By Sara Goodnick
Looking for mountains with a lake in the foreground? Scholz Lake offers a beautiful view of the SanFrancisco Peaks, not far from Flagstaff, in northern Arizona. It’s also a bird refuge, so you might also see some avian activity!
Kaibab National Forest, 6,750’ elevation, West of Flagstaff, east of Williams, south of Interstate 40
We were scouting a location to bring a large group but this secluded lake with a very small parking area is not for groups. However, it is lovely for a few. Bring your camera, your kayak, and/or your binoculars. Offering a 3-mile hike around the perimeter, it has two arms that are closed Feb. 1-Aug. 1 as a nesting bird refuge. Bald eagles, osprey, hawks, jays, kestrels, and many other birds have been reported there. There are also game animals in the area such as pronghorn, elk, mule deer.
To the Lake from the Parking Area
It requires a short hike up some stairs and along a rough trail to get to the dam from the parking lot. From there you can head either direction until you reach the areas that are closed off for the birds (unless you are there after Aug. 1 and before Feb. 1). The trail is rough. I went down and skinned up my shin through heavy jeans, but saved my camera. A hiking stick would have been helpful.
The hike to the spot with the view I was looking for far. On hindsight I should have climbed up a little higher for another view. However, I was really happy to see a lone kayaker come gliding into the area I had chosen.
Nikon D810, 70-200 2.8 lens, 24-120 4.0-5.6 lens, 16mm 2.0 lens, polarizer. I didn’t bring a tripod as this was just for scouting, but the next time I will. I’m not a bird photographer so I didn’t bring any of that specialty gear, but you could.
Currently (April 16, 2019) the main road, FR 141 is closed part way in from the Parks exit off of Interstate 40 due to road damage, but should reopen soon. For info call the Williams Ranger Station: 928-635-5600
When the road reopens, this is the best way to reach the lake: from Flagstaff take Interstate 40 west to Exit 178 at Parks. Turn left, or south, and onto Forest Service Road 141, aka Garland Prairie Road. It’s gravel at this point, flat with some washboarding, but is maintained. Watch for road signs and stay on 141 until you reach FR 62. It will be a total of 11.9 miles, and there are three 90-degree turns. After the third bend, 1.3 miles beyond is the right hand (north) turn for Scholz Lake. Go about another 2 miles on FR 62. It got rough at some points and it all depends on the recent weather as to its condition. If it gets too rough for your vehicle, just park and walk the last bit to the parking area.
Other Areas of Interest
I highly recommend taking a Kaibab Forest map because there are many interesting side roads in the area you might also want to visit. For instance, Garland Prairie itself has some lovely vistas. White Horse Lake, open in summer, is very popular. The hike to Sycamore Falls is beautiful especially in the spring or after a rain. There are many others, so go explore!
Sara Goodnick, M.Photog, CPP
Sara Goodnick is a Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.