The Happy Jack passage runs about 29.5 miles from end to end in Coconino National Forest, and I imagine there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of hikers who have done it from top to bottom in one shot.
I am not one of those hikers. I am lazy and unfocused. Also, when I did this passage, I had an old dog, who couldn’t do more than a mile of flat ground a day. So one summer I started to chip away at this passage in the pines, bit by bit, starting in the northern sections and working my way south in a series of slackpacks.
The trail runs in and out of the forest through a series of meadows, one after another. The trees are mostly oak and ponderosa, and the summer temperatures are mild. The night skies in this part of Arizona are magnificent.
Not much water here
You won’t find much water here, other than a few muddy stock tanks, so the usual water warnings apply here: Take what you need, at least a gallon per person per day, treat any water you find, yadda yadda.
Numerous roads snake around this part of the Coconino. They cross the trail, and sometimes the road is the trail, or the trail is a road. If you want to break this thing up into small chunks, as I did, these roads will help make that happen. They are spread out so that shuttles and various out-and-back hikes are possible. Just be advised that some of these roads are bouncy, rocky slogs, where high clearance is a must and four-wheel drive is highly recommended.
The Happy Jack is a lovely passage, perfect for old dogs, slackpacking and star gazing.
The nitty gritty:
Access: The Happy Jack passage more or less parallels Lake Mary Road, which runs between Arizona 87 and Flagstaff.
From the south, you can access the trail by driving north of Strawberry and Pine, past the intersection of Arizona 87 and Arizona 260. Keep going about 19 miles until you arrive at the right turn for Forest Road 138. The trailhead is about 100 yards away.
To access the trail from the north, turn left on Lake Mary Road and turn left on FR 92. The trailhead is about a quarter mile away.
Best time to go: Spring, summer, fall.
Maps: Coconino National Forest, Arizona Trail, Happy Jack passage.