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Within the northern Coconino National Forest resides an unnamed mountain that, from a distance, looks just like any other mountain. Looks can be deceiving... Hidden from the view of anyone below is a unique sanctuary formed by a million-year-old volcanic crater. Recessed cinder cones are not uncommon in this area, but what is unusual is an 11-acre beautiful tree-lined meadow. The rim of the mountain is a mild roller coaster with a high-point summit of 8,141. The secret meadow sits on average about 120 vertical feet below the rim. Standing in this meadow has a unique quality to it that must be experienced in person. It feels so private and untouched. It's like you stepped down onto a segment of land that time forgot. It can be windy along the rim and dead calm down in the lower meadow. Elk love this location! Having a close encounter with wildlife is very likely. I certainly had one! You could find just about anything hiding up there.
The hike is mostly easy and self-explanatory (see attached maps). From the posted trailhead, you will hike along a visible crest straight to the top. The initial climb involves about 540 vertical feet of steep terrain with good shade from ponderosa pine. The upper rim above the trailhead is open and grassy with no trees. Areas along the rim offer good shade from ponderosa pine. However, much of the top is very exposed. Keep that in mind if thunderstorms are in the area. Now that you've reached the top, take a nice break and soak in the vast far-reaching views. From this point, the hike is basically up to you. I highly recommend walking along the entire rim and also spending some time within the meadow itself. How you go about it doesn't matter. Just have fun and take your time! Photography opportunities are nearly endless. The views towards Humphreys Peak are some of the best in the area.
All camping throughout the surrounding area is designated as "dispersed." Dispersed camping is legal throughout most regions of the Coconino National Forest. Always utilize existing sites and verify any possible fire restrictions before your visit.
Secret Meadow is a unique destination that is unlike anything I have ever found. I genuinely love places like this. This off-trail hike is neither intimidating nor challenging. It's a peaceful weekend escape that will likely not disappoint. The lower meadow would be a superb location for an easy weekend backpacking trip with adequate wind and elements protection. I highly recommend visiting this destination if you're in the area or live in Flagstaff. Count on having it all to yourself if you go.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.