About a month ago I finally crossed one of the top items off of my Arizona bucket list and hiked to the highest point* in the state: Humphrey’s Peak (That spot you can’t see up there because it’s literally in the clouds!).
So here’s the deal: It’s summer, in Phoenix and it is HOT. But funny thing, drive two hours north and it’s not. In fact, bring a sweatshirt. My friend Courtney and I piled in the car one night and hit the road for a quick and cool weekend get away. We arrived in Flagstaff and hit up Beaver Street Brewery for some grub (and awesome gluten free pizza with shrimp on it) and only one beer, knowing the day we had ahead of us. Then we headed out for our campground to gaze at the stars (you can see so many more than here in the valley, it was incredible!) and get as much rest as possible for our big hike.
Unless you live at a high altitude, I highly suggest getting up to Flagstaff at least the night prior to hiking. Half of the trouble with this hike is that you are such a high altitude and your body isn’t used to the lack of oxygen. Phoenix sits at about 1,117 feet, Flagstaff is at about 7,000 ft, this hike starts at 9,266 ft and Humphrey’s Peak summits at 12,633 ft.
We chose Humphreys Peak Trail (#51) because at about 5 miles one-way, it is the shortest hike up to the summit. So in that 5 miles of trail you gain more than 3,000 ft in elevation. Not an easy hike, but man is it worth it. We saw online that it’s about a 6 hour hike, but we planned to 8 to be safe.
You guys, I can’t even find the words for this trail. I’ve been so used to hiking in the desert that I was constantly overwhelmed by the beauty (and the weather) on this hike. It was in the 50s when we woke up and got up to 75 (in Flagstaff) by the afternoon, but the higher we got on the mountain, the chillier it got—layers are key! Tall birch trees and pines lined the trail and I felt like I was in Colorado rather than Arizona. And since I’m having such a hard time with words right now, I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.
The day wore on as we trekked our way up the mountain with plenty of breaks to catch our breath and refuel with some snacks. It was tiring but we had so much fun the whole way. We sat on fallen tree trunks looking out over the Kachina wilderness; sucked in the beauty and clean, crisp mountain air; met, chatted with and took turns taking pictures of other hikers on the trail; and finally, made it to the saddle (11,800 ft). We took some pictures and saw snow (what?! In July?! Yes.) and then the wind really started to pick up. So much so that we took cover behind a boulder to eat a sandwich and see if it would pass. It did not, and in fact the sky got increasingly darker. We were about an hour from the summit, but hikers coming down advised us not to go up. We took their advice and settled for the scenery at the saddle, which from what I heard is just as great of a view without the stress from fear of falling off the top during a storm. It seemed more of an accomplishment to make it home safely than to die trying to get to the summit, a decision I don’t regret.
But, at the saddle we talked with tons of other hikers (who only added items to my AZ bucket list) and even met a fellow Cyclone (Let’s go, Iowa State!). I can’t wait to go back — this time all the way to the top!