Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club
Humphrey’s Peak Trail – San Francisco Peaks


when? Trip Report : June 15-17, 2012
Trip Report : August 5, 2006
Trip Report : June 30, 2001
Trip Report : April 13, 2000
Trip Report : June 26, 1999
Trip Report : December 28, 1998
Trip Report : October 17, 1998
Trip Report : July 5, 1998
Trip Report : October 4, 1997
where? San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff
the hike     Mt. Humphreys is Arizona’s premier high-altitude hiking experience. This is not an easy hike by any standards, but if you can make it to the top of Mt. Humphreys, you are standing on the state’s highest peak and are rewarded with a 360° panoramic view that is unparalleled anywhere in Arizona, taking in hundreds of square miles on a clear day. This is an incredible hiking experience, but please think carefully about your overall physical condition before even considering this hike. This is a long, steep hike that will take us over 4.7 miles of often rough and rocky terrain and 3,333 feet of elevation gain to reach the summit, where we can expect cold and windy conditions. Level ground is a rarity on this trail, and the higher we get the thinner the air and the harder it is to breathe. If you feel you are up to the challenge, then by all means go for it, but please read the following information first.
    Altitude sickness will be our worst enemy on this hike and typically causes one out of three hikers to turn back. That is why I strongly recommend staying overnight in the area (see accommodations details below) to help acclimate to the higher elevations, as well as get a good night’s rest and an earlier start on the trailhead Saturday morning. It is crucial not to push yourself beyond your limits on this hike. Instead, pace yourself – we are not trying to set any speed records here. And make certain you stay well hydrated and fortified with electrolytes, since dehydration is a major cause of altitude sickness. At the first signs of altitude sickness (one or more of the following symptoms: severe headaches, dizziness, extreme shortness of breath, and nausea), stop and inform someone before taking another step. If left unchecked, altitude sickness can become dangerous.
    Be prepared for extreme mountain weather on this hike. These higher mountains create their own weather systems, and it can sleet, hail, or snow on any day of the year even if it’s 110 degrees and sunny and clear in the Phoenix area. And you can bank on it being very windy near and on the summit. So bring warm clothing and rain gear with you, just in case.
    The Mt. Humphreys Trail, starting at 9,300 feet at the Arizona Snow Bowl Upper Lodge and ending 4.7 miles later at the summit (the longest 4.7 miles on Earth), is deceptively easy at first, carrying hikers about a quarter mile over a lush and flat mountain meadow into the edge of the forest. Entering this thick old-growth forest of aspen, Douglas and white fir, Englemann spruce, and ponderosa pine, the trail now begins a gradual but steady climb up the sloping side of Mt. Humphreys in a series of long switchbacks, so long in fact that one is almost unaware they are even switchbacks at all in the beginning. It’s a long three miles before we finally emerge from this forest primeval.
    The trail becomes more and more rocky, traversing several more rockslides along the way (actually several of the switchbacks meet a long rockslide encountered earlier). Beyond 11,400 feet the tree line, or what’s left of it, slowly begins to disappear completely. Eventually the familiar pine trees will give way to scattered and very stunted Bristlecone Pines, and finally the only tundra found in all of Arizona gradually starts to dominate. After struggling through several more ever-steeper and tighter switchbacks, we will emerge – at 11,800 feet – onto the Agassiz Saddle (the 11,800-foot high ridge connecting Mt. Agassiz and Mt. Humphreys), where we will catch our first glimpse of the majestic Mt. Humphreys, still looming in the distance another 870 feet higher and a little over a mile away.
    I would like to have everyone meet at the saddle for a group picture and a decision on going for the summit. The determining factors here will be the weather and how we feel individually. At the first signs of a thunderstorm, we will immediately turn back, since we are now above timberline with no shelter and no protection from the elements. You do not want to be in this area during an electrical storm. Several hikers have been struck and killed by lightning along this stretch of exposed trail. If we have good weather, those of us who feel up to it can proceed on to the summit, where I would like to get another group picture. For those who feel they have gone far enough, it is probably a good idea to rest and return from here, since getting to the saddle is a major accomplishment in itself. For those of us continuing on, we will have lunch at the summit, enjoy the scenery, and take a well-deserved rest break before we make our way back down the same way we came.

Required:
•  Sturdy hiking boots
•  At least 3 liters of water
•  Rain poncho and a flannel shirt or light jacket
•  Hat, sunblock, sunglasses
•  Lunch or snacks
Recommended:
•  Hiking poles
•  Camera
distance 9.4 miles round trip
time 6 hours hiking time plus 6 hours R/T driving time.
EC +-3,333' elevation change
elevations 9,300' (trailhead) to 12,633' (Humphreys Peak)
on trail 100% — Humphreys Peak Trail
rating "A"     Rate yourself as a hiker.
dogs? no
cost When car-pooling, pay your share the cost of gas. The club also allows voluntary contributions of $1/member or $3/non-member.
weather Flagstaff
meet 7:00 AM in the Fry’s parking lot on the SW corner of I-17 & Bell Road. Park behind Denny’s, near the entrance to the Deer Valley Park & Ride.
drive Take I-17 north to Flagstaff. From Flagstaff, take US 180 about seven miles to the signed Arizona Snowbowl Road and turn right. Drive uphill 7 miles and turn left into the Upper Lodge parking lot (a.k.a. second ski area parking lot). At the end of the parking lot is the well-marked trailhead. All roads are paved. Our goal will be to meet at the trailhead between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m. We want to get to the summit and be well on our way back down before any potential early afternoon thunderstorms hit the peak area.
 

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updated June 19, 2012 © Copyright 2012, Arizona Trailblazers.  All rights reserved.