This popular trail will take you to the highest point in Arizona and atop the San Francisco Peaks. Humphreys Peak is the eroded remnant of an ancient volcano that was active more than 400,000 years ago. To stand on the roof of the state, take a short trip from Flagstaff up to the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort. A moderately difficult, 4.8-mile trail leaves from the resort and leads to the 12,633-foot summit of Humphreys Peak. The trail gains over 3,000 vertical feet from the starting point and leads through a dramatic range of forests. Proud ponderosas and aspen blend into squat spruce and fir, and you will finally climb past the hardiest, gnarled conifers at the edge of tree line and emerge onto the high alpine tundra, gaining panoramas of an endless landscape that will take what's left of your breath away. On a clear day, look for the Grand Canyon to the northwest.
The hike is long and steep in some places, but the gradient is moderate for the most part. People of all ages make the trek, though a certain level of physical fitness is required. Allow four to six hours for the full round trip. This trail is also popular with athletes, however, and those looking to test their endurance can take on the ascent at a much faster pace.
At approximately 4 miles the trail tops out at the saddle between Humphreys Peak and Agassiz Peak. From here you can overlook Arizona Snowbowl to the west and the lush inner basin and Lockett Meadow to the east. North leads up the rocky ridge for the final push to the summit. Reaching the saddle is hugely rewarding, and many hikers choose to head back down from here, especially if weather conditions are less than ideal for the exposed ridge traverse.
Even though you are in Arizona, remember that the peaks are a true alpine environment. The trail is passable year round, but weather can be harsh. Be prepared for high winds above tree line. During the summer, afternoon lightning storms are common at any elevation. Winter ascents may require snowshoes, skis, or even ice gear, depending on snow conditions. Prepare carefully if you intend to continue all the way on the ridge to the summit, as this is where weather is most likely to become extreme.
The trail is located within the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, part of Coconino National Forest. Off-trail backcountry camping is allowed below 11,400 feet. All dogs must be on a leash. Not only are the peaks a fragile ecosystem completely unique to Arizona, they are considered sacred to indigenous cultures. Please treat all natural features with respect.