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Sunday, September 30, 2012


Entering Inner Basin, Sept. 29, 2012

It’s aspen overload time on Flagstaff’s Inner Basin Trail. This week should be the PEAK TIME to hike this trail, which twists uphill from beautiful Lockett Meadow, through corridors of white-barked aspens and then takes on an unrelenting uphill slog to a point on the Weatherford Trail where you can look back down on the route. Offering unsurpassed views of golden color from below, within and above, you’d be hard pressed to find a better trail for aspen leaf peeping. 
Inner Basin, Sept. 29, 2012
View of Inner Basin from Weatherford Trail
In addition to the glorious autumn color show, majestic lava-born slopes surround hikers with avalanche paths streaming from the desolate tundra above tree line into quiet aspen-and-fir ringed meadows thousands of feet below. For a fall color hike, it would be easy to get your fill within a few yards of the trailhead---but what's the fun in that?  The first 1.6-mile segment climbs 800 feet on a slender dirt path then merges with a wide, dirt service road.  It's here where the climb enters "spring alley" and becomes more difficult.  Jack Smith, Raspberry and Doyle springs are located close to the trail and make convenient breath-catching distractions. I usually bring a small empty bottle to fill at the spigot where untreated spring water runs spordically.  This area is the primary water source for the City of Flagstaff and you'll pass several maintenance buildings along the trail.  Past the buildings, the trail enters Inner Basin proper for wide-open vistas hemmed in by the San Francisco Peaks.  Beyond the Basin, the trail leaves the aspens behind and begins a grueling ascent through forests of white pine and Douglas firs.  The final .25-mile is marked by a series of switchbacks leading to Weatherford Trail and a beautiful scenic ridgeline with great views of the Painted Desert and the aspen forests below. We returned the way we came, however, if you're feeling energetic, you can continue another 3.5 miles and 1,643 feet to the roof of Arizona ----12,633' Humphreys Peak.

LENGTH:  4 miles one way
RATING: easy, then difficult
ELEVATION: 8,600' - 10,990'

From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to the I40 junction in Flagstaff.  Head east on I40 and connect with US89 north.  Continue 17 miles north on US89 to FR 420 at milepost 431.2  (across from the turnoff for Sunset Crater).  Turn left here and veer left onto FR 552, following the signs 4.5 miles to Lockett Meadow.  The good gravel roads are narrow and winding with steep drop offs and no guardrails. Sedans okay, drive slowly and watch those curves. Trailhead parking is just past the campground.
FACILITIES: restrooms, camping (fee area), trailhead parking is free

INFO: Flagstaff Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-526-0866

1 comment:

Bryan said...

I have travel to tucson on occasion but would LOVE to get up to the high country and hike around. This blog will be useful for when I do get up there. Thanks