Description - Located in central Arizona, lies the Coconino National Forest. Northward lies the Colorado Plateau, a high, cold desert of flat-lying rocks and sheer-walled canyons. Southward lie hot desert basins and rugged mountains - the "basin and range province" which includes the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona. From the snow-frosted San Francisco Peaks to desert highlands along the Verde River, Coconino National Forest's 1.8 million acres drop 10,000 feet in elevation and cover a remarkable variety of landscapes. Here you can climb the highest mountain in Arizona, fish in crystal-clear lakes, swim in desert creeks under red rock cliffs and magnificent sycamore trees, float suspended under a hang glider from the crest of a cinder cone, or ski through parks and meadows and ponderosa pines.
Copyright: USDA Forest Service
San Francisco Peaks, Coconino National Forest
- The Coconino National Forest has 1.8 million acres which vary from semiarid desert through ponderosa pine forests to alpine tundra. Elevation ranges from 2,600 feet in canyon bottoms to 12,643 feet at the top of the San Francisco Peaks.
The Coconino is made up of five distinct environments. The Volcanic Highlands, north of Flagstaff and I-40, are dominated by the 12,643 feet San Francisco Peaks. Three of the summits that ring this dormant volcano's now quiet inner caldera are the highest mountains in the state. The Around the Peaks Loop, Snow Bowl Road, Schultz Pass Road and the Volcanos and Ruins Loop provide scenic drives in this area. The Kachina Peaks and Strawberry Crater Wilderness Areas are located here. The Snow Bowl Ski Area and several cross-country ski areas are located in this area.
The Plateau Country lies to the southeast of Flagstaff. 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 Plateau Lakes Drive, Forest Highway 3 and Forest Road 213 provide an 80 mile scenic drive through the area. The Mormon Lakes Ski Touring Center provides groomed cross-country ski trails in the winter.
The Mogollon Rim area on the Coconino lies just south of State Highway 87. The Mogollon Rim is a rugged escarpment that forms the southern limit of the Colorado Plateau. It is one of the most impressive overlooks in Arizona, with views that stretch from its rocky precipice to Four Peaks of the Mazatzals northeast of Phoenix. The Rim Road and General Crook Trail Loop connects State Highway 87 and Forest Roads 300, 321 and 95. This drive offers panoramic views and forest scenery. Blue Ridge Reservoir and Knoll Lake are both popular areas for boating, fishing, camping and hiking.
The Desert Canyon Country of the Coconino lies east of I-17 and the Verde River, just north of Camp Verde. Recreation in this area is focused on four streams that wind through this classic Upper Sonoran Desert landscape. The Verde River, Arizona's only designated Wild and Scenic River, meanders the entire length of the area and is large enough to navigate in kayaks, canoes and small rafts at high to moderate levels. West Clear Creek, Wet Beaver Creek and Fossil Creek emerge from deep, cottonwood lined canyons they have cut into the Mogollon Rim to continue across the desert and merge with the Verde. The Desert Canyon Scenic Drive connects State Highway 260 and Forest Road 618 with I-17 for access to sightseeing and multiple recreation activities. The Fossil Springs, Wet Beaver Creek and West Clear Creek Wilderness Areas are all located in the Desert Canyon portion of the Coconino.
The Red Rock Country surrounding Sedona offers a colorful collection of buttes, pinnacles, mesas and canyons. Oak Creek is a scenic, clear canyon stream which provides opportunities for camping, fishing, swimming, hiking, and biking. Oak Creek Canyon offers a spectacular scenic drive. The Red Rocks and Sycamore Canyon Loop, west of Sedona takes you into the heart of the magnificent Sedona Red Rocks Country. The Munds Mountain, Red Rock Secret Mountain and Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Areas all lie in this portion of the Coconino.
Recreation - The Coconino Forest offers a variety of recreational opportunities such as hiking and backpacking, trail riding by horse and bicycle, camping and picnicking, boating and fishing. Winter activities include snowshoeing, cross-country and alpine skiing.
Climate - Climate on the Coconino varies greatly with elevation. The higher elevations generally receive much more precipitation and much cooler temperatures than the lower elevations. Summers on the Forest bring warm daytime temperatures with cool nights. Low elevations often experience very hot summer temperatures. Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the summer. The late autumn, winter and early spring months bring snow and sometimes cold temperatures to the high elevations but frequent clear, sunny days. Winter brings moderate temperatures to the low elevations; a good time to experience these normally snow free areas.
The Coconino National Forest sits in central Arizona, around the communities of Flagstaff, Sedona and Happy Jack. The Forest has offices in each of those communities. Interstates 40 and 17 run through the Coconino.