Discovering Flagstaff: Exploring the Top Hiking Trails

Top 5 Hiking Trails Near Flagstaff, Arizona

The world’s largest Ponderosa Pine forest surrounds Flagstaff and local Phoenix residents escape here when the desert heat of their city becomes too much. It’s also a great place to hike with kids since trails are well maintained and paved with shady spots.

This trail is one of the most popular and accessible hiking trails in Flagstaff. It’s a moderate hike with spectacular views of the San Francisco Peaks.

1. Humphrey’s Peak

One of the most popular hiking trails in all of Arizona is the Humphreys Peak trail, and for good reason. This steep and challenging hike leads to the highest point in all of the state, which is crowned by a wooden sign and wind shelter. This high elevation hike provides sweeping views of Northern Arizona, seasonal wildflowers, and the site of a B-24 bomber plane crash. This trail is also sacred to several Native American tribes, so be sure to take your time and leave no trace.

The summit of Humphrey’s Peak is a rocky and windswept tundra that offers unfettered views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The mountain is a popular destination for skiing in winter at the Arizona Snowbowl, and is crisscrossed with hiking trails throughout the year. This is a strenuous hike with a lot of elevation gain, so it is important to be prepared for the harsh conditions and be aware that altitude sickness can strike as low as 8,000 feet.

2. Aspen Nature Loop

This easy lollipop trail is a great way to experience aspen forests. In Latin, the trees are known as populous tremuloides, but most of us just call them “quakies.” These unique trees are the stars of this trail. Their light lime-green leaves are distinctive, and their branches flutter in the slightest breeze. They’re intertwined with spruce and fir trees to create a beautiful forest for hikers.

The trail runs through the mountains of the San Francisco Peaks, a mountain range that’s a favorite for summer hiking and winter skiing. It’s anchored by Humphrey’s Peak and is complemented by Aubineau Peak, Rees Peak and more.

Hiking Aspen Nature Loop is a popular activity, especially in fall when the trees turn from green to gold. For a peaceful hiking experience, try to visit the trail on a weekday morning or avoid busy weekends altogether. A word of advice: Be courteous and share the trail with others. After all, everyone has different fitness levels.

3. Lava Tubes

With an abundance of active volcanoes, Hawaii is home to some of the world’s longest lava tubes. Lava tubes are cylindrical caves formed from cooled, hardened lava and can be explored by hiking through them. Inside, you will find inky black igneous rock making up the floor and walls. Grooves on the lava rock show former lava flow levels and lavacicles (stalactites made of lava) may hang from the ceiling. Creatures, such as bats and spiders, call these caves home.

To hike a lava tube, you will need sturdy shoes with good traction, a headlamp or flashlight and enough water to keep yourself hydrated while exploring. It is important to follow safety precautions and consider joining a guided tour to ensure your safety while visiting these natural wonders. Despite their dark and eerie appearance, lava tubes offer an opportunity to learn about geology and the history of Hawaii’s volcanic activity. It is also believed that lava tubes have the potential to serve as living quarters for future space colonists because the rock roof protects them from radiation and buffers temperature swings.

4. Kendrick Peak

With its 10,418-foot summit, Kendrick Peak is the second tallest peak near Flagstaff. This mountain is the centerpiece of the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness, and its lookout tower atop the peak makes it one of the most popular hikes in the area. The peak is also part of the San Francisco Volcanic Field, which is home to hundreds of volcanoes stretching from Seligman all the way to Flagstaff.

The trailhead starts at a parking lot north of Highway 180, past the Arizona Snowbowl exit. Head down the road, pass Wing Mountain Snow Play Area and turn left on FS 193. The road gets potholed as it continues up to FR 171 (25.2 miles).

As you climb higher on this trail, there are several clearings where you can stop for a break or take photos. At around the 3 mile mark, the trail starts climbing steeply with a series of switchbacks. The trail winds its way up to a saddle between the true peak and a false summit to the east.

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