Skeleton Mesa, AZ | HikeArizona

Skeleton Mesa, AZ

Guide 3 Triplogs Mine 0 0 Topics
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,040 feet
Elevation Gain 1,600 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,650 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 12.75
 Interest Off-Trail Hiking
 Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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23  2018-07-20
Utah/ AZ drive
15  2011-10-27 Jim_H
author avatar Guides 64
Routes 71
Photos 9,018
Trips 2,049 map ( 12,419 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Arizona, AZ
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Northeast Region
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Preferred May, Sep, Oct, Apr
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  7:34am - 5:27pm
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Nearby Area Water
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Geology  Nearby
Named place  Nearby
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Finding the trail is the hardest part!
by Jim_H

Skeleton Mesa is the large mesa to the west of Kayenta, north of US 160, and north of Marsh Pass. This area is west of Kayenta, approximately near the Anasazi Inn. It is similar to Black Mesa, but geologically very different, and it has had less human intrusion than Black Mesa. Unlike Black Mesa, there do not appear to be roads on Skeleton Mesa, and there has not been any clearing of the vegetation for grazing. There is also no coal mine! There is a trail that ascends a ramp on the eastern side of the mesa, and once found, the route is pretty easy to follow, but finding the trail is the hard part. However, if you have been there once, it should be pretty easy to find.
From the parking area or trailhead, hike cross-country west towards the large ramp, or monocline, that can be seen to connect with the mesa. This ramp is distinctive and maybe the only part of the intact monocline to reach the mesa top. This image looks at the ramp. As you hike west, you will reach a small graded (when I met it) road. Depending on where you are, you will want to follow it north for a short time to reach a small seldom used, but noticeable, two-track on the west side of the graded road. If you take this two-track, you can go directly to the trailhead where the tracks loop around at the trail base. If you can't find them or have met the better maintained graded road north of the two-track, good luck. Things change out here, and unfortunately, details are hard to pin down. Coordinates are the best way for an outsider to access the area. The road junction is not visible on the satellite image, nor is the trailhead, but I interpreted the trail end (I met it going down) to be roughly: 36.74356, -110.39143. Hopefully, that helps, and you are not completely lost. You have to know where you are going and have some sense of direction. I found the trail by accident but had an easy time getting close to it. Coming down was essentially a breeze.

If you have no GPS, you can find the trail by looking for where the ramp's main body reaches the plain and attempt to locate the trail on it. If you go too far north, you will encounter an erosion basin. Too far south, you will discover a large sandstone hill (as I did). I went over the hill and dropped into a drainage before ascending a slightly lower sandstone ramp. Eventually, I cliffed out, but I hugged a small cliff and found a way up to the main body of the ramp, and that is where I met the obvious cairned trail. If you go too far north, you will probably not find the trail, but you should know this when you see the massive teardrop-shaped basin. The lowest sections of the trail are braided and confusing, so you may not even be aware when you see it. This hike needs a GPS enthusiast to record plots for the trail as they descend, but not while going up as that will confuse people if trying to locate the trail with them.

OK, let's pretend you had an easy time finding the trail and are now hiking up. You have it pretty easy and can follow it as it ascends to the top of Skeleton Mesa. The top can be considered the large sandstone area near the group of Ponderosa Pines. The trail continues to the pinyon and sage-covered mesa, but again, finding it is hard unless you know the way. There are erosion gullies, and they look like trail at times. If you found it, the trail crosses over the mesa to Utah, I am told, but I know nothing more about it once you are about 1/4 mile beyond the Ponderosa Pines. Return the way you came, and hopefully, you'll have an easy time hiking down. I did and went right to my car, but that was partly due to me following my footsteps.

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2011-11-01 Jim_H
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

     Permit $$
    Navajo Nation Reservation
    Navajo Permits & Services

    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Flagstaff, drive north on US 89 to US 160. Turn east on US 160 and proceed for 70 miles to Marsh Pass. As Marsh Pass begins to open up onto the plain on which Kayenta sits, look for a dirt road to the north of US 160. The road junction is not signed on 160. However, there is a numbered road sign on the road itself. The road is currently numbered "6486". Should this sign disappear, you will know you are on the correct road as it passes a large metal water tank with an old-style windmill next to it, and you will cross over Laguna Creek using a one-lane bridge. After the creek, continue for some time. When the main stem of the road appears to turn east, look for a nearly equal junction to the main road and turn left on this road. Don't bother with road numbers out here; try to go north on the graded roads. After the turn, you will be heading north and paralleling the mesa's eastern edge about 1 mile east of the mesa. Continue on this until you cross over a small wash and reach the trailhead coordinates, or you notice a decent sized cleared area where you can park.
    page created by Jim_H on Nov 01 2011 11:57 am

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