FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The favorite time for this hiker to see snow is when it's 85 degrees or more. This was the case as six members of the Flagstaff Hiking Club climbed to O'Leary Peak June 26.
It's not often that people can view snow in late June, but O'Leary Peak parallels the San Francisco Peaks range as snow could be seen on Agassiz Peak and Freemont Peak with Freemont saddle in between.
Aside from the snow, this is an awesome hike due to scenery, flowers, butterflies, birds and the workout on this 10-mile hike that climbs about 2,000 feet.
There are only two drawbacks to this hike. One is that there is no water. Another drawback is that while there are plenty of pine trees and some aspens that there is not much shade on the trail. There are places to stop along the trail with shade, but during the walking part there isn't much so wear plenty of sunscreen and hike early in the day.
On this day, the lower part of the trail was about 85 degrees with Flagstaff hitting a high of 89. Probably felt cool to hikers from the valley, but the pounding sun on the trek down was enough to make most hikers sweat.
The temperature is much cooler at the top where the 35 mile per hour winds made it entertaining climbing to the top of the lookout tower. This was well worth it because of the 360-degree panoramic view, which included looking down at the Painted Desert, inner basin of the San Francisco Peaks and Sunset Crater.
The peak just below the tower is at 8,916 feet, but it's not the tallest part of O'Leary Peak. That rests 22 feet higher on the western side of the mountain.
Just a short way into the hike, Sunset Crater, along with its volcanic hotbeds, become evident. The trek begins on a cinder paved road and it's fairly flat to start. Black lava formations show up just to the right of the trail along with a handful of aspens. Soon the trail starts to climb. As it climbs, more of the volcanic ecology starts to show itself.
O'Leary Peak is also a lava dome volcano. The hike is along an old road so it is wide and clear even if there are potholes in some places. The road is now closed off to vehicles except those from the forest service.
Phoenix Magazine lists O'Leary Peak as one of 21 good summer hikes. It also rates the hike as moderate, but the Coconino National Forest website lists the hike as strenuous. In either event, it takes four to five hours not including all the time viewers want to take at the top enjoying the scenery.
Phoenix Magazine also lists the hike as dog and kid friendly. Still on this day, there were only about 10 folks on the trail; probably due to the sun on the trail lacking shade.
That's why Betsy Snow, who works for the Navajo Nation in Tuba City, was proudly able to say "Mission accomplished" at the end of the trek. Dave Healey, a Flagstaff resident, deserves kudos for leading the hike, which left everyone knowing that they had their fill of exercise for the day.
The parking lot is paved, but there are no restroom facilities.
For more information, telephone the Flagstaff Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, (928) 526-0866.