Hutch Mountain • San Francisco Volcanic Field
• Southeast Coconino County
• Highpoint: Mormon Plateau

Date Climbed
June 8, 2008

Elevation
8,535 feet

Distance
3 miles round trip

Time
1.25 hours

Gain
800 feet

Conditions
Magnificent

Prominence
1,612 feet

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version


Road to Hutch Lookout


Upper portion of the road


Summit of Hutch as seen
from the western lower summit


The Hutch Mountain Lookout!

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The section of the Coconino National Forest that runs roughly 50 miles southeast of Flagstaff is one of our favorite places to explore and car-camp. The land here is volcanic in origin, part of the San Francisco Volcanic Field, a geologically active (dormant for now) area that has seen numerous volcanic activities over the last many hundreds of thousands of years. Humphreys Peak, the state's highest mountain, is the most prominent (in all interpretations of the word) of the area's volcanism. The S. F. Field is dotted with numerous stand-alone peaks, many with significant vertical relief, ranging from Williams, Sitgreaves and Kendrick Peaks west of big Humphreys, and Elden, O'Leary and Mormon Peaks east and southeast of Humphreys. Hutch Mountain is the highest peak in this region of the Coconino Forest and like its brothers, owes its existence to some long-ago lava flow. It is immediately obvious the peak's genesis: most of the rocks here are pumice and the slopes are long, gentle and consistent, in line with the nature of the other peaks. I am sure if you dig down through the top layer of dirt, you'd come to some old black lava flows and layers of cinder nuggets.

This section of the Forest is sometimes called the Mormon Plateau. It is just far enough away from the cities to make it usually uncrowded, even on nice summer weekends. We have driven through or camped in the area on four occasions, including our hikes up Elden Mountain and Mormon Mountain in recent years. Never have we seen more than a few people total. The elevations range generally from about 6,000 feet to 8,535 feet, the summit elevation of Hutch Mountain. It's high enough to be nice and pleasant when it is hot in the deserts, and low enough to not get as badly clobbered with snow as Flagstaff and the big San Francisco Peaks in winter. The terrain is rolling hills and the occasional moderately large peak (e.g. Mormon, Hutch), and a few natural depressions that have formed into two popular natural lakes: Mormon Lake and Stoneman Lake. Mormon Lake is often just a big mudpatch, but Stoneman usually has water in it. I swear it sits within an old caldera but the signs just call it a "natural depression". Go there and decide for yourself.

Interestingly I had never heard of Hutch Mountain in all my years here, not until I noticed it on the state atlas and its fairly impressive elevation. No books mention it for hiking. Curious, I got some maps together and then had to undertake the task of convincing my wife to come along for the cool weather, lovely ponderosa forest and pretty views. After three seconds of discussion she was on board. We figured the first hot weekend in Phoenix was a good time to scram. We left home Saturday morning and took the Payson route north through Strawberry and Pine to Clints Well, then up Coconino Forest Road 3 about 20 miles. The plan was to find a good camp area, then go from there. In all, our one-way driving was just over 100 miles. Randomly, we pulled onto a dirt forest road and looked for a camping spot. There are unlimited options out here. We eventually pulled onto some rougher roads, well off the main paths. Beth was content to stay at camp, so we set her up. Hutch Mountain was just up the road; it was about 3 p.m. when I left her for the quick hike to Hutch.

From camp I went north on FR-3 to another road, FR-135, signed as "Hutch Mountain L.O., 5 (miles)". I followed this decent road up into the trees and in about 2.5 miles came to another junction, this one pointing left to the peak itself, now only two miles away, according to the sign. I parked in a pullout here and decided to walk the remainder. The hike, such as it is, follows the road up to the top, a small saddle between the peak's two summits. The road portion was pitched at a very lenient grade and I made good time. From the truck to the top was about 700 vertical feet, and I was up to the top in about 30 minutes. The weather was clear and nice, with a strong breeze.

Once at the top saddle, I went right (east) up the remaining hundred feet to top out at Hutch Mountain Lookout. The tower looks to be decommissioned, but it is still standing, although on this day it was closed. Climbing the steps looked kind of iffy, as the steps were wooden planks and not always securely fastened to the metal structure. I am sure the views from the tower are stupendous, but I was unwilling to chance the steps. Unfortunately the views from the ground on the summit were mostly blocked by trees. The top is fairly pretty, with trees and lots of the big pocky pumice rock everywhere.

I hiked back to the saddle then went west up the lesser summit, spot elevation 8,518 feet. Again, no great views. This summit knob has some small towers and buildings and isn't that interesting. However, coming back from there to the saddle I had a pretty cool view of Hutch again, so I snapped a photograph. The hike back to the truck went quickly, and I was back at camp just before 5 p.m. Beth had taken a nap and felt very refreshed. I mentioned that there were some much nicer camps up on Hutch Mountain itself, and she was game to check them out. We camped for the night on a broad ledge about half-way up Hutch near "Lookout Tank" on the map, a wonderful secluded camping area. We slept like logs that night in the cool air and breeze.

The next day we poked around the forest some more, driving up to the saddle atop Hutch Mountain, then down again, where I tracked the mileage. My truck read 1.5 miles from the saddle to the parking area (where the sign said "2"), and a total of just under four miles to FR-3 (where the sign said "5"). We then drove to the Apache Maid Lookout Tower as well as a short exploration of Stoneman Lake itself. Then from there, on home.

(c) 2008 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.