This is a fairly long out and back ride along an incredible section of the Arizona Trail. It cruises smooth single track through forests and fields at nearly 7200 feet elevation, then drops into Walnut Canyon before climbing steep switchbacks to Fisher Point. Marshall Lake is a lush wetland atop Anderson Mesa and the route from here to Fisher Point skirts the rim of the mesa above Lake Mary. Open ponderosa forest allows for huge views of the sky and impressive vantage of the San Francisco Peaks. The destination at Fisher Point is a commanding overlook of Walnut Canyon.
What Makes It Great
This section of the Arizona Trail is less traveled than parts closer to town, but is one of the most scenic stretches. Though it deserves much more attention than it gets, lack of traffic adds to its attraction. From the rim of the mesa, views of the San Francisco Peaks are some of the best anywhere, and you are likely to have them all to yourself.
Anderson Mesa is also known for its wildlife. Though the wide open single track tempts for tunnel-vision speed, take some time to look around. A keen eye may spot bald Eagles and ospreys, which sometimes roost at Marshall Lake. The surrounding savanna-like forest is habitat for elk, deer, and even pronghorn antelope.
An out and back of any distance is possible, but pushing all the way to Fisher Point is extremely rewarding. This overlook is guarded by one mile of steep and technical uphill, which may require walking the bike. Still, it is a great culmination to a scenic ride and solid workout.
For a longer ride, you can continue on the Arizona Trail either south of Marshall Lake or North of Fisher Point. There is also Sandy’s Canyon Trail, which intersects about halfway.
Who is Going to Love It
The trail crosses relatively easy rolling terrain for the first few miles from Marshall Lake, but gets a bit more technical as it drops down into Walnut Canyon. The final climb to Fisher Point is very difficult, but is only one mile long and can be walked. Altogether, this ride is great for beginner mountain bikers trying to step it up a notch, or for intermediates seeking an all-around good ride. Experts will want to link this route with more of the Arizona Trail for greater mileage. Everyone will appreciate the scenery and feeling of remoteness, even though you are never more than a few miles from Flagstaff.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To get to Marshall Lake, drive south on Lake Mary Road for about 15 miles. you will drive alongside Lower Lake Mary. Before reaching Upper Lake Mary, turn left on FR 128. Continue 2.2 miles on this gravel road to the Marshall Lake trailhead. Parking is free and available any time, though the road may be closed for snow in Winter.
An option for shorter mileage is to start from Sandy’s Canyon. This trailhead is at Canyon Vista Campground, about 6 miles south of Flagstaff and on the left.
There is no road access to Fisher Point, but other trails connect to it from the north as well.