Hiking Arizona’s Highest Mountain

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We Are “Highpointers”

G.Hammer is on a mission to see the top of, or “high point” of every state before he turns 50. 50 in 50 kind of thing. That’s the definition of a “highpointer”- someone who hikes or climbs high points. I say G.Hammer is on a mission because I don’t, as this point in my life, have any desire to climb Denali. Rainer and Hood are questionable, and I’m confident about the rest. After hiking out of the Grand Canyon recently we decided we just hadn’t had enough elevation change, so we headed toward Flagstaff to day hike Arizona’s highest mountain. 

 

Humphreys Peak 12,633 ft

Humphreys Peak is just above the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort in the San Francisco Peaks, smack in the middle of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, and surrounded by the Kaibab National Forest. Which would typically mean you can camp wherever you want, but there were ‘No Camping’ signs at every pull-out all the way up the Snowbowl road. Lame! There is a large camping area just after you leave highway 180, but after driving to the trailhead to assess the situation we were not driving all the way back down. There were/are also no camping signs at the trailhead parking lot, but seeing how it’s a parking lot and we sleep in the back of the truck and we had already eaten dinner and were going straight to sleep, we took our chances. We are not breakers of laws- we just didn’t see any difference between leaving our vehicle behind while we hike and leaving it further away from where we’d leave it behind, to sleep in the back.

The trail starts at 9,320 ft so it’s roughly a 3300 ft hike to the summit, but those nearly five miles took us all of four hours. Being early May there was still a bit of frozen snow on the trail so it was slow going at times, and I fell once, right onto my right hip. I sat there for a moment, making sure I wasn’t hurt while Greg stood over me offering a bit of direction “Get up. Are you okay? Get up. Are you okay? Get up.” I was fine, but Greg said he couldn’t determine that until I actually stood up. At least he didn’t say what he did when I fell into a river in Greenland last summer– “What are you doing?!” Oh, just getting a closer look at the water; I thought I saw a fish. Husbands are silly sometimes.

The trail threw us into the quiet cool of the forest right away and it was a gentle ascent up to the saddle, where I stopped to have a protein bar and enjoy the sunshine on my face. Greg hiked Humphreys about ten years ago and said there was an unbelievably strong wind from the saddle, but we were lucky to have blue skies and a gentle breeze. That is until we wrapped around the west side of the ridge and were assaulted by dozens, nay hundreds, of ear, eye, and mouth thirsty gnats all the way to the summit. They didn’t bite, they were just annoying as hell. The trail gets a bit steep after you leave treeline, but the gnats created an effective diversion from the hike itself.

The trail is super well-maintained and easy to follow, and even the steep stuff isn’t that difficult. There was one section early on in the forest that apparently used to cut across back to the ski resort but don’t be fooled- those logs across the trail are telling you that’s not the way to go. We didn’t have any issues, but as we were hiking down we ran into an older couple who started up before us, but had taken that trail back toward the ski resort and had wasted a good amount of time trying to find the way up. Note: We did not hike with a map, only a phone picture of the map at the base.

There were plenty of others hiking for a Tuesday morning so if you do get lost, you should be able to shout for help. But seriously, just don’t take any trail that has logs purposely laid across it and you’ll be fine.

The summit offers truly fine views in all directions and we could see the Grand Canyon to the north and Sedona to the south and lots of other canyons we couldn’t identify in between. We only stayed long enough to get a few pictures and have some pb&js with gnats stuck all over them, then got the hell off that bugfest.

The hike down took an hour less, but seemed about seven miles longer. I didn’t fall again, and I think Greg felt he really missed out on an opportunity to put me back in my place. Altogether we clocked 9.79 miles and seven hours round trip including the short summit stay.

Being so close to Flagstaff means lots of good restaurants to choose from for your post-hike meal, but Greg couldn’t wait to get to The Cracker Barrel for country fried steak and chicken livers and mashed potatoes and fries and mac & cheese and corn muffins and biscuits with honey & butter and a peach cobbler with ice cream. It was a real gd delight.  

Humphreys is our 26th high point together. We are (literally) over the hump!

Humphreys Peak
Our 26th high point!

 

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2 thoughts on “Hiking Arizona’s Highest Mountain

  1. Congrats on passing the halfway mark! We hope to get up Humphries before the first snowfall later this year. Sounds like a fun walk!

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