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The trail: Cinder Hills is unique in that technically you are allowed to go wherever you want within the boundaries of the recreation area. While there are a few designated trails, the fun in Cinder’s is that you can play around and explore the area on you own terms. Navigating Cinder Hills is easiest sticking to two roads:
F.R. 776 – the road you came in on remains gravel for its entire length. It runs roughly SW to NE along the western and northern boundary of the park. Off to the left of the road you will see Sunset Crater, part of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. F.R. 776 ends at a locked gate after about 5.5 miles from the entrance.
F.R. 777 – leaves F.R. 776 just after Cinder Lake (the large open area near the beginning). It runs east to west near the southern boundary of the recreation area. After about 1 mile, the gravel portion of the road ends and it becomes a track through cinders. It passes several cinder cones before reconnecting with F.R. 776 near the locked gate at the end.
Outside of these two roads, the only “real” roads are other vehicles tire tracks. At the far eastern end of F.R. 777 is Double Crater, a unique volcano that has two craters, or holes where lava erupted at one point. On the west flanks of this volcano is a steep, challenging hill climb known to the locals as $100 hill – probably named after someone said “I bet you $100 you can’t get up that hill”. It is not recommended to try this since it is a very steep hill and it is easy to lose control and roll right back down the hill.
Tips for Cinder Hills: The terrain here is unlike any other trail in Arizona. The fine pebbles that make up the ground act a lot like sand. Airing down your vehicles tires is a good idea. Heavier vehicles should think twice before venturing too far off trail – the fine pebbles make it easy to spin the tires and bury yourselves in a matter of seconds. We found it best to stick to other tire tracks at the very least, that way you have some advantage over the terrain. Obey all posted rules & regulations and have fun exploring the roads and open areas in Cinder Hills OHV Area.
Summary/Trail Ratings: Since this is an open area, the rating here can vary. Sticking to F.R. 776 & 777 are easy (‘1’ to ‘4’ out of 10). Venturing off trail immediately makes things more difficult (‘5’ to ‘10’ out of 10). Allow for about 1-2 hours to explore 776 and 777. You could easily spend an entire weekend exploring the area.
Enjoy the unique experience of riding through 13,500 acres of Arizona’s volcanic cinders in the San Francisco Volcanic Field near Flagstaff. Ride cross-country through large cinder lakes or right up a volcano – whatever suits your fancy.
Page last updated: 8/1/2015
Last Known Status: Open
Trail Type: Open area (volcanic)
Approx. time: Varies
Current Info: Coconino N.F./Flagstaff Ranger District (928) 526-0866
Elevation: 6800' - 7500'
Nearest City: Flagstaff
Special rules at Cinder Hills OHV Area:
All vehicles on F.R. 776 & F.R. 777 must be street legal.
All riders under 18 must have a helmet.
OHV’s (Off-highway vehicles) must have a Forest Service approved spark arrester.
No glass containers allowed within the recreation area
F.R. 776 does NOT connect with F.R. 545 (Sunset Crater Loop Road.
Refer to Google Earth Tracks above for approx. boundaries or a USFS map for official boundaries.
How to get there: From downtown Flagstaff, head east on I-40 BUS/US-180 for 3.6 miles. Continue north onto US-89 towards Page. After 8.3 miles, turn right onto F.R. 776 towards ‘Cinder Hills OHV Recreation Area’. Follow F.R. 776 back as far as you want to set up camp or to a desired trail.
Best Time: Year 'Round