Walker Lake Crater
& Peak 8802 (Hochderffer Hills)
• San Francisco Volcanic Field
• Coconino County

View of the crater rim from the forest road, FR-151

Hiking up an old road through the trees

Now on the rim, following the trail amid meadows and trees

On the highpoint rim, looking back at the presumed highpoint

Looking down into Walker Lake

Another shot of the "lake", and the highpoint rim behind it

Montage of views: UL: Hochderffer Hills, UR: Kendrick Peak, LL: White Horse Hills, LR: Humphreys Peak

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Date: May 22, 2015 • Elevation: 8,511 feet • Prominence: 381 feet • Distance: 1 miles • Time: 45 minutes • Gain: 380 feet • Conditions: Sunny but cloudy and gale-force winds • Peak 8802 statistics: 600 feet of gain, 1 mile round trip

This hill has no name. On Peakbagger, it's "Peak 8511". I dislike such nomenclature, so I call it Walker Lake Crater, because that's what it is. It's a small old cinder hill with a crater, in which sits Walker Lake. In Arizona, "lakes" are often just moist sumps of land, and this is true here. There's no blue body of water with docks and sailboats. The actual water seems to be confined to one tiny section of the sump, and by summer, it will be gone, likely.

This hill is located north of Forest Roads 151 and 461, west of White Horse Hills and north of the Hochderffer Hills, both primary goals for today's outing. I had a map of this hill with me, too, but did not make it a priority. After my hike over in the White Horse Hills, I drove west to get close to the Hochferffer Hills, but found the road I wanted was gated shut. As I drove back, I looked over at the nicely-shaped hill for Peak 8511, and decided to hike it after all. The top seemed to be open which was nice. I really didn't want a heavily-forested summit.

From the junction of Forest Roads 151 and 461, I went east on FR-461 for about a hundred yards, then north on FR-9007-S a quarter-mile to a lovely turn-around and camping area. Here, a lesser road bent right (east), shown correctly on the map. The road looked pretty bad, so I parked and walked from here. I was on this road for just a few minutes. It loses distinction in the trees, but quickly, intersects a much better road that apparently comes in from farther east, but not sure where (the map shows this road to "end" a little to the east). I angled left and started up the rest of the road, pitched at an easy grade, to where it gained the south rim of this crater. From my truck, I had walked a little over a half mile and gained about 120 feet.

The road continues down and loops around Walker Lake. Instead, I left the road and walked up the open slopes, catching a good trail. I was on the summit in moments, the one-way stroll taking about 20 minutes. The top is elongated and hard to tell where the true tip-top is located. I walked the rim a little ways to ensure I hadn't missed anything, but also for some photographs. Everything was lovely -- except for the wind. On White Hills an hour earlier, the wind had been stiff but manageable. Here, it was sustaining at 40-50 m.p.h.. It was all I could to to keep my hat on, plus I was chilled quickly. I didn't spend much time here. The views are very nice.

The hike down took about 15 minutes, and from here, I drove back to camp, intending to take a small break, then try other routes in toward the Hochderffer Hills summit. Our camp was located in a small valley hemmed in on the west by FR-151 and the east slopes of the Hochderffer Hills. However, I wanted to explore one other road option first.

About 2 p.m., I set out again, driving south on FR-151 a couple miles. The road I wanted, FR-151-S, is a loop. It's northern end was gated closed as mentioned earlier. The south end was also gated closed too, as I discovered. I decided to return to camp and try Plan C, which was a direct hike from camp. I would need to gain steeply about 600 vertical feet to the ridges, then from there, about a mile to the top. It looked like it would work.

Getting up the 600 feet was easy, albeit tiring. Soon, I was on Peak 8802, the eastern-most peak of these hills. I was hoping that the forest would thin up here, as it seems to do on most of these hills, but it did not. On the ridge, the trees were very thick and I had trouble eye-balling the lay of the land. I hiked another quarter-mile west, still about a half-mile from the top. The winds were howling! I decided to bail, and come back another time. The FR-151-S option is still the best, but it appears it's only open for walking.

As I returned to camp, I realized I was getting these little white flecks landing on me. The sky above me was clear, so I assumed it was pollen of some sort, but no, it was snow, believe it or not. It was actually little hail pellets, or graupel. The clouds were moving in and the weather had taken a turn for the worse in the last couple of hours.

Back at camp, I relaxed in a camp chair. The tiny hail flecks continued to drift down, progressing into a true hailstorm. The pellets were tiny, not big enough to hurt or break a window. The skies above were dark and ominous. We decided to break camp here and drive down in elevation, fearing that we may get stuck here an extra day or two if any of this snow/hail actually accumulates.

It took me about 30 minutes to disassemble the big tent and get everything packed. We drove south about 15 miles and went west on Forest Road 222, nearby Wing Mountain. We found a good spot and set up camp here for the night. The conditions here were gentler: no precipitation and virtually no winds. I got the tent erected, crawled in for a nap, and awoke a couple hours later to thunderstorm cells and a late-May hail-snow "storm"!

The tale picks up with my hike up Wing Mountain the next morning.

(c) 2015 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.