The Mountains of Arizona •
Black Mountain & Peak 7505 • Cinder Hills
• Coconino National Forest
• Coconino County

Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
The southwest buttress of Black Mountain is visible from the forest road
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
Same vantage as above, now looking at Peak 7505
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
Walking on the cinder toward Black Mountain's south ridge
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
The steep zig-zag trail can be seen faintly in the cinder slopes of Black Mountain
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
Walking up the "trail", it's barren up here, but a couple trees somehow grew here
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
No on the southwest buttress ridge, looking over at the top
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
Closer to the top
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
Now in the trees, closing in
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
View of the southwest buttress, Peak 7505, Sunset Crater, and farther back, Humphreys Peak
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
Walking back now, Peak 7505 to the left, and Darton Dome and O'Leary Peak to the right. Humphreys in back. The snow was being blown by hurricane-force winds up there
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
Walking back down the cinder trail
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
Peak 7505 in my sights
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
Walking up through the trees and snow patches
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
On the top ridge of Peak 7505
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
The summit
Double Crater Cinder Hills, Arizona
View back at Black Mountain

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Date: February 20, 2021 • Elevation: 7,555 feet • Prominence: 715 feet • Distance: 3 miles • Time: 90 minutes • Gain: 585 feet • Conditions: Clear, cool and extremely windy

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we spent the weekend in Flagstaff, our first time here together since 2017. We wanted to come up here for some real shopping at a Target because we needed some actual house-hold items, and we don't have a Target in Payson. So we made a quickie weekend of it. I took off for a couple hours on Saturday morning to hike a couple hills, not terribly picky which ones I would do.

We arrived Friday afternoon, an easy 90-mile no-traffic drive from Payson via Highway AZ-87 and Lake Mary Road. Up on the plateau, there was still abundant snow in areas, but for the most part, much of it had melted since the big snowfall of late January. The day was sunny and mild, temperatures in the 50s. We'd round a bend and see the incredible view of snow-covered Humphreys Peak and surrounding volcanic vents and mounds.

We were in Flagstaff quickly and to our hotel in the downtown. We did not do much else Friday except relax. At the hotel, we watched a young couple videoing their small kids playing in snow for apparently the first time. The kids were very little, probably 1 and 2 years old, and they would grab a handful of snow, then realize how cold it was and drop it. Then they learned how to make little balls of it and throw it. Everyone has to learn how a first time. They were adorable.

I did not know beforehand how much snow was still on the ground, and how it may affect the dirt roads (i.e. being hopelessly muddy, or closed altogether), so I hedged my bets and brought printouts of about ten different hilltops in the area. The drive up indicated there may be less snow than I first assumed. I set my sights on a couple volcanic mounds near Sunset Crater and O'Leary Peak, since there were a few near the paved Wupatki Road. Also, being lower in elevation than most peaks around Flagstaff, I figured that would work in my favor too.

I decided on Peak 7505, which is the main hill north of Sunset Crater, and possibly one or two other peaks nearer Highway 89. On the east boundary of the Sunset Crater National Monument, I found Forest Road 546. Peak 7505 is a mile north of Wupatki Road, and I assumed that FR-546 would be gated or muddy due to snowmelt and that I would have to walk it. But it was wide open and clear, so I drove in until I was on Peak 7505's east flank, and Black Mountain in view. I had not brought a map for Black Mountain, but on the spot, I decided I would hike both peaks in one five-mile loop hike. I parked in a small clearing east of Peak 7505 where the road makes a little dogleg bend northwest to get around a small cinder hill, my parking spot elevation 6,970 feet. I started walking at 9 a.m., in cool and clear conditions, temperature about 45° F, with a slight but steady breeze.

I walked north, immediately onto the black cinder, which covered the ground everywhere. The pumice stones were all about pea-sized or smaller, and they held well. I walked up a small hill, then down into a drainage, then up and down a small ridge into another drainage, now below Black Mountain's main southwest buttress. On the walk in, I could see what looked like a path up its steep and bare cinder slopes, so I aimed that way.

Once at the base of the slope, I walked uphill and soon found this path, which cuts uphill at a steep grade. The path was mostly solid, about a foot wide and held well such that I rarely slid backwards when stopped. The path aims for a tree, makes a right, and aims for another tree. Otherwise, it was completely barren, just blackened pumice everywhere. The slope itself was quite steep and I would not have felt comfortable walking up it directly. The path's slightly-moderated slopes helped, as did the sturdiness of the tread. The path makes about four or five bends, but does not waste time attaining the south ridge, roughly a 600-foot gain from the lowpoint directly below.

Once on the south ridge, I was amid a sparse copse of trees (junipers amd the usual) and low brush, and a few hardy snow patches. The highpoint was now visible across the old crater. The ridge goes east then curls north to the highpoint, just a hundred feet higher, but roughly a mile of hiking to go.

Now on the ridge itself, the winds funneled and became quite strong. The day was a windy one in the whole region, but on the lower slopes, I was shielded and generally had just a moderate breeze at worst. But up high and exposed, the winds blew sustained at 40-50 m.p.h., with gusts 60 m.p.h. and above, enough to blow me off balance. I ducked onto the lee slopes when possible, or got in the trees again, or just crouched, anything to keep from being blown away. I was not concerned anything bad would happen. Up here, there was no chance of falling down a cliff. The wind was more an annoyance than anything ... a major annoyance at times.

It was an easy matter to hike through the juniper stands to the summit, which was indistinct. I walked the small summit ridge, spotted a few "maybe" cairns, and snapped a few photos. I had good views in all directions, there being no clouds, with bright blue skies and low humidity. I could see Humphreys Peak and big snow clouds being blown around by the wind up there. I've been on Humphreys and know that winds on that peak can be legendary, even when calm down below. Given how windy it was where I stood, it's safe to assume that the winds up there were hurricane force, possible 100 miles-per-hour plus. That would not be a good place to be right about now.

From my car, the one-way walk took about 45 minutes, covering 2 miles. I did not stop to rest. There was no place to get respite from the wind, I was chilled, so I kept walking. Back in the open parts of the ridge, I had no choice but to let the wind pound me. I just hunkered in and walked into the gales. Once back on the steep trail down the cinder slope, the winds let up slightly. I was soon back to the lowpoint below the slope. Now in a thicker stand of ponderosa and shielded from the wind, I found a downed log and took a break, mainly to empty out the cinder pebbles that had got into my shoes.

Next, I started trekking toward Peak 7505...

Peak 7505

Elevation: 7,505 feet • Prominence: 515 feet • Distance: 2 miles • Time: 1 hour • Gain: 665 feet • Conditions: Windy


I walked on a straight line, as best I could, until I was back at the road and below the north slope of Peak 7505. The north slope is lightly forested in pine and in grass, with snow patches of varying size. I surmised that I would have better luck, and probably a better experience, by going up this slope and not one of bare cinder.

I had to squirm under a fence, probably the National Monument boundary (although the map shows the boundary to be south of the peak). Past that, it was a simple task to walk uphill through the trees, grass, snow and pine needles.

Lower down, the slope was moderate and presented no problems. As it steepened, the snow patches were larger so I walked on them more often than not. Sometimes they were soft to where I could stomp in them with no problem, never more than an inch or two down. Other times, they were harder and still more frozen, to where I had to kick my foot in to form a small step. The surrounding cinder slope seemed to be a thin layer of cinder gravel atop a frozen layer of substrata, and walking on it was a little dicey. The pine needles were so thick and loose they did not help much either. So I mainly kept to the snow patches as much as possible. I was blazing a trail in the process.

Soon, I was past the trees and back on bare cinder, but near the top ridge. The slope lay back well and it was an easy matter to walk across it to the summit ridge, which was lightly forested again. Now open to the elements again, the wind slammed me, blowing as hard as it was over on Black Mountain. I had to keep a low center of gravity and sometimes crouch to keep from being buffetted around.

I was quickly on the small summit ridge, the trees shielding me slightly from the wind. The highest point was a two-hundred foot walk to the west. I was soon there, snapping a couple images of the beautiful vistas, but not stopping due to the incessant wind. I tagged the summit cairn, then turned around and started down, following my prints in the cinder and snow to get back down to the road. I was about a quarter-mile past where I had originally parked, so I walked the road back, arriving at 11:30 a.m..

Combined, the loop hike covered about 5 miles with a cumulative elevation gain of about 1,250 feet which includes some ups and downs while walking on the ridges between the two peaks. I was pleased to get both in on one hike and enjoyed the outing tremendously.

I drove back to the hotel, with stops at Starbucks and a mini-mart for snacks. Later, we went on a shopping run, to get some housewares and general sundries that aren't readily available in Payson. We also picked up a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle, which we partially assembled at the hotel. We completely assembled it back home, the first jigsaw puzzle I have put together since I was a kid.

The completed puzzle.

(c) 2021 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.