This is a short, flat trail to Bismarck Lake, near the San Francisco Peaks and Hart Prairie. It leads through forest and meadows with great views of the mountain. The lake itself is only a “lake” by Arizona standards--a natural depression that holds water most of the year. It still makes a picturesque picnic spot and attracts local wildlife. This makes an easy mountain bike ride, hike, or trail run, though getting here requires a bit of driving from Flagstaff. You can make a longer day by linking with the Arizona Trail to Lew Tank or going even further to Aspen Corner.
What Makes It Great
Bismarck Lake Trail is one of many great routes near Hart Prairie--a lovely patchwork of forests and fields at the foot of Arizona’s highest peaks. Wildflowers color the summer and aspen trees light up the fall, while snowy summits dominate the skyline most of the year. Among the varied topography are several natural low points that collect melt water and form small wetlands. Bismarck Lake is one of these, a glassy pond that reflects Humphreys Peak on windless days.
The trail to Bismarck Lake is less than a mile and mostly flat, except for one brief steeper section. It begins in shady pine forest, then opens into a meadow with a small pond. After dipping into the forest once more, it emerges into the larger meadow that contains Bismarck Lake and offers impressive views of the San Francisco Peaks. The soft grass near the lake makes an excellent spot for a picnic. Watch for deer and elk that come here to graze and drink.
Following the right fork in the trail near the lake will connect you to the Arizona Trail, which leads another mile to Lew Tank and 4.5 miles to Aspen Corner.
Who is Going to Love It
Bismarck Lake is a trail for leisurely sightseers and outdoorsy families.The trail is suitable for small children and dogs, and everyone will appreciate the mountain views and varied scenery. Mountain bikers looking for alternate access to the Arizona Trail should start at Bismarck Lake, or use this spur as a side route if starting from Aspen Corner. The best scenery is during early summer when wildflowers bloom and the peaks still hold some snowpack, or in fall when aspen trees are turning gold. Winter visitors may have to use fat bikes, skis, or snowshoes to experience Hart Prairie’s rewarding snowy scenery.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The quickest way to get here from Flagstaff is via Fort Valley Road/US-180 and Hart Prairie Road. From the intersection with Humphreys Street north of downtown, take US-180 N for 9.5 miles and turn right on a gravel road just before you reach Wing Mountain Snow Play Area. Continue straight on this road, which becomes Hart Prairie Road/FR 151, for about 6 miles, then turn right on FR 627 toward Bismarck Lake. Park at the end of this short road and start the obvious trail. These roads are usually closed in winter.