In October 2010, the Coconino National Forest announced the formal consolidation of the Peaks and Mormon Lake ranger districts into the Flagstaff Ranger District. The Flagstaff Ranger District now encompasses nearly 850,000 acres of National Forest lands around the Flagstaff area, from Mormon Lake and Anderson Mesa to north of the San Francisco Peaks.
At 12,643 feet, the San Francisco Peaks is not only the dominant feature of the forest area we call the Volcanic Highlands, it's also the highest mountain in Arizona. Three of the summits that ring this dormant volcano's now quiet inner caldera are higher than any other mountain in the state.
This mountain is sacred to the native peoples that live in the area and its soaring profile set against a blue Arizona sky serves as a source of awe to contemporary residents and visitors. Views from the summit of the San Francisco Peaks stretch to the Grand Canyon's North Rim over eighty miles away.
Hiking, sightseeing, wildlife watching and skiing are the predominant recreation activities enjoyed in this land of mountains, forests and lava flows.
Flagstaff Ranger District, extends from north of the Peaks to the south. This rolling highland is a land of ponderosa pine forests and pinyon/juniper woodlands clustered around broad prairies and small lakes. Arizona's largest natural lake, Mormon Lake, is located here. The area is also known for its plentiful wildlife. Large herds of elk roam the forests and edgelands. Bald eagles and ospreys live and hunt around the lakes. Pronghorn antelope graze the prairies.
Principal recreation activities among the lakes and prairies are boating, fishing, camping, and wildlife watching. The area also boasts some excellent cross-country skiing in good snow years.
Recreation Activities for the Flagstaff District shown in tables:
Here's a wilderness experience that takes you as high as you can get in Arizona. This 18,960 acre roadless area encompasses most of the upper reaches of the San Francisco Peaks including Humphreys Peak, Arizona's highest point at 12,643 feet. The area is named for the Hopi dieties, or Kachinas, whom that culture's mythology tells us live here for part of every year. In mid-summer these dieties fly from the top of the peaks to the Hopi mesas as clouds bringing the nourishing rains of the seasonal monsoons.
Not surprisingly, this most prominent feature on the northern Arizona landscape is sacred to all of the area's indigenous people and has become a source of awe and wonder to its more recently arrived visitors and residents as well.
A number of trails offer access to this mountain which is a dormant volcano that last erupted roughly two million years ago. Some of those trails lead to the top of the several peaks which form the rim of the mountain's inner basin, a huge caldera which was formed during the mountain's most recent volcanic cataclysm. That once inhospitable crater now supports a thriving stand of white barked aspens and hardy mixed conifers. Other routes offer access to the forests and meadows which carpet the mountain's lower slopes. Views from any of these trails are well worth the effort of a visit.
Note: In the winter, a free Backcountry Permit is required when accessing the Kachina Peaks Wilderness from Arizona Snowbowl or Snowbowl Road. It can be obtained from either of the Forest Service offices in Flagstaff during regular business hours, or at Arizona Snowbowl Agassiz Lodge on weekends.
A volcanic cinder cone and lava flow form the centerpiece of this 10,141 acre wilderness. Though the area last erupted around the time that knighthood was about to flower in Europe, the volcanic features you'll see here look as if they had happened much more recently. Molten rock frozen in time still shows scrape marks left as it squeezed up through cracks in the cooler surface. Petrified bubbles of once boiling stone look as fresh as the sparse vegetation that struggles for a foothold on this rugged moonscape.
Plentiful ruins scattered across this inhospitable landscape prove the resourcefulness of an ancient people who lived here even as the land still fumed and spouted. In places you can also see remnants of the gardens they cultivated using volcanic cinders as a water-retaining mulch. On the horizon, the San Francisco Peaks, Sunset Crater, and the Painted Desert add another dimension to the view.
The Mogollon Rim is a rugged escarpment that forms the southern limit of the Colorado Plateau. It extends across the entire forest and provides excellent views within Plateau Country and Desert Canyon Country as well. Dropping as much as 2,000 feet in some areas, the Rim provides some of the most far-reaching scenery in Arizona. Views stretch from its rocky precipice to Four Peaks of the Mazatzals northeast of Phoenix.
Needless to say, sightseeing is a favorite activity along the Rim, but this forest area also boasts a historic system of hiking and horseback trails, a couple of picturesque lakes for boating and fishing, and backcountry skiing for wilderness adventurers. The Mogollon Rim is home to Camp Colley, an outdoor adventure camp at Little Moqui, run by the City of Phoenix, Parks and Recreation.
The photo above (see larger view) was taken by Mark Hickcox, Civil Engineer Tech on the Mogollon Rim District, from the Hutch Mountain Lookout Tower in the summer of 2011. It is looking south-east toward Long Lake.
Recreation Activities for the Mogollon Rim District shown in tables:
The colorful collection of buttes, pinnacles, mesas and canyons surrounding Sedona is famous the world around for its red rock vistas. Over the years, this area has served as the setting of many western novels and movies and has been the subject of uncounted paintings, photographs and other works of art. The remains of ancient wetlands, these crimson cliffs have been carved by the forces of the desert into one of nature's most magnificent masterpieces.
No matter what you do in Red Rock Country, you're always sightseeing. Ways to get even closer to all this scenery include: hiking, horseback riding, taking a scenic drive, sliding down a natural waterslide, picnicking, camping, taking lots of photos and fishing in Oak Creek. The Red Rock District includes some 160,000 acres of magnificent splendor. Some areas require a pass to park, so be sure to check out the information about our Red Rock Pass Program.
This 11,550 acre Wilderness boasts what has been described as the most diverse riparian area in Arizona. Over thirty species of trees and shrubs and over a hundred species of birds have been observed in this unique habitat. The stream seems to appear out of nowhere, gushing 20,000 gallons a minute out of a series of springs at the bottom of a 1,600 foot deep canyon. Over the years these calcium laden waters have laid down huge deposits of a material called travertine. That rock-like substance encases whatever happens to fall into the streambed - forming the fossils for which the area is named.
Most people come to Fossil Creek to sunbathe, wade, hike and birdwatch. It's also a great place to take photographs. The lushness of the riparian area strikes a sharp contrast to the brittle desert that surrounds it. While you're here, keep an eye out for javelina. These collie dog-sized wild pigs are plentiful in the area.
The photo above is old travertine formations fossilized over time, logs and roots have since decayed and the river course has changed.
Because of traffic problems, occasionally the roads will be closed. Click here for notice with photos about periodic road closures. For an up-to-date information recording, call the Fossil Creek Hotline at 928-226-4611.
Note: The road (FR 708) is closed between Fossil Springs Trailhead and the waterfall trailhead until further notice. See the Forest Orders page for information.
The second largest canyon to emerge from Arizona's Red Rock Country is a lesser known, but just as scenic, cousin of famous Oak Creek Canyon. But you won't find any roads, developed campgrounds or crowds in Sycamore Canyon, just 55,937 acres of wilderness marked by colorful cliffs, soaring pinnacles and one of the world's rarest habitats, a desert riparian area. The wilderness encompasses all of Sycamore Canyon from its forested rim near Williams, Arizona to its desert canyon mouth in the Verde Valley. This area is home to black bear and mountain lion as well as a number of less celebrated but just as notable creatures.
At night, in the flicker of your dying fire, you may catch a glimpse of a notorious camp robber, the bandit-masked ringtail cat making off with a bit of tomorrow's lunch. Recently these wide-eyed relatives of the raccoon were designated Arizona's state animal in a poll of the state's school children. More likely you'll notice canyon wrens and hermit thrushes along the trail during the day. They'll catch your ear as well as your eye. If you hike to Taylor Cabin you'll see the picturesque lair of another of the canyon's historic residents, the American cowboy. The Parsons Spring Trail meanders up a fertile desert riparian area, a habitat as rare as it is productive. The Sycamore Rim Trail (Kaibab National Forest) skirts the canyon's upper reaches through an area of secluded pools and tall forests.
This area is sufficiently unique to have been the first in Arizona to be designated a Wilderness Area in the 1972. A number of trails provide access to its beautiful and fragile landscape. This guide mentions only the most prominent. Those who wish to explore further will find much to reward their efforts.
Attractions: Wilderness solitude, trails for hiking and horseback riding, red rocks, pinnacles, buttes and arches, photography & wildlife viewing, swimming, and fishing, history (Native American ruins, historic cabins).
Sycamore Canyon is the second largest canyon is Arizona and offers hikers plenty of solitude and natural beauty. Sycamore Canyon Wilderness was Arizona's first Wilderness Area, designated in 1972. The trails in the upper part of the canyon are accessed from Flagstaff, Arizona, and are mainly at higher elevations, primarily in forests of pine, oak, and juniper. The canyon is marked by colorful cliffs, soaring pinnacles, and desert riparian areas. It is home to black bear and mountain lions, as well as many other creatures. The Wilderness falls within the Prescott, Kaibab, and Coconino National Forests. The Coconino National Forest manages the canyon on the east side of Sycamore Creek.
Sycamore Canyon can be very hot and dry during the summer months. There are several springs located near the northeastern Wilderness trails which normally have water year round, but hikers should not depend on this water being available. All ground water should always be treated or filtered. There is plenty of shade along all of the trails as you descend into Sycamore Canyon through a thick forest of ponderosa pine, Gambel oak, and juniper trees. The lower part of Winter Cabin Trail and part of Kelsey Trail takes you through chaparral type vegetation which offers spectacular views of Sycamore Canyon.
The Sycamore Canyon WildernessNortheast Trail System within the Flagstaff Ranger District consists of five trails with a combined mileage of 11.3 miles with the longest trail being 5.6 miles. These trails include:
Each trail is suitable for day hikes or longer overnight loop hikes. Winter Cabin joins up with Sycamore Basin Trail on the Prescott National Forest. Visit the Prescott National Forest Sycamore Canyon Wilderness page for additional information about trails on the western side of Sycamore Creek.
Sycamore Canyon is the second largest canyon is Arizona and offers hikers plenty of solitude and natural beauty. Sycamore Canyon Wilderness was Arizona's first Wilderness Area, designated in 1972. The canyon is marked by colorful cliffs, soaring pinnacles, and desert riparian areas. It is home to black bear and mountain lions, as well as many other creatures. The Wilderness falls within the Prescott, Kaibab, and Coconino National Forests. The Coconino National Forest manages the canyon on the east side of Sycamore Creek.
Sycamore Canyon can be very hot and dry during the summer months. Most of the trails in the lower part of the Wilderness do not have reliable water sources. All ground water should always be treated or filtered.
The Sycamore Canyon WildernessSoutheast Trail System on the Red Rock Ranger District consists of three trails. These trails include: