I’m Jamie Fleming and welcome to my hiking guide on Humphreys Peak in Arizona! I moved around a lot growing up – I have lived in Indiana, Rhode Island, Idaho and Arizona. I love spending time outside doing anything active such as hiking, biking, swimming and running!
As a kid, I loved being outdoors. That passion always stayed with me. After I graduated college and got married, I started to travel more, especially to national parks. That inspired me to start hiking and adventuring.
Humphreys Peak was on my Arizona bucket list ever since I moved here six years ago. It’s the highest mountain in Arizona, sitting at 12,633ft with a 3,395ft elevation gain. I knew it would be a challenging hike with epic views at the peak. The timing of this hike can be tricky as going in winter can be dangerous and going in summer can mean getting stuck in a monsoon.
The best time to hike up Humphreys Peak is in the spring or fall season on a warm day with no clouds for guaranteed 360 views at the summit. We decided hiking it at the beginning of October was best to ensure sunny 60 degree weather with the bonus of autumn foliage. It was the perfect time!
What to Expect on the Humphreys Peak Trail
The trail to Humphreys Peak starts and ends at the base of the mountain in what is called the Arizona Snowbowl. It’s 5 miles up to the peak and 5 miles back down. It took me 6.5 hours to complete the hike: 4 hours to go up, 30 minutes at the peak to enjoy it and take pictures, and 2 hours to go down.
The highlight is definitely the peak of the mountain but it was also so much fun talking to other hikers along the way and getting to know everyone. I loved the scenery every step of the way and nothing beats the all around accomplishment you feel from completing such a difficult hike.
This hike starts out in the woods with tons of pine trees. Tree roots are everywhere along the trail so be cautious not to trip. You will also see lots of fallen trees and mountain sides that are completely covered with boulders.
Once you hit the saddle the terrain changes. At this point you start hiking up a rocky trail along the rim of the mountain. It can be confusing following the trail at this point so watch out for signs that tell you were to go.
While you are hiking along the rim you have amazing views the entire way up, you can see so much and so far. You pass three false summits until you hit the actual peak – so don’t let the false summits discourage you. Getting to the peak is well worth the views and the sense of accomplishment! The clouds also pass right through you, which is such a beautiful experience.
Biggest Challenges & Best Memories
I rate Humphreys Peak as hard and challenging. I think it’s doable for a casual hiker as long as they are prepared. But it’s definitely more suitable for experienced hikers. You don’t necessarily need to have high fitness to do this hike but you need to be someone that goes hiking pretty often.
This isn’t a hike you can just turn up and do if you don’t hike or if you don’t exercise. Many people turn around at the saddle because they don’t feel like they can make it to the peak (which is about another 1.5 – 2 miles from the saddle). Therefore, if you want to complete the hike, be prepared!
The best moment for me was finally getting to the very top of Humphreys Peak and seeing the sign that said 12,633ft. My husband and I were the only ones up there for a full 10 minutes and we sat down and took it all in.
We could see the Grand Canyon, we could feel the clouds pass through us, we were on top of the world! Being able to see so much around us and to see so far in the distance was humbling. The world is a beautiful place if you are willing to see it. There aren’t really words to describe how incredible this moment was, it’s something you just have to see and feel for yourself.
Where to Stay Near Humphreys Peak
We stayed in Flagstaff, Arizona for a full week to explore the whole area. We booked a cheap motel for five nights which was perfect because we were only there when we slept. It was very close to downtown Flagstaff so we had easy and walkable access to stores and restaurants. The drive to the start of the trailhead from Flagstaff to Humphreys Peak is just over an hour.
Eco-Tips for Hiking Humphreys Peak
Always pack out what you pack in! Make sure you have room for all of your trash in your bag and it never hurts to pick up any trash you see along the trail. Don’t carve your name in the trees and don’t vandalize rocks please!
This is one thing that I see too many times and while people think it’s fine to leave behind their name in nature, it’s actually very disrespectful in my opinion. So leave no trace as always and be respectful to nature.
Need to Know Before you Go
- Check the Weather: You don’t want to do this hike if it’s raining or snowing as it could be dangerous. The best time to go is on a clear day to ensure 360 views at the top. If you go on a cloudy day you may not get great views at the peak. I recommend going in the spring or fall.
- Plan to be Hiking for a Full Day: It takes most people between 5-10 hours to complete the hike. Those with a good pace can be done around 5 to 7 hours and those who are slower will take 8 to 10 hours.
- Have a Place in Mind for Eating Afterwards: When you are done with the hike you will be exhausted and hungry so have a place in mind you want to eat at when you are done. I recommend staying the night in Flagstaff so that you don’t have to drive home exhausted. But the hike can be done as a day trip if you are coming from a city like Phoenix.
- Be Prepared for the Elevation Gain: People do get altitude sickness on this hike. The base of the hike starts around 8,500ft and it continually increases from there up to 12,633ft. If you start feeling sick and can’t breathe either stop to rest, take it slow or turn around. Please be safe! Staying very hydrated throughout the hike will help with this.
- Bring Water and Drink a lot while Hiking: Bring at least a gallon of water. Pack light snacks that you can easily eat while hiking as well. Anything like granola bars, trail mix, apples and sandwiches are perfect.
- Dress Warm & Wear Sunscreen: The first part of the hike is shaded from the trees which keeps you cool. Once you reach the saddle you are exposed and close to the sun. It’s windy and cold at the top and there is usually always snow on the ground up there too. I would recommend wearing hiking boots, something to keep your ears warm, pants of your choice, and some sort of warm sweater or lightweight coat that you can easily take off.
Keep in mind that it’s a steady incline all the way up with no flat ground. And the way down can be hard on the knees. But don’t be afraid of this hike! All sorts of people have done it, all it takes is being prepared.