PHOTO: Stoneman Lake Road isn’t all paved, but it’s well maintained and passable in a sedan in good weather. | Lynn Sankey
Coconino National Forest, Red Rock Ranger District
By Kelly Vaughn Kramer

For people on a mission, the surest route to Flagstaff from Phoenix is a straight shot up Interstate 17. It’s quick, and it’s scenic in its own right, especially as it runs into the cool ponderosa-pine forest. But travelers looking for a quieter route will find Stoneman Lake Road (Forest Road 213) the perfect byway to connect to Forest Highway 3, a back road into Flagstaff.

The 14-mile trip begins off I-17, some 19 miles north of Camp Verde at Exit 306, and takes about 40 minutes. There are, however, plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the scenery, which might lead to a longer excursion. The first 6 miles are paved, and although the last 8 traverse a rustic road, it’s well maintained and easily passable in a standard passenger vehicle, but not after heavy rains.

As the juniper-lined paved road ends, you’ll bear left and continue on FR 213 — onto a red dirt road — and begin a slow, steady climb. After approximately 2 miles, the road splits to the day-use area for Stoneman Lake. The road to the lake comprises several semi-hairy turns, but the few seconds of adrenaline amplification are worth it. At the end of the road, bear right into the public parking lot.

Created more than 8 million years ago by a volcanic depression, the lake is a closed system, meaning there’s no outflow to remove pollutants. That, however, hasn’t stopped a veritable menagerie of wildlife from flocking to the area. Among the fish that inhabit the lake are yellow perch and northern pike. In addition, countless songbirds nest in the area, and on any given day, you might catch the blue-winged flash of a Steller’s jay out of the corner of your eye. Bald eagles are also fond of the lake and its surrounding trees and basalt boulders — during winter, the area becomes a nesting ground for the national bird.

Boats with a single electric motor are allowed on the lake and can launch from a public gravel boat landing. If you’re more interested in a leisurely picnic before hitting the road to Flagstaff, make use of one of the shaded picnic tables or pick a pretty place on the lakeshore. Take care, though, not to disturb any of the private cottages that line the lake.

After you explore Stoneman Lake, return to FR 213 and continue on as the road rambles in and out of private land and through pine and aspen forests and a speckling of wide-open meadows and public campgrounds. After another 6 miles, you’ll reach a junction with Forest Road 230, which ultimately leads to the base of Apache Maid Mountain, looming more than 7,000 feet over Wet Beaver Creek. That route loops back to Stoneman Lake Road. Or you can bypass the scenic drive to Apache Maid Mountain and continue directly to FH 3, which is yet another scenic drive that leads to Flagstaff.

Tour Guide

Note: Mileages are approximate.

Distance: 14 miles one way (to Lake Mary Road)
Directions: From Phoenix, go north on Interstate 17 for 106 miles to Stoneman Lake Road (Exit 306). Turn right onto Stoneman Lake Road (Forest Road 213) and continue 6 miles until the pavement ends. Bear left to stay on FR 213, then continue 2 miles to the Stoneman Lake day-use area or 8 miles to Lake Mary Road (Forest Highway 3).
Vehicle requirements: None in good weather, but four-wheel-drive is recommended in rain or snow.
Information: Red Rock Ranger District, 928-203-2900 or

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