Monday, September 22, 2008
HUMPHREYS PEAK Coconino National Forest Wearing fleece jackets and warm gloves in the middle of summer might sound odd, but it’s de rigueur for hiking Arizona’s highest trail. Considered by many to be one of the best and most challenging hikes in the state, the trail is usually quite crowded. The Humphreys Peak trail ascends the rocky slopes of Arizona’s only strato volcano that towers over the town of Flagstaff and the surrounding Coconino Plateau. As the trail gains elevation, plant life declines until only weather-tortured bristlecone pines cling tenaciously to the harsh talus, and above tree line, (11,400 feet) even the sturdy pines die out. On the blustery and barren 12,633-foot summit, there’s a windbreak shelter made of lava rocks that makes a good place to escape the chill, pull on your gloves and enjoy the experience of Arizona’s only tundra environment. An overnight stay in Flagstaff to acclimate to the altitude is recommended for Valley dwellers. LENGTH: 9 miles round trip RATING: difficult ELEVATION: 9,283-12,633 feet GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, go north on Interstate 17 to Flagstaff. Once in Flagstaff, drive north on U.S. 180 for 7 miles to Forest Road 516 (Snowbowl Road) and continue for 7.4 miles to the lower parking lot. The trailhead is at the north end of the lot. The paved roads are accessible by sedan.