Atop The Peaks

Hiking to the top of 12,633' Humphreys Peak is easily one of Northern Arizona's marquee attractions, though in summer it's also typically a hike you want to avoid, as the monsoon tends to turn the mountain's exposed upper ridgeline into a T-storm shooting gallery.

Luckily, Arizona's monsoon has been largely on vacation this July, allowing my brother and I to climb up the Humphrey Summit Trail and top the mountain last week. From the trailhead at Arizona Snow Bowl, it's a quick 4.8 miles to the summit—or less, if you skip the first few switchbacks and go directly up the Hart Prairie ski run for about 600 yards.

In the old days I climbed all over this mountain, straight up and straight down, trails (and sometimes clothes) be damned. These days, off-trail travel is prohibited above treeline due to erosion and endangered species concerns. The relentless march of Progress, I suppose.

The Peaks are simply a gorgeous mountain any time of the year, but there is a special magic to catching them midsummer, lush and green, on a monsoon break. We set out near dawn nonetheless, just to hedge our bets, and were rewarded with perfect weather.

In winter, the Snow Bowl's chair makes for ridiculously easy access to a wealth of backcountry skiing options, including Inner Basin (the blasted-out remains of the original volcano crater) and, to the north, Abineau Canyon. Yes, they do get avalanches here, so check KPAC for current conditions before you go.

The colors on this day were particularly breathtaking: the sky was cold and damp, making it a smoky blue against the bright white of the clouds, and the mountain's upper lava blocks were vivid red and rust, punctuated with wildflowers. I am of course partial to this one as it's my hometown mountain, but I do recommend it.

— July 31, 2015

Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents

Joseph Gregory July 31, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Great pano... What a day!

Brad Brown August 1, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Sounds like Andy''s back is back?! Beautiful, seems very green!? Curious what the net elevation gain is? I was through there in 2007, on the list for "I could live there" towns. San Bernardino Peak for me about this time next Saturday.

Andy August 2, 2015 at 3:04 am

Definitely improving! TH is 9282' so a little more than 3K one way. I could, did, & still would. :)