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Veit Springs/Kachina Day Hike
Flagstaff
June 10, 2006
by Chuck Parsons
picture 1
This rustic cabin, seen mid-way through the loop, was built by German immigrant
Ludwig Veit,who homesteaded 160 acres here in 1892. Photo by Mike Andresen.

To the casual observer, the Veit Springs Trailhead is very easy to overlook, as you make your way up the winding Snow Bowl Road towards the usual destination of the ski area, the Kachina Trailhead, or the summit trailhead to the top of Mt. Humphreys. The springs trailhead is an unassuming and unmarked area on the right side of the road exactly 4.3 miles from the junction with U.S. 180 out of Flagstaff.

Recently renamed the Lamar Haines Memorial Wildlife Area in honor of conservationist and outdoorsman, Lamar Haines, the trail is an easy 1.8-mile loop hike through towering pines and thick groves of aspen, with some interesting historical background thrown in for extra measure.

picture 2
Springhouse. Photo courtesy of Mike Andresen.

Near the cabin site, Terry and Kay check out this small natural rock springhouse built right into the base of a small cliff.

Inside, we discover thick weather-beaten boards attempting to cover a water and debris filled hole in the center of the small room, the remnants of an ancient piping system that Ludwig Veit used to collect natural spring water out of the hills behind the springhouse.

Even though most of the Veit Springs Trail lies within a half mile of the Snow Bowl Road, we still enjoy the splendid quite and solitude of the forest, as we complete this short and easy loop hike on the southern slopes of the San Francisco Peaks.

After the hike we begin to gather around the trailhead, taking a short rest and lunch break, before driving up the road to our second and longer hike of the day — the Kachina Trail.

picture 3
Group picture near Kachina Trailhead. [photo by Chuck]

Sixteen hikers and two eager black labs gather for a group picture near the Kachina Trailhead, as we prepare for our second hike of the day.

Starting at an elevation of 9,200 feet, the Kachina Trail runs for a little over seven miles to Schultz Pass, dropping 1,200 feet along the way. It is a classic beat-the-heat alpine hike on the slopes of the spectacular San Franscisco Peaks, which top out at 12,633 feet on Mt. Humphreys.

No matter how scorching the weather is in the desert, one can always count on a cool and refreshing break from the heat on the Kachina Trail. Our goal today is to hike in for two or three miles and then head back to the trailhead.

picture 4
The trail passes through a dense aspen forest. [photo by Chuck]

Thick, dense stands of aspen, with a lush ground cover of equally dense bracken ferns, characterize this stretch of the Kachina Trail.

When spring rains fall in abundance on the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks, these ferns thrive and often grow waist-high or even higher, overgrowing long stretches of the trail.

About a mile from the trailhead we enter the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area, which encompasses the rest of this trail and a huge swath of the southern slope of the peaks.

The Kachina is one of several trails built about twenty years ago as part of the new San Francisco Peaks recreational trail system and forms a 15-mile loop when combined with the Weatherford Trail and the Humphreys Peak Trail to Agassiz Saddle.

picture 5
Ann-Marie, Lynda, Terry, and Kay, Buddy, Zeke. [by Chuck]

Break time on the Kachina. Ann-Marie, Lynda, Terry, and Kay – with Buddy and Zeke in tow – take a break from hiking and enjoy some quiet conversation among themselves.

Buddy and Zeke just want to plop down and rest in the shade for a while.

Our sixteen hikers have become scattered along the trail at this point, with some already heading back to the trailhead and others about to do so soon, while the hard-core hikers want to press on and investigate what lies beyond the next bend in the trail or over the next hill.

Sometimes the hardest part of hiking is deciding when it’s time to turn around and head back, especially on a beautiful day like today high on the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks.

A cluster of aspen trees reaches high into the blue skies over the San Francisco Peaks, forming a tight green canopy against the Arizona sky.

As summer slowly draws to a close, and the crisp bite of fall descends on these slopes in late September, this same cluster of trees will undergo a magical transformation and become a tight golden yellow canopy.

picture 6
Aspens reach for the sky. [photo by Chuck]

The San Francisco Peaks and surrounding areas will soon be ablaze with nature’s palette of fall colors, as millions of aspen trees literally ignite in a breathtaking display of autumn spreading across northern Arizona’s high country.

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updated September 15, 2015