Dec 11

A1 Mountain

Category: Arizona

I took a short hike to A1 mountain today; I’ve tried it twice before but ran out of time or light.  Today was the day!

The elevation is 900 feet, so there was a little work involved.  For some reason, I’ve always done this hike in the snow.  Today was no different.  Although it’s been a week since the snow fell, it’s still deep in the woods, specially on the north face of slopes or in gulleys.  So it was a snowshoe hike, bushwhacking through the woods.

I love the breathtaking view as you turn off of route 40 onto A1 mountain road:

That’s the San Francisco peaks in the background, with A1 on the left.  I took a forest road until it was impassable.  The main forest road was moderately-traveled, with packed ruts but little exposed soil.  I turned onto a smaller road which looked as if 3 or 4 vehicles had been before me.  When the snow got deeper than the bottom of my little SUV, I parked and started walking, at about 7500 feet, along the compass bearing to A1 mountain.

Walking towards the slope, I passed through an area pulverized by fire.  The sun shone brightly into the wounded forest, warming me up.  I passed over the last, and only, human footprints I’d see on my way to the top.  Shortly afterwards I entered an erosion gulley on the east side of A1.  Shadowed by rock, the area was gloomy and cold, the snow deep.  I started trudging up the steep slope, stamping my feet into the drifts.  Tycho ranged happily at the edge of my sight, but he was a good boy and didn’t stray.

The going got tough and I had to take a few breaks.  No path here – just whatever way I wanted to go.  I followed the deepest snow while trying to switchback a little.  Soon I was at the rim of this old volcano, with a good view to the south:

In the heavily forested interior of the crater, it was dark and cold, but right on the edge, where the winds can do their worst work, it was spring-like because of the sun and lack of wind.  Tycho and I took a rest.

I worked my way west to the highest point, and had a great view to the southwest and west:

Coming north, the crater lip dips and rises again, with occasional tantalizing glimpses of the San Fran peaks covered with snow.  All i had was my cell phone, so I didn’t get any shots, but in person, it’s nice to see.  Tracks of rabbit, birds, mice and probably coyote – or maybe stray dog – lay across the volcano, but if any human had passed here, it was before the snow.

Slaloming down the steep slope on my way back to the car, I could see the dome of the US Navy observatory.  Not bad for an afternoon outing: 3 miles, 900 feet, 1:45, and only 15 minutes’ drive away from home.



2 Comments so far

  1. wOOlf January 17th, 2015 10:10 AM

    >You failed to mention where the trail head is located and how long of hike is it round trip.

  2. Dan Greenspan January 26th, 2015 3:46 PM

    There is no trail really, thus no trailhead! Just go east on 40 from Flagstaff, I believe it’s the second exit from the 17/40 interchange, labeled “A1 Mountain road.” The road only goes one direction; about a mile in, you’ll pass some large houses and the road will curve around to the left, then right again. There is a forest road that is usually closed in wintertime, so if it’s gated, that’s your starting point. Walk about 3/4 mile past the gate and simply turn left into the woods, walking towards the mountain which is visible to the west. Or, you can go diagonally from the gate in order to stay in the woods. You’ll encounter a fence, which you can walk along until you find a way over, or until you hit another forest road which lets you through. Navigation is mostly visual. You’ll want to stay on the east or northeast side of the cone, as the other sides are too steep. This hike will consume about half a day, and it’s never really hard, just medium in my opinion. It’s nice to have a GPS, compass, or just good directional sense, since there is no path. You can usually see either A1 or the San Francisco peaks, so orientation is not a problem.

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