of cracks and ledges. It's a challenging scramble up a series of cracks, which run parallel to the cliff face; each is a void created where a block of rock leans away from the butte. At the top, a 360-degree view is nearly overwhelming – people perched on the rim at Maricopa Powell Points, hikers trudging toward Indian Garden Campground and Kolb Studio.
Trail GuideLength: 7 miles
Elevation: 8,100 feet (with a 2,000 feet gain that varies with trail)
Directions: From Flagstaff, drive west on Interstate 40 for 30 miles to State Route 64 at Williams. Turn north (right) on State 64 and drive 58 miles to the Grand Canyon South Entrance. The route begins at the South Rim of Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail.
Information: The Battleship route is sometimes closed to hikers when California condors nest in adjacent canyons. For details and current regulations, contact Grand Canyon National Park, 928-638-7888; www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm.
Veit Springs TrailVeit Springs Trail, an easy 1.5-mile walk, makes a great hike for families and showcases the high country's most colorful season. The trail follows an old jeep road uphill into the Lamar Haines Memorial Wildlife Area, a small preserve covering 160 acres at 8,600 feet elevation. Elk and mule deer are plentiful in the early morning, and squirrels and birds can be found midday. The route also may be used for mountain bikes and cross-country skiing. The road soon narrows to a well-marked path and heads downhill to a fork at .2 of a mile. The route makes a loop, where hikers should follow the left trail. The mass of lava rock testifies to the San Francisco Peaks' volcanic origins. Following the first frost, trailside ferns will weave a gaudy mat of variegated dark green and gold colors under the Douglas fir and ponderosa pine trees. The trail rambles gently in and out of small arroyos for three-quarters of a mile to where a small spur trail leads left about 100 feet to Ludwig Veit's cabin. Just beyond the house, an arrow carved into an aspen tree points to Veit's name carved into a large boulder. Two small rock buildings house the springs that once attracted Veit. In spite of all the moisture that falls on the peaks, there are surprisingly few springs. The porous ground allows moisture to sink into underground rivers. Past the springs, the spur trail leads left along the basalt cliff, where a small seep trickles out of the ground and a cave cuts into the rock. To the left of the cave opening, look for three red handprints, pictographs from early Indians, and high on the rock face to the right, you'll see another pictograph of two human figures, one with horns. Between the figures is a long pole with three dangling zigzags. Archaeologists estimate the figures are more than 1,000 years old and, like all pictographs and petroglyphs, their meaning remains mysterious.
Trail GuideLength: 1.5 miles round-trip
Elevation: 8,600 feet (no gain)
Directions: From Flagstaff, drive for 7 miles on U.S. Route 180 to Forest Road 516 (paved Snowbowl Road) and turn right. Travel 4.5 miles and watch for a small parking area on the right side. The information sign is just inside the fence; Veit Springs Trail veers to the right immediately past the sign.
Information: Arizona Game and Fish Department, 928-774-5045; www.azgfd.gov.
Red Mountain TrailThe Red Mountain Trail has a certain star quality. The trail runs along a cinder cone that looks as though a demented giant grabbed a butcher knife and hacked off its eastern flank, leaving its innards to form a spectacular amphitheater. The cutaway cliffs blush red-orange in the morning sun. The 2.5-mile-round-trip stroll through a piñon-juniper-ponderosa forest along the old road that the Youth Conservation Corp turned into a trail in 1980. In summer, trail grass the color of an Anaheim green chile lines the path. After three-quarters of a mile, the trail drops down into Hull Wash with easy walking on hard sand. Ahead, Red Mountain's walls are sliced, diced and eroded into a jumble of ledges and vertical gullies reminiscent of Bryce Canyon National Park. The trail narrows as the wash cuts between two black cinder walls. Occasionally, shiny black rocks cover the sandy wash bottom – an example of lapilli, glassy volcanic fragments measuring from .1 to 2.5 inches in diameter. Suddenly the trail enters The Gateway, a gap between two hulking basalt boulders that guard the entrance to the royal showroom. A small stone dam, built years ago to hold water for cattle, blocks the trail. It has backfilled with silt, but the Forest Service erected an eight-step ladder to climb over the dam.
Trail GuideLength: 2.5 miles round-trip
Elevation: 6,300 to 6,800 feet
Difficulty: Easy but requires climbing a short ladder
Directions: From Route 66 in downtown Flagstaff, drive north on Humphreys Street, then north on U.S. Route 180 for 30 miles to Milepost 247. Turn left (west) and follow the dirt road (passable by car) for .3 of a mile to the trailhead.
Travel Advisory: April through October are the best months to make the hike. Summer monsoon season often brings afternoon rains. Always carry plenty of water, at least 1 gallon per day per person.
Information: Coconino National Forest, 928-527-3600; www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino.
White House Ruins, Canyon de ChellyThis steep, 2.5-mile round-trip trail descends 600 feet into Canyon de Chelly to the ancient White House Ruins. Begin the descent along the slippery sandstone. After a few feet of this slick, shallow trail, you'll come to the steeper trail into the canyon. Here and there, benches perched along the narrow curves offer a moment's respite from the moderately strenuous walk. Stunted junipers twist out of the rock. Prickly pear, snakeweed, sumac, sagebrush and narrow-leaf yucca thicken as you approach the canyon bottom. Off to the left, a fence protects a hogan surrounded with signs warning against unwanted photographs. The sandy path curves forward, hemmed in with thick brush, where pieces of white fleece from passing sheep dangle in the branches.
Trail GuideLength: 2.5 miles, one-way
Elevation: 6,000 feet to 5,400 feet
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
Directions: From Flagstaff, take Interstate 40 east to U.S. Route 191. Turn left (north) onto U.S. 191 and drive approximately 80 miles to Chinle. Turn right onto Indian Route 7 and drive 2 miles to the Canyon de Chelly Monument visitors center. Turn right and follow the South Rim Drive 5.9 miles to the White House Overlook.
Travel Advisory: Spring and fall are the best seasons to hike the trail. Carry plenty of water. Information: Canyon de Chelly National Monument, 928-674-5500; www.nps.gov/cach.
Kaibab PlateauWhen Dale Shewalter hiked around the state of Arizona in the early 1980s, he wondered about the possibility of connecting all the diverse landscapes and one-of-a-kind historic areas in the state into a one-trail experience. That thought led to the creation of the Arizona Trail, which starts at the top of the state on the Arizona Strip and runs to its southern border at Coronado National Memorial. This hike gives a one-and-a-half-mile glimpse of the state-long trail that starts at an easy access off U.S. Route 89A. This brief portion travels on a relatively level grade through ponderosa "parks" – ponderosa pines scattered across grassy fields crossed by forest roads to Big Ridge tank. The old stock tank, a relic from the cowboy days, gets its name from a rise in the plateau called Big Ridge, just east of the trail. The hike starts on an easy climb up a sun-drenched hillside then relaxes atop the rise. At about mile 0.5, the trail makes a rocky drop onto a logging road and follows the road as it jogs east and continues southward. Arizona Trail signposts direct the way off the road, through more meadows, across another road, and into a final meadow next to Big Ridge tank, which draws a gathering of wildflowers. Big Ridge tank makes an excellent spot for a picnic. The surrounding forest and a field of waist-high grass and winged buckwheat have an inviting feel. Many visitors feel compelled to linger at the location, but you won't have to end your hike here. The Arizona Trail proceeds southward across the Arizona Strip for another 34 miles, through more ponderosa parks, large meadows and aspen forests, to Grand Canyon National Park.
Trail GuideLength: 1.5 miles.
Elevation: 7,000 feet
Directions: From Flagstaff, take U.S. Route 89 north 102 miles to U.S. Route 89A at Bitter Springs. Follow U.S. 89A for 52 miles to the trailhead, which is on the south side of the highway, 3 miles east of Jacob Lake.
Travel Advisory: Always carry plenty of water, at least 1 gallon per day per person. Hike this trail in the late spring, summer and early fall months. Winterlike snowstorms may occur as early as September and as late as May with a corresponding drop in temperature.
Information: Kaibab National Forest, 928-643-7395; www.fs.fed.us/r3/kai/recreation/trails/index.shtml; Arizona Trail Association, 602-252-4794; www.aztrail.org/.
Walnut CanyonWhy did the Sinagua Indians living in the remote narrows of Walnut Canyon in the 14th century vanish? War? Famine? Disease? As you wander through their neighborhood some six centuries after they abandoned it, you may come up with your own theory: What if the Sinagua never really left? Senses heighten with each step down the 185-foot stairway the Civilian Conservation Corps built in 1941 along Walnut Canyon National Monument's Island Trail. Across the canyon, built into rock frozen in mid-ooze, an inaccessible ruin basks in first light. Continue into the canyon that Woodrow Wilson saved from looters by designating it a national monument in 1915, following the trail along light limestone dwellings. Everywhere, buxom cliff rose hangs from the rock, like a feathery boa, interspersed with verdant stems of Mormon tea, mustard weed, fernbush, wolfberry, Fremont barberry, hoptree and maroon-tipped prickly pear, all lining the pathway like an ancient strip mall, complete with apothecary, produce stand and hardware store. Complete the loop to Third Fort and head back up the stairs, and then finish by exploring the short, flat length of the Rim Trail, where the Sinagua people farmed. Agaves dangle with ripe fruit along the path, dislodged nuts from piñon trees pepper the ground, ponderosas bleed sap while walnut leaves drift to the creek bed below.
Trail GuideLength: 1.6 miles (Island and Rim Trails combined)
Elevation: 6,690 to 6,900 feet
Difficulty: Easy to strenuous
Directions: From Flagstaff, take Interstate 40 7.5 miles east of Flagstaff to Exit 204. Take Walnut Canyon Road south for 3 miles to the canyon's rim.
Travel Advisory: Bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen. The paved Island Trail begins and ends with a steep, 185-foot stairway.
Information: Walnut Canyon National Monument, 928-526-3367; www.nps.gov/waca/index.htm.
Keyhole SinkGray-black basalt cliffs surrounding three sides of Keyhole Sink guard a small forest glade in the Kaibab National Forest, west of Flagstaff. From the Oak Hill Snow Play Area parking lot, 4 miles west of the tiny town of Parks, cross Historic Route 66 to the Keyhole Sink trailhead. The trail, a 2-mile round trip, is rated as easy. Rocky in spots, it gently slopes down into a small box canyon, where a thousand years ago, ancient Indians carved petroglyphs into the volcanic canyon walls. At an elevation of 7,000 feet, the route makes a cool summer hike, and blue triangle markers nailed to trees guide cross-country skiers along the trail in the winter. The trail gradually descends to the bottom of a small draw covered with wild rosebushes and irises. Over thousands of years, the erosion of a lava flow created this keyhole-shaped canyon. The trail ends at a small pond at the base of the darkest basalt cliffs that stand 30 to 40 feet high. The size of the water hole depends on precipitation and can range from bone-dry to about 4 feet deep.
Trail GuideLength: 2 miles, round-trip
Elevation: 7,000 feet
Directions: From Flagstaff, travel west on Interstate 40 to Exit 178, Parks Road. Leaving I-40, drive north .4 mile on Parks Road to Historic Route 66 and turn left, heading west for 4.2 miles. A brown sign on the right marks the Oak Hill Snow Play Area; the parking lot is on the left just past the sign. The trailhead starts across the highway from the parking lot.
Information: Kaibab National Forest, Williams Ranger District, 928-635-5600; www.fs.fed.us/r3/kai/recreation/trails.
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