Humphreys Peak is the highest mountain in Arizona and resides in Coconino County, in the northern part of the state. It is the 26th most prominent mountain in the lower 48 states, rising over 6,000 feet. Humphreys Peak and the greater San Francisco Mountain is part of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area, which includes 18,960 acres.
Out of all the western states high points it is the easiest summit to hike. All the Guide books of hiking in Arizona will tell you that it is a strenuous hike, but compared to the rest of the western high points it's easy to moderate. The top of the peak seams to be out of place in Arizona, almost giving you the feeling you're not in Arizona anymore. It's often referred to as "Arizona's little Colorado." Many people that don't know anything about Arizona have no clue that there are 12,000-foot mountains in the state. The popular misconception is that Arizona is a flat desert with no trees or mountains and certainly not worth visiting.
The views from the top are tremendous. To the north you can see the north rim the if Grand Canyon, to the east, the White Mountains and Holbrook, to the south, the desert Mountains near Phoenix are visible. Local legend has it that the name, "San Francisco Peaks" have been named that because one can see the city San Francisco, obviously not true.
Humphreys Peak was named after General A. A. Humphreys who was a US chief of Engineers.
There are 2 main routes that lead to the top, The Humphreys Peak trail (mentioned below) and the Weatherford Trail. The Weatherford trail was once a road that allowed Model T Fords to get up to 12,000 Feet. There is also the Inner Basin trail that connects to the Weatherford trail, which starts at Locket Meadow.
The Humphreys Trail starts at the Arizona Snow Bowl. This is the standard approach. The trail is very well marked until you reach the saddle. The first 3 miles the trail gradually climbs the mountain, then the last 1 3/4 miles it gets steeper and more difficult. After the saddle the trail can be hard to find at spots near the top. There are posts added on the last 3/4 of a mile to help mark the trail. If you loose the trail look for the posts. It is very rocky and loose above 12,000 feet. The trail ascends 3 false summits before reaching the true summit. The trail is moderate to difficult, but anybody in some sort of shape can make it if you don't have any problems with elevation sickness. I've seen overweight people hike it to the top in horrible shape; it just took them all day. Total mileage is approximately 4 3/4 miles.
This web cam is taken from Belmont and Humphreys Peak is seen in this webcam. The weather conditions on this photo should be pretty accurate.
Arizona Snow Bowl-Humphreys Peak Trail head:
Elevation gain: 3,313 feet
From Flagstaff take US 180 going to the Grand Canyon. Turn Right on Snow Bowl Rd. Snowbowl Rd is about 7 miles outside of Flagstaff. Continue up the snow bowl Rd for 7 miles. The trail head is below skiing area at a dirt parking lot.
This is the standard approach. It's very busy on weekends, more than 100 people can be on this trail. This is the easiest way to climb Humpherys Peak
Elevation gain: 4,609 feet
Take US 180 heading toward the Grand Canyon. Turn north on Schultz RD (FR 420). Turn left at the intersection with forest Rd 557. Continue on FR 420 for 6 miles to Schultz tank, a small pond.
This is the longest approach exceeding 18 miles round trip.
Inner Basin Trail:
Elevation Gain: 4,073 feet
From the Flagstaff Mall or I-40 Exit 201, drive north 12 miles on US 89 and turn left (west) onto Forest Road 420, opposite the Sunset Crater turnoff between Mileposts 430 and 431; be in the left lane in order to make the turn. Drive 0.6 mile on Forest Road 420, then turn right on Forest Road 552 and follow it 4.3 miles to Lockett Meadow. Once in Locket Meadow take the road all the way to the far end of the camping area to the trail head. This is about a 12-14 mile hike round trip.
None, but its neighbor Mt. Agassiz is illegal to climb. $500 fine if caught. Chances of being caught are slim.
Heads up!: There is another trail that starts at the same place the Humphreys trail starts, but heads down the mountain. Some people take this trail thinking its the Humphreys trail. Do not take this trail, it ends somewhere in the woods. If you want a nice place to camp then I would recommend it. There is a nice area to camp back at the end of the trail. The trail is about 1/2 mile long.
When To Climb
June-October are the best climbing months.
It is possible to hike Humphreys in May, but not recommended. There is still a lot of snow and it is very windy. Gusts can be over 50 mph and even be over 80 mph. May is the windiest month in Flagstaff. Any month of the year can be windy on top of Humphreys. September also can bring in strong winds as well.
For hiking in June, expect there to be snow on the trail still. This is probably one of the best months. It's right before the monsoons and should be warm. July-September, you have to deal with the monsoons. Start early and be below tree line before noon. October might have a little snow, and prepare for the cold. It can be very windy and cold this time of year. There should not be enough snow to make it a snow climb in the slightest bit. Most the snow that hits the mountain is gone in a few days. No matter what time of the year, expect it to be windy. Not that it's windy every day of the year, but best to prepare for it. On calm, breezy days, expect there to be lots of bugs on top.
Winter climbing is not unheard of. When it's snow capped there are many ways of doing Humphreys Peak. One of the best and preferred routes is the Dutchman and the West Ridge route. Jhodlof Has posted a really good detailed summery of this route.
Snow bowl Road gets closed before the skiing season. It might be due to icy road conditions. For more info to see if the road is open click here
Also to check up on snow conditions go to Arizonasnowbowl.com
Must read if your planning a snow climb
Back country Permits Now Available
Flagstaff, AZ - Kachina Peaks Wilderness Access permits, commonly known as back country permits, are now available at the Peaks and Mormon Lake Ranger Districts. This free permit is designed to help inform back country snow recreationalists about travel hazards, and to assist the Forest Service and the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office with search and rescue should that become necessary. Permits are only required for accessing the back country from Arizona Snow-bowl and the Snow-bowl Road.
Back country permits are valid for the entire winter and are designed for snowshoers, cross-country skiers and snowboarders using the Kachina Peaks Wilderness. Permits are required to be displayed in the front windshield of the permit holder’s vehicle if the vehicle is parked at the Lamar Haines trail-head, the entrance of the Freidlein Prairie Road (Forest Road 522) or the Arizona Snow-bowl Ski Area.
In addition to having a permit, back country campers, skiers and snowboarders who launch their trip from the Ski Area or the Snow-bowl Road also need to enter information in one of three trip registers. The Coconino National Forest added a new trip register location at the Lamar Haines trail head on Snow-bowl Road last year. The others are at the ticket window at the Hart Prairie Lodge and near the top of the Agassiz chairlift.
“We want people to enjoy back country winter activities—but with a high degree of safety,” said Steve Jenner, snow ranger for the Peaks Ranger District. “The information we’re asking for is intended to help people avoid dangers associated with avalanches and hypothermia. When someone reads the hazard warnings on the permit, it usually makes them stop and think for a few moments, and this is often exactly what is needed to introduce the element of caution that can save a person’s life.”
Back country permits, which again are free of charge, are available at the Peaks or the Mormon Lake Ranger Stations during the week. Once the Arizona Snow-bowl opens, permits may also be obtained at the ticket window at the Agassiz Lodge on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10:00 AM until noon. For more information, call the Peaks Ranger Station at (928) 526-0866 or the Mormon Lake Ranger Station at (928) 774-1147
For the most part, camping is not allowed in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness.
Camping is allowed below 11,400 feet, but not allowed near the skiing slopes.
just below San Francisco Mountain is a nice place to camp. From Flagstaff take US 180 past the Snow Bowl Road. Make a right on FR 151 to get to Harts Prairie. This is a very large area with forest roads winding through the area. There are no established campgrounds and no water, not even any creeks. Camping here is free. Some of the roads might require high clearance.
Depending on weather, the season runs mid-May–mid-Oct.; there are vault toilets and an $10 fee, $5 per extra vehicle, but no water; you can also use the sites for picnicking 10 a.m.–4 p.m. for $5. Designated day-use parking is free. No reservation, first come first serve.
Humphreys Peak is the highest point of San Francisco Mountain. San Francisco Mountain is a fragment of what was a much larger mountain. It is estimated that San Francisco Mtn. was once about 16,000-20,000 feet. It is also Arizona's only strato-volcano.
San Francisco Mountain has said to be Mt. Saint Helens twin. Before the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens there was many questions about San Francisco Mtn. Scientist did not know why it had its bowl shape. Volcanoes usually blow up and not to the side. And if it did erupt, what happened to all the matter that was blown away. It was once assumed that maybe the mountain caved in and created its bowl appearance. That theory was never fully accepted. After Mount Saint Helens erupted a lot of questions were answered. Mount Saint Helens did not blow up, it blew out; and then a lava dome stared to grow inside of it. San Francisco Mtn. has a lava dome just on the outside of it, named Sugarloaf, which formed after it blew. The appearance of both San Francisco Mtn. and Mount Saint Helens is remarkably similar when viewed from looking into both of their bowls.
To see more on the geology and to see pictures of the mountains bowl go to Volcanoworld.com .
Views from the summit
These pictures are some views from the top of Humphreys Peak
Arizona's 20-20 Challenge
Yes Arizona has it's own little challenge just like other states do like the Colorado/California 14ers, Idaho 12ers, or even doing all the State High points.
Arizona's Challenge is the 20 highest and the 20 deepest. What this means is the 20 highest mountains that are not on protected areas and has a trail to the summit and the 20 deepest canyons with the same criteria.
The mountains all have an elevation gain of at least 1,000 feet.
For more information go to Arizona's 20-20 Challenge