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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Hutch Mountain is the highest point of the Mormon Plateau, a volcanic field southeast of Flagstaff, extending south toward the Mogollon Rim. The main attractions in this area are the forests, meadows, camping and hiking opportunities, and a handful of "natural" lakes, such as Stoneman and Mormon, formed by natural depressions when a lava tube would collapse. Of course, in Arizona, a lake is often interpreted as a slightly muddy patch of ground.

The Coconino National Forest manages all the land up here. The area is crossed by good forest roads, the gradients are all easy, and there are a million great options to pull off and camp, which is what we planned to do. A road goes to the top of Hutch Mountain, but I opted to park lower and hike it for the exercise.

I had never heard of Hutch Mountain until a few days ago, when 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. 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 rest. The hike follows the road 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. 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.