Winter Summit Humphreys Peak, Arizona

Rate this Adventure 8.4 miles 3335 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Alex E

Hike to the top of Arizona's highest peak. Experience this winter wonderland while snowshoeing your way to the top.

From Flagstaff, take US-180 west towards the Grand Canyon. Take US-180 for 7 miles until you reach Snow Bowl Rd. Turn right/N onto Snow Bowl Rd and take this for 7 miles as it winds its way up the mountain. If it has recently snowed you will need chains for 2 wheel drive vehicles or 4 wheel drive. The police will not let you access the road otherwise. Park in the first parking lot on the left as soon as you enter the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Area. It takes about 30 minutes from downtown Flagstaff.

The hike starts right at the Arizona Snowbowl, which is also a great place to ski. The ski area doesn't open until 9am so if you arrive before that, you won't have any trouble parking. If you arrive after 9, you may have to park at the bottom of the mountain near US-180 and ride the shuttle. It can be a bit of a pain and takes around 20 minutes. 

At the end of the parking lot, closest to the ski lodge, you will see a sign for the Humphreys Peak Trail. The trail cuts directly across the green/bunny slope of the ski area. On a clear day you will see Humphrey's Peak on your right/East. Start hiking North across the green slope towards the treeline. You will see the ski boundary marked by an orange rope and two brown signs reminding you that you need a permit to access the back country. Hike directly between the two signs and continue north towards the treeline. About 15 feet into the tree line you will see two signs designating the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area.

If you don't have someones old tracks to follow, you may want to download the trail on your GPS. Even if you totally forget your GPS or there aren't any tracks to follow, the treeline is very wide open making it easy to navigate. If you head Northeast keeping the ski slopes to you right, it will be very hard to get lost. The trail switchbacks north and south as it makes its way east uphill. As soon as you come out of the treeline at around 11,300 feet, you will have a very clear view of Humphreys Peak and the direction you need to travel. The first two miles/1,500 feet of the trail are very easy with gradual elevation gain. Near 10,800 feet, the trail begins to get much steeper and gains about another 1,200 feet in a mile. This section of the trail, breaks out of the treeline and the section of trail changes from soft powdery snow to wind blown ice crusted snow. 

Although the group ahead of us kept their snowshoes on and had little trouble, I felt a lot more sure footed throwing my crampons on. The wind also starts to blow during this section, so have something to cover your face. It wasn't too bad, but the conditions drastically changed as soon as we left the cover of the trees. We went from hiking in a t-shirt in the warm sun, to a puff jacket and beanie with our faces covered. Around 12,000 feet, near the intersection of Humphreys Trail and Weatherford Trail (which heads South towards Agassiz Peak) the trail levels off again and the snow is softer. We switched back to snowshoes for the last mile as it gradually gains the last 600 or so feet. The wind continued to blow harder but there is very little threat of slipping and falling on this section. This was the only part of the trail we noticed trail markers. You will go over two false summits before you reach Humphreys Peak, but they are fairly obvious. 

The views on this section of the trail make the entire hike worth it. You can see the entire flagstaff area and the amazing difference in the Arizona landscape. It's breath taking to look off towards the Grand Canyon and see the beautiful reds and oranges of the desert landscape transform into the evergreens and snow white covered peaks. Once you reach the peak, it is big enough to take shelter from the wind no matter which way it is blowing. The wind was blowing out of the west/NW on this day and it looks to be the norm based on the snow drifts. 

Enjoy your time on the summit, take a bunch of pictures and head back down the same way you came up. The entire hike took us just under 8 hours, and we were very slowly making our way up. One group finished in 5 and half hours, so it just depends on how hard you push. The area is also great for back country skiing if you are looking for a new area. There are plenty of open sections to ski, as well as great tree skiing. The Humphreys Trail is 4.5 miles long from trailhead to summit, but during the winter you can make that distance a little shorter.

After this nice challenging hike, reward yourself with a cold beer. Flagstaff has no shortage of breweries and great food. We stopped in at The State Bar located on Route 66 right downtown. The bar offers an Arizona only beer and wine selection. Great atmosphere and great beer to relax after the hike.

For the summer hike, check out Hike to Humphreys Peak Summit.

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