Coconino National Forest

Coconino National Forest is a national forest that is located in the state of Arizona in the United States. This national forest contains 1.856-million acres of land and is separated into three districts, known as the Flagstaff District, the Red Rock District, and the Mogollon Rim District. All of which differ in geography and environment. It surrounds the cities of Flagstaff and Sedona and is bordered by four different national forests, including Tonto National Forest along the southern border and Kaibab National Forest along the western and southwestern borders. The forest contains all or part of ten designated wildernesses, including Kachina Peaks Wilderness, Fossil Springs Wilderness, and Mazatzal Wilderness, which is mostly in neighboring Tonto National Forest. The elevation within the national forest varies between 2,600 feet and 12,633 feet. Coconino National Forest was created in 1908, when areas of the Grand Canyon, Black Mesa, Tonto National Forest, and all of San Francisco Mountains National Forest were merged.

The Flagstaff District of Coconino National Forest is the northernmost district within the park and contains many notable features an areas, including Humphreys Peak, the highest peak in Arizona. This peak is part of the San Francisco Peaks, a group of ancient volcanic summits. This district contains over six hundred volcanic features like cinder cones, underground lava tubes, and lava flows. This area of the forest is also home to Arizona’s largest lake, Mormon Lake. The Red Rock district of the national forest is known for its rock formations including buttes, canyons, and mesas. Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona, which are located in this district, are the second most popular tourist attractions in Arizona, next to the Grand Canyon. The Mogollon Rim District is similar to the Flagstaff District with its streams and lakes, but it is also dominated by ponderosa pine forests.

The most common types of vegetation in Coconino National Forest are evergreens, although there are deciduous trees in cooler areas of the park. In southern areas of the park, where elevations are low and temperatures are high, sage brushes and other small shrubs dominate the landscape. In areas where the elevation is between 4,500 feet and 6,500 feet, like in Sedona, juniper trees dominate the landscape, although there are abundant pinyon trees like Arizona cypress and pinyon pine. Ponderosa pine forests are common at elevations between 6,500 feet and 8,000. The only alpine tundra in Arizona is located in this national forest at elevations above 11,000 feet. Despite the abundance of many types of green vegetation within the forest, it is considered a high desert area, so it is in danger of wildfires.

Image Caption: The San Francisco Peaks in the midst of winter with solid blue sky above. Taken in 2004 by Bob Blasi. Credit: USDA Forest Service, Coconino National Forest/PDTillman/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)