The Best Hikes in Flagstaff

6,292 Triplog Reviews in the Flagstaff
Most recent of 2,231 deeper Triplog Reviews
6.8 mi • 1,231 ft aeg
Great afternoon hike with Ollie. I wanted to do this one before winter road closures, while enjoying a beautiful and sunny day, and temperatures in the 60F.

We drove down on I-17 from Munds Park and took the Schnebly Hill 321 exit. After a few miles on the dirt road, we stopped at the 153A road, parked on the small pull-out and started our hike.

We went down 153A, all the way to the antennas. We saw vehicle tracks but some sections of the road are so rugged (almost like rocky stairs) that I wouldn't feel comfortable taking anything down that road other than maybe a Jeep (but that's just me :lol:). At the end of the road, there is a small camping area with a campfire. Then, the trail goes south and meets Schnebly Hill Trail where we met two mountain bikers. We continued south on this very trail. It's a narrow single track, rocky and slightly overgrown. Beautiful views of Sedona soon appeared and I couldn't help but taking my phone out to snap a few pictures. Admiring the views, we both got spooked by a third mountain biker coming right at us. We awkwardly crossed path (there wasn't any space to get out of the way), and Ollie and I continued on. From then on, we did not meet anyone else.

We kept hiking down Schnebly Hill Trail until we hit the junction for Jacks Canyon Trail and Munds Mountain Trail. This is where the boundary of the Munds Mountain wilderness is. The hike up Munds Mountain was a bit tricky. We kept going off trail and I could barely keep up with Ollie who, most of the time, chose to just scramble right up, showing off is great agility skills. There is a trail, it just has a lot of switchbacks that can be difficult to see. Once done with the tricky section, we walked along a saddle. We hiked up the rest of the mountain to reach the top: mainly a prairie with a few trees scattered here and there. Running out of time, we turned around before hitting the part that was burnt in the committee fire. Not sure how the fire affected the area and the trail itself. The wind started to blow and I wished I had more layers on. We came back the way we came in. We made it back to the car and on the way back met a convoy of about a half dozen off-roaders going down Schnebly Hill Rd, including a very cool vintage one with a big Mexicali Cerveza sticker on its door.

Overall, we barely saw any wildflowers, and not many animals other than cows and a few birds. Trees were mostly juniper and oak. Breathtaking views of Sedona were visible from Schnebly Hill Trail. The top of Munds Mountain didn't have nearly as exciting views. It's a fun hike though, I would definitely do it again and try to go further down Munds Mountain Trail next time.
7.3 mi • 500 ft aeg
Ghost Train Chase 2: Lake Mary, AZT, and Mormon Lake hikes, all following the old Arizona Mineral Belt (AMB) Railroad grade from 1887.

Hike 1: Drove south to upper Lake Mary after work to see where the AMB grade exited the lake bed. Found it, heading south out of the lake bed into the forest like an ancient runway. Followed it south for a while through some roadcuts, noting a few old lead-sealed cans along the route, correct for the 1880s.

Hike 2: Drove a short ways south to the Pine Grove Campground turnoff, parking along the highway. I walked the campground road to the AZT route and then followed the AZT south along an obvious railroad grade, the original, unchanged AMB route. No 1920s logging railroad re-usage here. Pretty cool to see some railroad tie remnants that were over 100 years old with fully mature ponderosas growing between them. Would like to hike this passage in its entirety sometime. Enough distraction for the afternoon though, time for the main objective…

Hike 3: I drove down to the south end of Mormon Lake, arriving just before sunset, way later than I’d hoped. Parked along the highway and then headed off trail into the trees, eventually dropping into a canyon where I encountered a very obvious continuation of the AMB route, this time with a steady covering of 1920s railroad ties from the Flagstaff Lumber Manufacturing Railroad (FLM) which had laid its tracks on the abandoned AMB route from 20+ years earlier. Cool to see the elevated rock work roadbed that the FLM did, a ridiculous amount of work involved in that I’m sure. Lots of ties and a few old spikes imbedded in them. Same thing as on parts of the Anderson Mesa AZT passage I believe. It was soon dark and cold but I’d come a long way so I was going to hike it. I kept heading south along the railroad bed into the dark, frigid forest, past old bridge sites and rusty steel logging cable pieces. Heard a few elk bugles, and saw a few unidentifiable sets of eyes reflecting back at me. Eventually I had seen (or not seen in the dark) enough for one night, so I turned around and started back. I followed the canyon all the way back to Mormon Lake Road, where lights from houses were a welcome sign that I was on the correct route back to my vehicle.

Did a bit of star photography along Mormon Lake Road afterward, enjoying the solitude of a mountain road at night with beautiful bright stars above. Headed back to Flagstaff for my 10th and final night there. Wouldn’t mind a 1000 more.

Gambel oaks full of golden color
6.5 mi • 843 ft aeg
Ghost train chase
The old logging railroads of Flagstaff and their link to the railroad-tunnel-to-nowhere on the Mogollon Rim have long intrigued me, so I thought I’d check out a couple of historic railroad sites near Lower Lake Mary.

Got a late after work start, parking near the observatory near Prime Lake. First I wanted to find the Anderson Mesa Incline (essentially a rollercoaster for logging trains), which lowered log cars down the side of Anderson Mesa using a cable over 100 years ago. This method worked well until it didn’t, when a steam locomotive met its end after rocketing into the valley floor. I thought the incline might be directly below the observatory. It was not, but interesting old rocky roads were.

I pushed onward onto the dry lake bed of Lower Lake Mary to check out the old Arizona Mineral Belt Railroad grade (the same railroad that tried to tunnel through the Rim). The rail bed was extremely faint, as lake waters had blended the raised railroad grade almost flush with the lake bed. Easily visible on satellite imagery though, so I followed the route for a while using satellite. Most noteworthy find was an old rail joiner.

I then made a long sweeping loop around the lake and up the switchback to the observatory in the dark. Studied satellite imagery for a while, dug around the internet, and finally found a clue. I was off by two miles on the incline location. Down the highway I went.

I parked along the highway shoulder, climbed a road cut, roamed back and forth, and finally found the bottom of the incline. I ascended the very well-hidden old railroad ramp to the top of the mesa in the dark, noting some old rotten railroad ties, rock walls, and broken steel cables. A little overgrown and slightly spooky in the dark. Mormon Mountain’s communication towers blinked in the distance, and a lone elk bugled below. I was excited to see a piece of railroad rail sticking out of the earth on the route. Came back the same way and then drove back to Flagstaff for the night.

Thanks for reading this overly long triplog. :lol:

Gambel oaks in various shades of gold
9.42 mi • 1,529 ft aeg
There was a light snow falling when we arrived. It was pretty cool to see the snowy pines up top with the yellow aspens below. There were two cars when we arrived. One left shortly after as they were not dressed for winter conditions, the other belong to a group of backpackers we saw a few miles later heading out. Kinda a pumpkin show when we got back to the TH because the weather had cleared up. So many people doing fall photo shoots along the road on the way out. But other than that, timing and weather were pretty spectacular.
7.35 mi • 2,070 ft aeg
Storm clouds parted to reveal freshly snow frosted San Francisco Peaks, which seemed ideal for a spur of the moment snow hike on Abineau-Bear Jaw loop. I hit the trail at 3:50 pm, with no snow, sunny skies, 35 degrees, and one other car at the trailhead. Went up Abineau first. A dusting of snow appeared at the bottom of Abineau, which gradually began to get heavier as I climbed higher. A few other boot prints belonged to two descending hikers, the only others I saw on the whole loop.

When I left the tree cover in Abineau avalanche alley, the bitter wind was racing through the canyon, which was covered in several inches of fresh snow. Humphreys stood high above, caked in white, while ragged clouds sailed quickly across the skyline.

At the Abineau/Waterline junction, I fought to keep my jacket from sailing off into the canyon winds like an errant windsock as I changed into dry layers and added more. I questioned my decision to hike in low 20s, windy weather, but was committed and determined at that point. The scenery was absolutely worth it though.

I warmed up as I cruised quickly along Waterline, thinking of my last hike on this trail with Joe and Liz 12 years earlier. I turned onto Bear Jaw Trail at sunset, and thankfully the wind had died down. Bear Jaw was a straightforward cruise to the bottom, with steadily diminishing snow cover. Only needed a headlamp for the last half mile or so. 26 degrees at the trailhead at dark. A very fun and memorable hike!

Most aspens were bare on the north slope of the Peaks in this area.
8 mi • 1,600 ft aeg
Mostly hiking with a bit of bike ride at the bottom. Storm winds were becoming hideous higher up so I turned around near the top of Upper Oldham and came back down. Checked out an unmarked side trail I hadn’t seen before on the way down, appeared to be a mountain bike stunt trail. Lots of mountain bikers riding the Elden Lookout Road.

Gamble oaks and isolated aspens changing
4.5 mi • 1,387 ft aeg
Had planned to hike Bill Williams Mountain after my intern visit with Kaibab NF in Williams, but was told that the upper trail was closed due to helicopter logging. Sure enough, I could see the helicopter hovering over a high ridge up there. Nothing nearby looked interesting, so back to Flagstaff. Ended up doing a shorty in the Veit Springs complex, going up 9215R from Veit trailhead, then off trail briefly, over onto Kachina, and then up Jeep Trail to the snowmaking pond at 9950 feet. Jogged part of the road on the way down.
7.2 mi • 2,050 ft aeg
After work hike. Started at the new trailhead/gate on Elden Lookout Road at 7500 feet. Went up the canyon using the lookout road, and then turned onto Upper Oldham Trail. Lots of flood damage on the bottom quarter mile of Upper Oldham. Not hard to follow though, and a good workout as always. At the top I walked Sunset Trail and the lookout road up to the summit of Mount Elden. Lots of pink traffic cone-like things protecting newly planted baby fir trees along Sunset Trail, made me happy to see that. Sunset on Elden was a beautiful sight featuring every color of the rainbow. Stood under the fire tower for a moment in the chilly winds and golden light and then made my retreat. Finished well after dark.

Aspens mostly, and one bright gold Rocky Mountain Maple
9.07 mi • 2,693 ft aeg
October 2022- If you are heading up this trail, please take a new jar for the summit register. There is a broken peanut butter jar at the base of the watch tower, next to the stone wall.

Driving to the trailhead was easy. A normal car could do it but would have to dodge some deep potholes in the first mile from the highway. I started out at first light. It was 45° and blowing 15 – 25 mph. I wore my down coat all the way up and most of the way down. I worried a little about a tree falling on me. I didn’t stay put in any place I heard moaning from the trees. There was a recently fallen tree about 6 inches in diameter across the trail at a switch back. I was able to pull it off the trail before too much of a use-path developed around it.

In the first mile of trail, the maintenance has an unusual design. Boulders have been dumped on the uphill side of the trail in what appears to be the middle of an old two track. Seems to work to be turning an old road into singletrack. The lower half of this trail is soft and smooth. The upper half is more rocky, but I have never seen a trail with such a uniform grade all the way from bottom to top.

I took a break at the cabin and looked in the windows. Within the cabin, there is an ammo can containing a logbook for visitors, but unfortunately, the front door is chained, so I couldn’t sign the log.

Birds noted: White Breasted Nuthatch, common raven, hawk (not sure which one), Clark’s nutcracker (many of them).

The aspens were beautiful.

Lupine, wavyleaf thistle
8.72 mi • 947 ft aeg
Did this hike with Jake and our dog Ollie. We started around 1:40pm and it took 4hrs to complete the round trip. Temperatures were in the 70s and it was sunny. Overall a great hike.

We took exit 151 (Welch Rd) off of I-40 and headed north, following FR6 for a few miles. We saw quite a few vehicles camped on the side of the road, as well as utility guys working on the power lines. A nice couple on their way out in a Jeep advised us to park before the canyon because of how muddy the bottom was. We therefore turned around, parked off of FR6 by a group of juniper trees, and hiked about a mile along the road to Johnson crater. Mud was indeed pretty thick at the bottom and a section of the road rather rocky. Nothing I think the outback could not have handled, but we really appreciated the word of caution and didn't mind the extra hike.

At the top of the canyon, the road continues straight and Johnson crater is to the left of the road. The top is basalt and there are a lot of prickly pear cacti, which could have been bad for Ollie's paws. Thankfully he didn't step on any of them. Then, we continued all the way to a cattle guard sign. There, the road forks: take a right to go to the old railroad (don't continue straight to the cattle guard).

As we continued our hike, we reached a pile of rocks in the middle of the road. I would not have tried going over it with a car, especially that further down the road, parts of the roads on the bridge were a bit washed.

We reached the power lines and were so distracted by the sound and views that we startled a rattlesnake. Thankfully, it let us know ahead of time that we were bothering it and didn't bite our pup. I think it was more scared than us so we gave it space and turned around to take a break. When we came back about ten minutes later, it was gone. On our way to the tunnel, we found other interesting plants (some of them I am not sure what they are) and animals (one tarantula, a few beetles, a lot of grasshoppers and one gopher). Temperature inside the tunnel dropped and there was a light breeze, which, even mid-october, was really nice. We reached the end of the tunnel and decided to turn around using the tunnel instead of the trail that goes around it. I think we had enough emotions with one rattlesnake for the day.

There isn't much of the railroad left to see other than the tunnel itself and the retaining wall. We found a few railroad spikes and could see traces of dynamite used to clear the road. Next time we will bike this trail.

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