Arizona Trail, Day 22: Flagstaff, Part 2 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 28)

In the land of Arizona
Through desert heat or snow
Winds a trail for folks to follow
From Utah to Old Mexico

It’s the Arizona Trail
A pathway through the great Southwest
A diverse track through wood and stone
Your spirit it will test

Oh, sure you’ll sweat and blister
You’ll feel the miles every day
You’ll shiver at the loneliness
Your feet and seat will pay

But you’ll see moonlight on the borderlands
You’ll see stars on the Mogollon
You’ll feel the warmth of winter sun
And be thrilled straight through to bone

The aches and pains will fade away
You’ll feel renewed and whole
You’ll never be the same again
With Arizona in your soul

Along the Arizona Trail
A reverence and peace you’ll know
Through deserts, canyons, and mountains
From Utah to Old Mexico

“The Arizona Trail,” Dale R Shewalter

(Note: If you enjoy this blog, please help support it by clicking separately on each post. Follow along for accounts of national park, public land, hiking, and cycling travels across the country!)

Welcome back to Aspen’s Tracks, thruhiking the Arizona Trail from Utah to Mexico. I want to note that this hike was completed before the coronavirus pandemic arrived, but it has left me with quite a bit of time in quarantine to write up my experiences on the trail.

The trail continues through forest that opens up as it heads south. The forest here looks younger, possibly impacted by fires more recently. Indeed, a fire – possibly the one I saw yesterday, or a different one – appears to be burning to the southwest, possibly in the Bradshaw Mountains. Flagstaff can be seen in the immediate foreground; the fire is on the horizon across a mountain ridgeline. Appears to possibly be in the general direction of Prescott. Again, could be a prescribed burn given the showers and virga that passed through recently.

Hiking out the west side of Schultz Pass, the trail enters and wraps around the west and south sides of the Dry Lake Hills, and immense burn piles appear beside the trail, obvious preparations for future prescribed burns that add to the more open views and young trees, as well as the burn marks on trees (living and dead) to project a general impression of a more fire-impacted landscape. There was a large fire in this general vicinity this summer, the Museum Fire, but it’s unclear if this was an area impacted by that. It’s quite possible, however. The gambel oaks are glorious with the light passing through the leaves, and the views of Elden Mountain – the other side of which was “apocalyptically burned” in the 1970s Radio Fire, according to my AZT guidebook – are spectacular. Mule deer graze among the rice grass and trees. The gambel oaks continue to look incredible. It’s amazing how as I progress south I seem to be seeing the progression of the foliage across different tree species as well as within the species. Makes for an ever changing and spectacular color display.

Gambel oaks and ponderosa hiking the Arizona Trail in the Dry Lake Hills
AZT Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Gambel oaks and ponderosa backpacking the Arizona Trail in the Dry Lake Hills
AZT Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking through gambel oaks in the Dry Lake Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Backpacking through gambel oaks in the Dry Lake Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Flagstaff with a fire burning on the horizon, viewed from the Dry Lake Hills hiking on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
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Burn piles stacked to dry for use in prescribed burns in the future. One of the largest I’ve ever seen!
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking through gambel oaks in the Dry Lake Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Backpacking through gambel oaks in the Dry Lake Hills on the AZT. Fire impacts also visible.
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking through gambel oaks in the Dry Lake Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
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Backpacking through gambel oaks & ponderosa pines in the Dry Lake Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking through gambel oaks & ponderosa pines in the Dry Lake Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Backpacking through gambel oaks & ponderosa pines in the Dry Lake Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking through gambel oaks & ponderosa pines in the Dry Lake Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking through gambel oaks & ponderosa pines in the rocky Dry Lake Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
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Elden Mountain, seen from hiking on the AZT in the Dry Lake Hills
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Juniper, gambel oaks, and ponderosa on the Dry Lake Hills, seen hiking the AZT. Elden Mountain above, mule deer grazing below.
Arizona Trail (Passage 33, Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking through gambel oaks & ponderosa pines in the rocky Dry Lake Hills on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Mule deer graze in the Dry Lake Hills while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest
Elden Mountain, seen from backpacking on the AZT in the Dry Lake Hills. Fire impacts, possibly from the recent Museum Fire, visible in the foreground.
Arizona Trail, Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Coconino National Forest

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To Thruhike or Section Hike, That is the Question

When many individuals are first looking at getting into thruhiking, they face one crucial decision after trail selection – to section hike, or thruhike. Each has different advantages and challenges, and may be better suited for one trail than another. Today, we’re going to discuss these. First, we need to define each. For our purposes, … Continue reading To Thruhike or Section Hike, That is the Question

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Inspiration Point to Roosevelt Cemetery (Passages 20 & 19, Four Peaks to Superstition Mountains)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Saddle Mountain Passage from near Saddle Mountain to Sycamore Creek at the start of the Pine Mountain passage. More magnificent Arizona mountain views of the central Mazatzal peaks and ridgelines, and a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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Arizona Trail Backpacking Logistics – AZT Gateway Communities: Tonto Basin

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Saddle Mountain Passage from near Saddle Mountain to Sycamore Creek at the start of the Pine Mountain passage. More magnificent Arizona mountain views of the central Mazatzal peaks and ridgelines, and a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Four Peaks South (Passage 20)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Saddle Mountain Passage from near Saddle Mountain to Sycamore Creek at the start of the Pine Mountain passage. More magnificent Arizona mountain views of the central Mazatzal peaks and ridgelines, and a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Four Peaks North (Passage 20)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Four Peaks Passage to just south of Pigeon Spring. The terrain is incredibly precipitous – in places the trail seems to occupy the only level ground around. Fire impacts are present throughout as well, a legacy of the 1996 Lone Fire. Magnificent views of Roosevelt Lake, the southern Mazatzal foothills, and the Sierra Ancha across Tonto Basin.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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Passage 33 (Flagstaff)
Trail SurfaceMostly dirt singletrack. Short paved stretch crossing through downtown Flagstaff
Length (Mi)15.5
SeasonApril-October
Potential Water SourcesFlagstaff
TrailheadsNorth: AZT Passages 34/32 at Schultz Pass
Middle: Downtown Flagstaff
South: AZT Passage 31 at Fisher Point
Trailhead AccessNorth: Graded dirt road
Middle: Paved
South: Foot access only
WildernessNo
Possible resupply pointsFlagstaff
ATA-Rated DifficultyModerate
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Few at best. There are good spots near the ends of the adjacent passages
HazardsHeat – wear a cotton shirt so you can soak it. Synthetics aren’t great in the desert.

Hyponatremia – “drunk on water.” To avoid, ensure adequate salt & electrolyte intake and ensure you eat as well as drink water. Symptoms are almost identical to dehydration, but drinking more makes it worse. Prevention is by far the best solution.

Dehydration
Ecosystems TraversedRocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
HighlightsViews of San Francisco Peaks
Views of Elden Mountain
Dry Lake Hills
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Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
Common Trees/Shrubs* Ponderosa Pine
* Southwestern white pine
* Subalpine fir
* White fir
* Rocky Mountain maple
* Bigtooth maple
* Grey alder
* Red birch
* Red osier dogwood
* Cliffbush
* Mallow ninebark
* New Mexican locust
* huckleberry
* bilberries



Common herbaceous plants* fringed brome
* Geyer’s sedge/elk sedge
* Ross’ sedge
* Bronze sedge/dry land sedge/hillside sedge/hay sedge/Fernald’s hay sedge
* screwleaf muhly
* bluebunch wheatgrass
* Spruce-fir fleabane
* wild strawberry/Virginia strawberry
* Small-flowered woodrush
* mountain sweet Cicely
* bittercress ragwort
* western meadow-rue
* Fendler’s meadow-rue
Passage 31 & 33 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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