The Coconino National Forest is one of the most diverse National Forests in the country with landscapes ranging from the famous red rocks around the city of Sedona to Ponderosa pine forests in higher elevations, from southwestern desert to alpine tundra. Explore mountains and canyons, fish in small lakes, and cool your feet in lazy creeks and streams. The Coconino National Forest is one of the oldest in the country having been created by a proclamation signed on July 2, 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. This was only 3 years after the Forest Service was created. The proclamation consolidated all the San Francisco Mountains National Forest, parts of the Black Mesa and Tonto National Forest, all of the Grand Canyon National Forest south and east of the Colorado River, into the Coconino National Forest. The Coconino covers 1,821,495 acres and is one of six National Forests in Arizona.
The U.S. Forest Service is a federal land management agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. All visitors to the National Forest has the opportunity and responsibility to aid this mission through their own personal stewardship and practice of leaving no trace on the land when they visit. The combined effort of agency personnel, the American people, and international visitors is crucial to maintaining federal lands for all to enjoy into the future.
There is something for everyone on the Coconino National Forest.
Geology: The Coconino ranges in elevation from 12,633 feet at the top of Humphreys Peak, the highest peak in the state of Arizona, down to 2,600 feet in the Mazatzal Wilderness near the confluence of the Verde River and Fossil Creek. Within this elevation range there are many interesting geologic features including: Volcanic peaks and cinder cones; the Mogollon Rim (lowest edge of the Colorado Plateau); basalt, sandstone, and limestone canyons; mesas, buttes, and rock spires; sinkholes, alcoves, and a lava tube; the Verde River, several creeks and small lakes. Our geologic wonders are important features we must protect as they are the foundation for the beautiful and special places we all love to visit. Always check the Forest Service website or call the local Ranger Station to find out if there are any restricted areas or activities in the area you wish to visit. Defacing rocks and geologic features is a violation of federal laws as is littering of any kind. Report any violations to the local Ranger Station.
Culture: The lands within the present day Coconino National Forest have been home to people for thousands of years and has seen many cultural changes in this time. The first evidence of humans dates back to 12,000 BC with the Paleoindians followed by what is today called the Archaic people from 9,000 BC to AD 600. These early cultures were hunters and gatherers. From AD 600 to AD 1400 we have an abundance of evidence for the Northern and Southern Sinagua people, who were a pueblo culture and some of the earliest farmers in the region. Today on the Coconino you can visit dwelling built by these people and see the pictographs and petroglyphs they created at sites like Elden Pueblo, Palatki, Honanki, and V Bar V Heritage sites. Following in time were the Yavapai from AD 1300 to present day and the Apache from AD1500 also to present day. Beginning in about 1863 we have the most recent culture to call the Coconino home, and they are the Euroamericans. Cultural site protection is a very important issue and there are numerous federal and state laws protecting cultural sites. You can do your part when you visit one of these special places by: not moving or removing any artifacts, walk only on established trails, leave pets at home, avoid touching any rock art or structures. The descendants of the people who once lived in this area appreciate your respect for cultural sites.
Plants: True to the diverse nature of the Coconino, the wide variety of plants will impress even the most experienced botanist. High elevation plants such as bristle cone pine, quaking aspen, silverstem lupine, yellow owl's clover, Rocky Mountain iris, and senecio. Mid-elevation plants such as Ponderosa pine, red barberry, manzanita, sego lily, claret cup cactus, Parry's agave, and locoweed. The lowest elevations have high desert plants including velvet mesquite, desert willow, desert five spot, fishhook barrel cactus and desert globemallow. In Arizona all cactus and succulent plants are protected by law. On national forest lands plants are a critical element to the health of the various ecosystems. When visiting, do not pick flowers or damage trees and other plants. Enjoy their beauty and function and take photos to remember the amazing plants you saw while visiting the Coconino.
Wildlife: Sightings of wildlife is one of the aspects to a visit on the Coconino that people get the most excited about. This Forests is home to many mammal, bird, fish, reptile, amphibian, and insect species. Some of the more unique or unexpected are: black bears, mountain lions, pronghorn, elk, javalina, coatimundi, ringtail, river otter, northern leopard frog, Arizona black rattlesnake, narrow-headed garter snake, bark scorpion, tarantula, bald eagle, lesser night hawk, canyon wren, willow fly catcher, collard lizard, roundtail chub, and loachminnow. When you see wildlife, keep your distance and do not approach or handle them for their protection and yours. Keep all pets confined or on a leash so they do not harm or chase wildlife. So not feed wildlife or leave litter of food scraps out on the ground, picnic table or firering as this can draw in wildlife and habituate them to human food. remember you are a visitor to these animal's home, respect their environment.