The Mountains of Arizona •
Mormon Mountain • Mormon Mountain Volcanic Field
• Coconino National Forest
• Coconino County

Mormon Mountain

Hiking through big trees

The meadow

Forest road on top

Humphreys from the summit

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Date: May 7, 2006 • Elevation: 8,500 feet • Prominence: 1,120 feet • Distance: 7 miles • Time: 4 hours 30 minutes • Gain: 1,400 feet • Conditions: Pleasant with high clouds

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Mormon Mountain is a flat-topped volcanic mound on the Mogollon Plateau, southeast of Flagstaff. There is a road to the top, on which sit communications towers. The highest point is actually hard to locate, and you'll need a map to do so. It's not much of a destination for "mountain climbing". However, it is far from the crowds and has good camping nearby. The trail to the top looked interesting, even if the highpoint itself was anticlimactic.

We originally planned to camp near Sedona. However, we did not reserve a campspace in advance, and this time of year, Sedona is over-run with tourists and campers, so that finding a spot would be hard to do. Instead, we looked a little to the east and set our sights on Mormon Mountain.

We followed Interstate-17 north to the Munds Park exit, then east through town onto Coconino National Forest Road 240, following that for about a dozen miles until we arrived near Mormon Lake, which sits below and to the east of the mountain mass. We camped at the Dairy Springs Campground, a little west of the "lake" along Forest Road 90, and near the trailhead. Mormon Lake is Arizona's largest natural lake, but it's nothing more than a shallow depression in the volcanic rock. Usually, the lake is a big mud field.

Mormon Mountain rises 1,300 feet above the terrain, so it's not a little mountain by any means. Surprisingly, little information about this peak and its trails exist on the web or in print. All we had to go on was a vague description from the Forest Service's website and our topographical maps from 1974 that show the roads but not the trails.

The trailhead is located within the campground so we did not need to move our vehicle. We got our act together and started the hike about 10 a.m.. There is a register at the trailhead. Not many people sign in, and those that did, many moaned about the top being so unattractive, and some not even sure how to find the top.

We followed the Mormon Mountain Trail, heading west and gaining moderately up a long ridge. Early on, this trail intersects the Arizona Trail. A sign said that Flagstaff was merely 28 miles of hiking away. Down low, the views were blocked by the trees and of the nearby slopes. Turning around, we could see Mormon Lake, partially blocked by the trees. The undergrowth was minimal, and the trail itself was well constructed and easy to follow.

After about two miles, we had gained about a thousand feet, at which point the slope moderated. We gained about 300 feet over the next mile, some segments being level. Up here, the trees were much beefier, with elegant ponderosa pine being most common. The trail then gains one last rise, then drops into a meadow. For all intents and purposes, the trail ends here, nowhere close to the summit. I could understand the laments of those who expected something better.

A right turn would lead to Dairy Springs, which we weren't interested in. A left would lead to the main forest road, while a straight bearing led up a grass slope. According to my map, the road should be above this slope. Thus, we tackled this grass slope, which was steep but short, and sure enough, we were now on the road.

So now we were on the main road. A work truck rumbled by, and we hiked northeast toward the radio towers. Not too long afterwards, the road drops about 30 feet near "Mormon Mountain Tank" as shown on the map. To the left of the road are two buildings, one green and the other brown, set farther back. We followed access roads behind these buildings and walked up the easy slope to top out on the summit, a well-hidden point marked on the map with a tiny 8,500-foot contour.

In fact, the "summit" region of Mormon Mountain is big and features a number of small hills and rises, some above 8,480 feet, going by the contour map. A spot elevation of 8,456 feet is shown on the map near where the two buildings sit, and this is sometimes reported as the mountain's elevation. Another spot elevation of 8,449 feet, taken where the road eventually ends, is cited as the peak's elevation at the trailhead. Nothing mentions the 8,500-foot hilltop, and without a map, the true summit is not obvious at all. Most people probably miss it completely, then moan about it.

When we got to the top, I still had my doubts, so I broke open the map and GPS and laid it all out on the ground. I let the GPS settle and very carefully matched up the readings with the map. Everything matched up, but I double checked just to be sure. The top is wooded, and a triangular sign marked M-32 sits near the top. Meanwhile, & walked a few feet farther to an opening in the trees and told me to check out the view. The view is a nearly unobstructed view of the entire San Francisco Peaks, including Humphreys Peak, Arizona's highest point.

To the left of Humphreys stood Kendrick Peak, Sitgreaves Peak and farther on, Bill Williams Mountain. We stayed here awhile and had a snack and drink breaks. We were not expecting any views, going by the comments in the register back at the trailhead, but the view of the peaks was magnificent. We signed in the register at the top, placed there in summer 2005. We were the third group to sign in, and I knew the other two. Our hike back went quick and we were back to our car by 3:30 p.m., a total round trip of 7 miles and an elevation gain of 1,400 feet.

I suspect the following to be true: No trail is shown on any maps ... the hike isn't mentioned in any guide books ... the signage at the trailhead and the top could be better ... the true summit is not obvious without a good map ... the towers make for an ugly top. Mix that all up and no wonder no one goes there and those who do, complain about the lack of views. By the way: the top can be accessed by Forest Roads for those pinched for time.

(c) 2006, 2016 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.