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Humphreys Peak is the tallest of the San Francisco Peaks* north of Flagstaff and is the tallest mountain in Arizona, measuring in at 12,637 feet above sea level. The next tallest mountain in the state that is not a part of the San Francisco Peaks is Mount Baldy at 11,421 feet above sea level. While there are two major routes to the summit of Humphreys, my favorite is via the Inner Basin Trail from Lockett Meadow. The more traveled route to the top is from the Snow Bowl side, for which logistics are also included below. With either trail, my preference is to do it as early in the summer as possible following snow melt.

*Random bit of trivia: The San Francisco Peaks were named such in 1629 by Franciscan Friars in the area who wanted to honor Patron Saint Francis of Assisi.

Logistics – Inner Basin Approach from East Slope (14 miles):

This is my favorite route largely due to the amazing aspen groves on the first part of the trail near Lockett Meadow, as well as the fact that it is less traveled after reaching the Inner Basin and thus provides a more wilderness-like experience. When doing this ascent, keep in mind that the east side of the San Francisco Peaks will lose all of the snow later in the season; I’ve seen snow on this side as late as the first part of July (not typical, but it happens).

If you are just coming up for the day, you will park at the day use area of Lockett Meadow, which as of the time of this bring published, is still free. The day use area is well marked once in the vicinity and the trailhead is well marked. Beware that the harrowing dirt road up to Lockett Meadow can be a bit tricky; I have seen cars make it up successfully, but I would recommend taking a utility vehicle with higher than average clearance if at all possible.

Logistics – Snow Bowl Approach from West Slope (9 miles):

The approach from Snow Bowl is more easily accessible from Flagstaff and has paved roads the entire way (up until the gravel parking lot). This trail is much busier and in my opinion, the route is less scenic and a bit more scraggly on the vegetation along the way. This route proves a steeper ascent, so if you are looking for a quicker training option, this will likely be the route to pursue. Alternately, if you are training for a longer trek at high altitudes elsewhere in the world, there is a 23+ mile route to the top of Humphreys via the Weatherford Trail.

Gear & Gadgets:

Most fit people will be able to tackle either of the above routes in a day trip format, so the gear required will be limited. Check out the Day Trip Gear Guide for more information. Just be sure to bring along plenty of food and water and remember to breath more intentionally as you get closer to the top to keep plenty of oxygen flowing! If interested in training for the higher elevations ahead of time and don’t have quick access to higher elevations, consider trying an Elevation Training Mask.

If you will be camping ahead of your ascent, bring the appropriate camping gear along. Especially in mid-to-late summer, bring wet gear along; you don’t want to come back to a wet tent and gear! I typically will plan on spending the night ahead of the hike at Lockett Meadow or at another designated campground in the vicinity of the San Francisco Peaks; I have always found it to help with acclimation with the higher elevation.

Special Note Related to Lightning:

Summiting later in the summer can increase your chances of exposure to monsoons and the potentially deadly (rare, but it has happened) lightning that comes along with it. If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike. If you or your traveling companions’ hair starts standing up on end like the photo below, you are at risk of a lighting strike and it is way past due for you to be off the mountain; get off the exposed top of the mountain as quickly and safely as possible.

Humphreys Peak Arizona Lightning Hair

Further Reading:

Leave No Trace Principles

Outdoor and Wilderness First Aid

Hike Arizona Webpage – Humphreys via Inner Basin

Hike Arizona Webpage – Snow Bowl Approach

About The Author

Jeremy Meek is a native Arizonan with a passion for adventure and discovery of unique experiences. Whether exploring Arizona or setting out on an adventure abroad, Jeremy is constantly scouting truly great adventures and experiences.

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