Two Hikes … One Day …

We had a hiking plan which changed quickly when we discovered prescribed burns happening in the Flagstaff, Arizona area. (One cannot help but notice and smell the smoke in the air if the wind is blowing your way.) Controlled burns in forests are intentionally set fires to reduce excessive trees, brush and shrubs, encourage native vegetation, and for some plants they actually need a periodic fire to help their life cycle. Forest management is important to help prevent destructive wildfires. So while there would be smoke in the air this day, we headed west to where the air was fresh and we could hike new places.

To get to our first hike we drove down a dirt road at least 3 miles, past campers on national forest land, and finally to the middle of nowhere. It was interesting to see the variety of tents, trailers, and ATV’s scattered throughout the area where people were camping. Some also had solar panels and propane tanks, but I think there is a 14 day limit per site so I am unsure how long people do camp. The US forest ranger was out and about checking the area.

We drove the first part of the Walker Hill Trail because it is a lollipop-shaped trail. Since the “stick” was a dirt road, we drove it. At the loop we walked the trail around Walker Hill, about 2.3 miles. We were the only hikers out there and I suspect few people hike this area. ATV riders and mountain bikers would love this area, riding dirt roads across large stretches of forest land. We did not see any of them so the forest was quiet except for a few birds.

After driving back on the the dirt road, we drove west on old Rte 66 to our starting point for another hike: Keyhole Sink Trail. The parking lot is also for Oak Hill Snow Play Area where they offer 2 runs for sledding and snow tubing. Sounds like super winter fun! I imagine the place is packed when the snow falls.

The trailhead for our hike was across the road where we hiked the Keyhole Sink Trail to its end, about 1 mile. It is a nice trail with plenty of wildflowers just wanting to bloom. Once you arrive at the box canyon, you’ll notice it is in the shape of a keyhole, there is a pool of water and petroglyphs which date to around 1,000 years ago. This place was where the Cohonina people hunted and held religious ceremonies, but apparently it did not seem to be a place where they settled permanently. Anthropologists believe the Cohonina lived around 700 to 1100 and are the ancestors of today’s Navajo, Hopi and Zuni tribes.

While I was researching the history of this place, I was saddened to read of the 2010 vandalism to the petroglyphs. It necessitated an expert coming in to restore the site and as a result hidden cameras now monitor the site. The dreadful behavior indicates huge disrespect of our history.

Here are some photos from the 2 hikes. Walker Hill Loop:

Keyhole Sink Trail:

Elden Pueblo Archeological Site

At the foot of Mount Elden in Flagstaff, Arizona is Elden Pueblo, site of an ancient Sinagua village, from about A.D. 1070 to 1275. This ancestral Hopi site had approximately 70 rooms. It is a short, easy walk from the parking lot to the ruin. I would recommend downloading the trail guide on your smart phone and having it with you when walking the interpretive trail around the ruins. Or scan the bar code and download the info when you arrive.

From the 1978 work, archeologists interpret the site as a trade center due to the found artifacts: macaw skeletons from Mexico and shells from California. This area is also part of the Northern Arizona Bird Sanctuary so keep your eyes open for birds.

If you are interested in archeology, you will discover there are many other sites you can visit in the area, so be sure to do your research and visit the other sites too. This site is the most convenient for a quick visit while traveling elsewhere. It is on northeast side of Flagstaff just off highway 89 which is the road you take when on your way to the east gate of Grand Canyon National Park, an hour and a quarter away. Someday when Covid-19 is history, the Tusayan Ruins will be open for visitors in the national park and worth a visit too.