Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
700.00 ft (213.36 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
10.20 mi (16.42 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, AZ rise more than 5,000 feet over the surrounding plateau, which is already at about 7,000 feet in elevation. The result is a surprisingly lush, moist, and chilly subalpine environment––one that you might not expect in Arizona. On the San Francisco peaks, winter brings heavy snow, and summer temperatures remain pleasantly cool, even when other places in the state surpass 100 degrees. In the fall, aspen leaves turn brilliant gold, painting an autumn scene to rival Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

The best way to experience this colorful forest is, of course, to go hiking. A handful of trails begin from the Arizona Snowbowl ski area, open to hiking in summer and fall. The majority of people go for Humphreys Trail, which makes a zig-zagging ascent to Arizona’s highpoint, Humphreys Peak. There is another trail, however, that’s better for a casual hike in the woods, and that’s Kachina Trail.

The San Fransisco Peaks are also called the Kachina Peaks, which comes from a Native American name for the mountain. Starting at the ski area at an elevation of 9,500 feet, Kachina Trail traverses six miles of the mountain’s south slopes, trending downhill to where it meets Freidlein Prairie Trail at 8,800 feet. There are lots of short uphills on the way, however, some quite steep and rocky. The trail meanders beneath rustling aspen leaves and in the shade of towering douglas fir, through clearings of waist-high ferns, across sunny meadows dotted with wildflowers, and among contorted cliffs of volcanic rock. Views extend down to Flagstaff and up to the barren summits of Agassiz and Fremont Peaks.

Hiking the entire trail as an out and back is just over 10 miles, but most people don’t do it that way. The most popular option is to simply hike a few miles out and back from Arizona Snowbowl, turning around at a point of one’s choosing. You can see a lot that way, but you’ll likely miss out on a major highlight, which is a swath of sloping meadow dotted with tall aspens, against a backdrop of the peaks, located near the end of the trail. This scene is especially beautiful when the leaves change in early to mid October. To see it all, consider leaving a car at Schultz Pass trailhead (along a dirt road, closed in winter) then taking another car to Arizona Snowbowl and hiking the whole trail one way, in the downhill direction. That makes a total distance of about 7.5 miles, including the connection on Freidlein Prairie and Weatherford Trails to reach Schultz Pass trailhead.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Cool temperatures in summer. Aspen leaves in fall. Snowy in winter.

Cons

Best done as a one-way with car shuttle.

Trailhead Elevation

9,500.00 ft (2,895.60 m)

Highest point

9,500.00 ft (2,895.60 m)

Features

Family friendly
Old-growth forest
Geologically significant
Big vistas
Wildlife

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Red Rock District, Coconino National Forest
Red Rock District, Coconino National Forest

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