McMillan Mesa

MM photo croppedThe 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

McMillan Mesa Natural Area was first preserved with the passing of Proposition 413. The Flagstaff City Council approved a major plan amendment on October 16, 2018, which went into effect on November 15, 2018. On February 15, 2022, the Flagstaff City Council adopted a resolution amending the existing zoning of the McMillan Mesa Natural Area from "Public Facilities and Rural Residential Zoning" to Public Open Space (Zoning Map Amendment application PZ-20-00063), and this became official on March 31, 2022!  So why are there buildings and construction going on at the top? Before Prop 413, some of the land was private property. Click on the Zoning Map link to see the boundaries of the Natural Area.

Restoration in McMillian Mesa Natural Area improves native habitat

Six large invasive Russian Olive trees, and over 100 invasive Siberian Elm trees were removed along the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS) and Arizona trails on McMillan Mesa.  In line with the McMillan Mesa Natural Area Management Plan priorities, removing invasive trees and plants improves the habitat and preserves 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. 

To replace some of the invasive trees, we planted baby Ponderosa Pines between the new Veterans Home and the FUTS, and we need folks to adopt a tree, by visiting their new tree 2-3 times per week to water them until they are established. Email sylvia.struss@flagstaffaz.gov with any questions or to adopt a tree. 

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

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. 

Motorized AccessPath in the Forest at McMillan Mesa Park

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.

Buffalo Park

From downtown Flagstaff, travel north on N.  Humphreys St and turn right on W Forest Ave. Follow W Forest Ave until it turns into E Forest Ave, then turn left on to N Gemini Road. The parking lot will be at the end of N 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 N San Francisco St and turn right on E Forest Ave. In 0.1 miles, turn on N Turquoise Dr, heading south, until you come to E Ponderosa Parkway. Drive 0.4 miles on E Ponderosa Parkway, McMillan Mesa Park will be on the left.

RecreationMcMillan Mesa Trail Map

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 all of Flagstaff Urban Trails and Bikeways (PDF) can be found here. We also have a printable brochure with information and a trail map of McMillan Mesa to take with you when you go!

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 seasonal pond at Buffalo Park. To learn more about wildlife viewing at McMillan Mesa, view the Buffalo Park, Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience (AWWE) page.

Regulations

  • 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 NameImportant Information
McMillan Mesa Loop TrailRelatively flat, loop trail with views of the San Francisco Peaks and Mt. Elden.
Arizona TrailA 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.


Upcoming Events

September 23, 2022 4-6pm Plein Air in Open Spaces. Come try your hand at outdoor drawing and painting! As part of the Flagstaff Festival of Science, the Open Spaces Program is hosting a series of Plein Air events, including this one at Buffalo Park/McMillan Mesa. Watercolorist Deb Mechigian will be on hand to demonstrate, art supplies and easels will be provided for free, and all ages and abilities are welcome. Artists may submit their artwork for display at First Friday Art Walk on November 4th, and there are prizes in three age categories! For more information, check out our Plein Air in Open Spaces Guidelines

September 27, 2022 4-6pm Free Guided Tour of McMillan Mesa. In partnership with Willow Bend, we will host an adult-oriented guided hike of McMillan Mesa. For more information and to pre-register, visit https://willowbendcenter.org/mcmillan-mesa/

September 29, 2022 4-5:30pm Free Guided Family Tour of McMillan Mesa. More focused on family and kids, Willow Bend will conduct a short guided hike of McMillan Mesa with fun hands-on activities. For more information and to pre-register, visit https://willowbendcenter.org/mcmillan-mesa/

To follow upcoming events at McMillan Mesa, follow us on Facebook or on Instagram @cityofflagstaffparks.