The Top 5 Hiking Adventures — as voted on by Experience AZ readers:
Aspen Nature Loop (Flagstaff)
“Situated on sloping meadows and open glades high on the western slope of the San Francisco Peaks, the Aspen Loop Trail affords unhindered views of the volcanic field to the west and the Grand Canyon to the north,” according to the U.S. Forest Service website.
The hike starts at the Humphreys Trailhead and ventures westward through “micro habitats where sun-loving wildflowers and grasses alternate with shade plants and ferns,” the U.S. Forest Service website states.
Alongside views of the San Francisco Peaks are the sights of Kendrick, Bill Williams and Sitgreave Mountains.
Aspen Nature Loop’s initial decline winds westward in and out of aspen, cork bark fir and pine for half a mile until the road forks. Upon reaching the fork, head left for 0.4 miles until reaching the Arizona trail junction. From the Arizona trail junction, travel right for about 0.25 miles to arrive at the Aspen Loop junction, at which point make another right at the junction for another 0.8 miles back to the trailhead.
“Completed in 2007 by the Forest Service in cooperation with the City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, Flagstaff Biking, Arizona Trail Association, Coconino Trail Riders, CREC, and Gore Corporation, the trail offers opportunities to learn about northern Arizona’s volcanoes, its habitat extremes,” according to the U.S. Forest Service website.
Council Rocks (Tucson)
Located west of the Dragoon Mountains, the Council Rocks are a cluster of house-size boulders the have paintings reportedly by the Mogollon Indians.
“There is no official ‘trail’ to get there; rather, a few paths that lead straight up,” according to hikearizona.com.
“Beyond the immediate Council Rocks area, there is a well-worn path that continues north. It is worn for about 0.5 miles before petering out into a series of fainter paths and washes. There seems to be plenty of potential exploring in this area,” the website states.
Bear Mountain Trail #54 (Sedona)
The ascent of Bear Mountain is mostly without shade, steep and difficult in places, but it has great views the whole way, according to the U.S. Forest Service website. “The trail begins at a broad path at the parking area, crosses two washes and then starts a gradual ascent a quarter of a mile to the wilderness boundary at the base of the mountain.
“The trail narrows and begins a 450-foot switchback that is steep and rocky in places,” according to the U.S. Forest Service website. “It levels out following narrow plateau area and then begins a steep rocky 500-foot climb in a narrow side canyon to a broad plateau. It [then] crosses the plateau gradually ascending, dips down, and then climbs another 400 feet to a false summit,” the website states.
From here the trail continues as a moderate climb to reach the actual summit. By continuing “over level ground another 200 yards to the Red Canyon overlook and a view of the San Francisco Peaks in the distance to the north,” according to the U.S. Forest Service website.
South Fork Trail #46 (Payson)
South Fork Trail #46 is a rarely-hiked trail hidden away in Tonto National Forest and offers a unique experience traversing an interesting canyon. The hike has an elevation gain of 2,850 feet, and bears are known to be in the area.
“This twelve-and-a-half-mile hike starts at the Deer Creek trailhead and uses both the South Fork and Gold Ridge trails to form a loop through some of the Mazatzals lower elevations,” according to hikearizona.com. “It’s lush, shady, smooth and fast. Suffice it to say, it is a nonstop pleasure from start to finish,” the website states.
“It starts out typically as desert scrub for about the first mile then begins to hug the northern ridge of the South Fork of Deer Creek,” according to the website. “At about the two and a half mile point you will come across what looks to be the remains of an old, stone cabin. At about five miles round trip, turning around at this point would be ideal for kids.”
“But if you still have an appetite for more, you will not go disappointed,” hikearizona sates. “Although the beauty tends to masquerade it, this trail does have a definite vertical climb and there are certain wicked pitches that will quickly remind you of it.”
Moody Point 139 (Globe)
Moody Point 139 is one of the most challenging hikes in Tonto National Forest with a 4,200 elevation gain and faint trail. Downhill travel is recommended, and during times of flooding Cherry Creek is not traversable.
“Start your hike from the road closure barrier at FR487 near the ‘Falls’ camp ground,” according to hikearizona.com. “There will be a steady ascent of 400 feet over two-thirds of a mile along the closed Forest Road before you reach Workman Creek Waterfall. You will be surrounded by a thick Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine forest on all sides within Workman Creek Canyon.”
“FR487 is bracketed by a sea of yellow flowers as you continue 2.7 miles from the West to reach the Ranger’s Cabin near the Moody Point trailhead sign,” the website states. “At mile 5.5 there will be a rapid change in vegetation as you leave the pine forests behind and enter the high desert scrub lands. Route finding is most difficult in this section as it is a labyrinth of rocks and tall grass obscuring any cairns marking the trail.”
“At mile 8.2 you will encounter the first set of ruins [that have] been reduced to a pile of rubble with only small section of wall still standing. The middle set of ruins has about six adjoining rooms, each at a different state of deterioration. Some of the mud plaster walls have discernable fingerprints from the ancient architects. “