Take your hiking boots beyond the Grand Canyon

A landscape of the red rock formations in Sedona.

Hiking, backpacking, rock climbing and camping are all excuses to go outside and get some fresh air. The locations in northern Arizona are arguably like that of a mood ring — ­­there’s a place for everyone depending on how they are feeling.

“I do like to camp around Bizmark Lake, it’s not really a lake, it’s just on the north side of the peaks,” said Ted Martinez, faculty adviser for the NAU Hiking Club. “It’s a nice camping spot, it’s 8,000 feet. Flagstaff does not get very hot, but when you do feel like it’s getting hot, just go up 1,000 feet. It actually cools you off quite a bit.”

Martinez said the NAU Hiking Club is the oldest club at NAU and it is complete with an executive board of officers, safety practices and training prior to members going on any excursions. The training is mandatory because Martinez doesn’t participate in the student hikes.

“I feel like it’s a student organization, I don’t think it needs a crabby old man following them around,” Martinez said. “It’s a place for them to be who they are, it’s a place for them to be nutty. I trust the leaders and I want them to be themselves in nature.”

Martinez said this social climate is the era of liability and that he wants his club members to be well versed in how to conduct themselves in nature. He also wants them to make mistakes and learn from them.

Although he doesn’t participate in the NAU Hiking Club activities, he does his own exploring. Some classic sites he likes to visit in northern Arizona include Lockett Meadow and the Inner Basin, West Fork Trail of Oak Creek in Sedona and, of course, the Grand Canyon.

George Jozens, deputy public affairs officer for the Coconino National Forest, said he is informed on many, if not all, trails due to his job, but also from firsthand experience.

“We’ve got a lot of different trails,” Jozens said. “The one basic thing I can tell anyone is don’t overcommit yourself. Don’t try to take on a trail that you may think is a little long before you even go because it’s probably going to be a lot longer once you’re on it.”

Each trail ranges in distance and experience level. Jozens said some trails may not be lengthy but can have an extremely difficult incline, such as the Mount Elden Lookout that has almost a 45-degree climb to the top. Jozens said he doesn’t even attempt this trail, especially because he has a convenient way to drive to the top.

“I find myself going back to Fossil Creek, it’s also one of the prettiest places in the world,” Jozens said. “It is a little bit of a drive and you’ll need a permit to park there after May 1.”

Fossil Springs is an advanced trail that requires at least a gallon of water per person, 6 miles of their energy, effort and a tolerance for a range of temperatures. Jozens said as the altitudes decrease the temperatures become warmer. He describes them as desert-like and the hiker must head upwards on the way out.

Jozens does have recommendations for those who are at a beginner level or want a more relaxed journey.

“Fatman’s Loop is at the base of Mount Elden,” Jozens said. “It’s a 2-mile trail and it’s fairly easy. If you and your dog on a leash decide that you want to go on a walk, it’s really one of the nicer ones to go on. It’s well groomed.”

If hikers begin their exploration at Buffalo Park, which Jozens said is also a beginner-friendly trail, they can decide from there what trail to break off into. There are signs placed around the park so hikers can navigate where they want to go, whether that is decided by location or level of difficulty.

Jozens said everyone should always bring good footwear, insect repellent, plenty of water and if the trip goes into the nighttime, a headlamp and extra clothes.

Outside of hiking and backpacking, there is another means of outdoor exploration: rock climbing. This activity can be done either indoors or outdoors. Junior Sarah Higgins has been rock climbing for a year and a half after discovering a rock climbing fitness class on campus. She is currently the secretary of the NAU Climbing Club and will be the vice president next semester. Although it can be scary at times, Higgins said she practices her technique to ensure her safety.

“It’s definitely a lot more mental for me,” Higgins said. “I would say it’s 90% mental. Just breathing, trusting my abilities and committing.”

NAU offers a rock climbing wall that students can use in the Health and Learning Center. Flagstaff Climbing is an indoor rock climbing facility that is open to the public. The Pit is also a local climbing area in the Coconino National Forest that serves as an outdoor gym. Higgins said all of these locations are a way to practice and improve one’s climbing skills, but she also said if the location is indoors, that can take away from the authenticity of the sport.

“The gym is fun if it’s raining,” Higgins said. “I recommend reaching out to the Climbing Club. Our main focus is to get people outside because that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about climbing in a gym.”

Martinez said before exploring the outdoors, hikers, backpackers, campers and any other outdoorsy folks should do research on different areas before going to them, be aware of safety practices, but most importantly, get outside and have fun.