The City of Flagstaff acquired McMillan Mesa Natural Area in November 2016 after approximately 86% of Flagstaff voters voted in favor of its preservation. The 300-acre McMillan Mesa Natural Area is one of the last intact native grasslands within the City and provides habitat for elk, deer, and other mammals. Studies of the Mesa have uncovered multiple cultural and historic resources, including the Beale Wagon Road. McMillan Mesa provides beautiful views of the San Francisco Peaks and Mt. Elden, as well as many recreational opportunities.
Open Space Status
Since the preservation of McMillan Mesa Natural Area with the passing of Proposition 413, the City has been working to align guiding documents to better manage the property. The Flagstaff City Council approved a major plan amendment on October 16, 2018, which went into effect on November 15, 2018. Currently, City staff are working to finalize a zoning code amendment, which proposes to rezone the property to Public Open Space from its current Public Facilities and Rural Residential zoning. This process already Final steps for completion of the proposed zoning code amendment include creating a new legal description for the Natural Area, completion of a cultural survey documenting historic and prehistoric archaeological resources, additional city staff review of the rezoning application, a public hearing with the Planning & Zoning Commission, and City Council review and decision. Once a date for the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting is selected, a formal notification and the selected date will be published and shared with the community.
Restoration in McMillian Mesa Natural Area improves native habitat
Six large invasive Russian Olive trees, and over 100 invasive Siberian Elm trees are growing along the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS) and Arizona trails on McMillan Mesa. With funding provided by the AZ Department of Forestry & Fire Management’s Community Challenge Grant program, the City of Flagstaff and American Conservation Experience (ACE) will begin preparing the property for the planting of new native trees beginning on April 7, 2021.
In line with the McMillan Mesa Natural Area Management Plan priorities, prepping the natural area, planting new trees, and removing invasives will improve the habitat and preserve natural diversity of species. This work allows native plantings to thrive, protects this native grassland from tree encroachment, maintains and enhances a diversity of habitats that support native wildlife, and makes the area more resilient to wildfire. The Russian Olive and Siberian Elms invade grasslands and meadows, use and hold large amounts of groundwater (making that water unavailable to native plants), form dense thickets that close open areas, and displace native vegetation (which in turn reduces forage for wild animals). For more information about invasive plants and the problems they cause, check out the USDA's "Invasive Plants and Weeds of the National Forests and Grasslands in the Southwestern Region," 2d ed., https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3802006.pdf
Because of the shade and buffer those trees currently provide between the new Veterans Home and the FUTS trail, in celebration of Arbor Day, there are plans to replace them with native trees, such as Ponderosa Pine, Gambel Oak, or Alligator Juniper.
Major funding for this project provided by the AZ Department of Forestry and Fire Management’s Urban and Community Forestry Program and the USDA Forest Service. These institutions are equal opportunity employers.
McMillan Mesa is a non-motorized area. There are currently two parking areas that allow access to the Mesa, one at Buffalo Park and the other at McMillan Mesa Park.
From downtown Flagstaff, travel north on North Humphreys Street and turn right on West Forest Avenue. Follow West Forest Avenue until it turns into East Forest Avenue, then turn left on to North Gemini Road. The parking lot will be at the end of North Gemini Road. From there, you can access McMillan Mesa by following the Arizona Trail across the Matt Kelley Urban Trail Bridge.
McMillan Mesa Park
From downtown Flagstaff, travel north on North San Francisco Street and turn right on East Forest Avenue. In 0.1 miles, turn on North Turquoise Drive, heading south, until you come to East Ponderosa Parkway. Drive 0.4 miles on East Ponderosa Parkway and McMillan Mesa Park will be on the left.
The McMillan Mesa Natural Area can be reached from the north and south on the Arizona Trail. It can be accessed from the east on the Sego Lily FUTS Trail and the Arrowhead FUTS Trail. There is also access from the west side via the Cedar FUTS Trail and the Sunset FUTS Trail.
A map of the Flagstaff Urban Trails and Bikeways (PDF) can be found here. Together with Willow Bend Environmental Center, we are hosting guided family hikes of McMillan Mesa on Saturdays June 19, July 17, and Aug 7th, and an adult guided hike on July 30. Visit Willow Bend's website for more information and to register.
The Mesa provides many opportunities for viewing wildlife. Mule deer, ravens, and lark sparrows all frequent the area, as well as waterfowl found at the nearby pond at Buffalo Park. To learn more about wildlife viewing at McMillan Mesa, view the Buffalo Park, Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience (AWWE) page.
- McMillan Mesa is a day-use only area. Camping, campfires, and woodcutting are strictly prohibited.
- Hunting and motorized vehicle travel is also prohibited.
- Large-scale activities and events require express written approval from the Open Space Specialist.
|Trail Name||Important Information|
|McMillan Mesa Loop Trail||Relatively flat, loop trail with views of the San Francisco Peaks and Mt. Elden.|
|Arizona Trail||A segment of the 800 or more mile trail that connects Mexico and Utah. Trail is easy to distinguish and there is little change in elevation in this portion.|