Humphrey's Peak

Distance: ~4 miles one way to saddle
Elevation gain: ~2500 feet to saddle
Location: near Flagstaff, Arizona
Date: December 6, 2013

Humphrey's Peak from the saddle

Humphrey's Peak is the highest point in Arizona at 12,637 feet and is part of the San Francisco Peaks that tower above Flagstaff and much of northern Arizona. The shortest, easiest, and most used route to the summit is via the Humphrey's Peak Trail from the Arizona Snow Bowl. This trail gains 3,313 feet in elevation over 4.8 miles.

Entering the the area outside of the Snow Bowl property in winter apparently requires a permit, but the day prior to my visit I stopped by a Forest Service ranger station where permits are supposed to be issued, but they had a sign on their door saying that they do not issue permits. On weekends permits can be obtained at the ski area, but being a Friday, I just decided to go to the ski area and start hiking. I didn't see any other vehicles with permits despite there being about 20 people on the trail that day that I passed on my way down.

Lower part of the trail

The official trailhead is at the lower parking lot in the ski area, but being winter, it didn't matter where I parked or started hiking. A sign marks the trail as it leaves the lower part of the ski area, but I continued straight up the ski area's slopes until a point where the trail switchbacks to a clearing along the ski area. There were a few tracks on the trail from two people who were ahead of me on the trail and some people from previous days, but I still used snowshoes during my entire hike.

The only view to the west along the trail

The trail switchbacks up through the forest on the west side of Humphrey's Peak, only reaching a clearing with a decent view to the west at one point. After this viewpoint the trail continues above the northeast side of the Snow Bowl, which is where all tracks stopped and I had to blaze my own trail. Following the trail's exact location became difficult as the trees became sparser, so I just continued up the slope to the general area of where I knew the trail was going.

Agassiz Peak from the Humphrey's Peak Trail

Once I saw the low point on the saddle between Humphrey's and Agassiz peaks I turned straight for it. It is along this final stretch that I encountered some winds and snow drift that were mostly frozen. I followed the areas between snow drifts where the ground was nearly clear yet steep and icy in places. At this point my snowshoes became useless, and I realized that I had left my crampons at the hotel I was staying at.

Panorama from the saddle with Humphrey's peak right of center

View to the south from the saddle with Agassiz Peak right of center

When I reached the saddle the wind was very strong and the hand warmers I had in my shoes and gloves barely seemed to be working. It was a perfectly clear day, so there were great view all around, but because of the ice, wind,  and my lack of crampons, I decided to go back down the trail. Once just below the saddle the wind completely died down and the conditions were much more comfortable. I guess I'll have to return again and maybe try another route up if it is in summer.

View north along the upper half of the Humphrey's Peak Trail

View towards the saddle along the final stretch of trail

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