Patricia's Arizona Various Day Hikes

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See for a list of hikes in the massive Coconino National Forest - it covers a large area from north of Flagstaff to north of Phoenix and many miles west and east of I-17.

Arizona Pictures (10 pictures)

  Canyon de Chelly
  When I did the hike:
    November 1995
    A good work out, but not that exciting.  Lots of people.  The purpose
    of the trail is purely to get to the ruins. 
    [pulled from an old letter: The canyon was gorgeous and I did hike down 
    to the White House ruin.  I must say that it wasn't quite as impressive 
    after having gone to the Horsecollar ruins with the fence around the 
    ruin limiting what you could see.]

Petrified Forest National Park Directions: From Holbrook, go 19 miles east on Rt 180 to the South Entrance or on I40 the North Entrance is 24 miles east of Holbrook - the 28 mile long park road goes between I40 and Rt 180, with the more interesting stuff in the south area of the park. Restrooms at the visitor centers at each end of the park. $10 per car for a week pass or National Parks Pass Trails: There are a number of short trails in the park, but you don't want to miss the Crystal Forest and Giant Logs areas for the many really neat petrified wood/logs. Keep in mind that it is desert country and can be very warm in the summer. Trail Length: .8 mile loop paved trail Crystal Forest .4 mile loop paved trail Giant Logs 1.6 mile round Long Logs Trail 2 miles round Agate House trail Area: dessert country, massive amounts of petrified wood Picture When I did the hike: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 Recommendation: Definitely worth a couple of hours visit (to the south area - the north area of the Painted Desert wasn't that interesting).
Walnut Canyon National Monument Directions: From Flagstaff, I40 East to Walnut Canyon exit (follow the signs). $3 or National Parks Pass Trails: Just a short 3/4 mile loop that goes down a good number of steps and then around a small mountain. The neat thing about this place is the Sinagua Indian ruins that are right along the trail. You can also see other ruins from the trail that are along the canyon wall. To me, being able to get close to the ruins makes this a better place to visit than Montezuma Castle Monument and Canyon de Chelly (though the canyon is beautiful in itself and worth a visit). Even though these ruins have been rebuilt, please be respectful and don't climb on or damage the ruins. Area: Pretty snake canyon with a number of Indian ruins. Picture When I did the hike: September 29, 2001 Recommendation: If you are interested in seeing ruins, definitely. You only need about 1/2 hour to an hour for this neat place.
Mt. Humphreys Trail Directions: From Flagstaff, take US 180 north to Forest Road 516, the Snow Bowl turnoff. Take the road a ways to near the ski lifts. At the fork in the road, take the lower branch and park near the end. The trailhead is at the northeast corner of the parking lot (and despite other reports I read, I didn't see a bathroom near the trailhead). Free. Trails: Mt. Humphreys is the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet and the trail goes 4.5 miles to the top. The trail starts at 9,300 feet so, obviously, you are going up the whole way, though there were not too many switchbacks. The trail starts out wider, but narrows to a 1 person width trail for most of the way. And there are a lot of rocks on the trail. When you pass the sign listing an elevation for 11-something thousand feet, note that the "easy" part of the trail is over. The trail gets steeper and most of the switchbacks are on this portion. Take a break and catch your breath at the saddleback between the two mountains (the trail you want is to the left). You are now above the tree line and may want/need to pull out your jacket/sweatshirt - it gets windy and cool along the ridge. The trail gets even more rocky along the ridge (but no switchbacks - but that means it is steeper at points). The false peak will probably fool you - my heart was saying it was the real peak, but my mind was saying "not yet"; my mind was right. You'll know when you've reached the peak - there is a sign and a number of wind shelter spots. At the peak, you have a spectacular 360 degree view of everything. As a bonus for us, the leaves had started changing and the yellowing Aspen provided additional beauty. We were going at a fairly slow pace with lots of breaks (my dad was with me) and it took us 7.5 hours (including a 30 minute break at the peak - good lunch spot) to complete this hike. This is a popular trail and a surprising number of people bring their dogs with them for the hike. Start early to have some solitude. We started at 7:30 am and had the trail to ourselves until near the saddleback, where later starters had caught up with us. Area: Mountains, woods, peaks. When I did the hike: September 30, 2001 Recommendation: If you are in shape, hiking to the highest point in any state is a neat goal. But if you are not in shape, this trail will be torture [my dad had a harder time with this trail than hiking out of the canyon].
Wupatki National Monument Directions: From Flagstaff, I89 to Sunset Crater and take the loop until it re-intersects with I89 (it is 36 miles); or come in from the north (as we did - missed the Crater exit) and take the exit off I89 for Wupatki National Monument and travel the loop road to the visitor center before turning around. $3 or National Parks Pass Trails: There are 3 short trails right off the road in this area to Wupatki Indian ruins [looking at the park brochure, looks like we missed one of the ruins where you have to drive a little bit off the main road]. As with Walnut Canyon, this is a neat place to visit in that you can actually get right up to the ruins (again, please be respectful and do not disrupt or damage the ruins). Coming from the Sunset Crater area, the first stop for Wupatki National Monument is the visitor center. Pay the fee (or show your pass) and pick up a brochure. There is a 1/2 mile trail behind the visitor center around a good sized pueblo that has been excavated. This is the Wupatki Pueblo. For the pueblo we missed, the turnoff is right before the visitor center. The next stop is a number of miles away at the Citadel Pueblo. The Citadel Pueblo is a short walk from the parking lot to the top of a small mesa where there is the rubble from the pueblo. The last stop, only a short distance from the Citadel, is the Lomaki Pueblo. Also note the ruins along ridge right next to the turnoff. Along the less than 1/2 mile (one-way) trail to the Lomaki Pueblo, you'll see two smaller ruins next to the box canyon (these ruins are in much better shape than the Citadel Pueblo). Area: Desert, canyon area. No shade. Picture When I did the hike: October 1, 2001 Recommendation: Definitely. If you are on your way to the Grand Canyon, take an hour or two side trip to visit these ruins.
Rim Trail - (South) Grand Canyon Directions: Take the free park shuttle to which ever viewpoint you want to start the hike from and when you are done with your hike, take the shuttle back to your vehicle. Number of restrooms at various spots in the area. $25 per car for a week pass or National Parks Pass Trails: Having an afternoon at the Grand Canyon free (hiked to the Phantom Ranch the next day) and having done the shuttle stop viewpoint visits in past trips to the Grand Canyon, I decided to actually hike some of the rim trail. It is a great trail, but there were a ton of people (but it was also a holiday weekend) on the trail. As you would expect, the views along the trail are grand, but you don't get too much more than you do at the viewpoints as the canyon is so massive that you have to go a little bit of distance before the view area changes (which puts you in the area of the next viewpoint). As such, you don't get much more than from going to shuttle stop to shuttle stop, but it is nice to get out and walk for a bit (especially if there is a wait for shuttles). Keep in mind that it is desert country and can be very warm in the summer. Trail Length: short or very long, mostly level 4.6 miles one-way between South Kaibab Trailhead and Transfer Point 7.8 miles one-way between Transfer Point and Hermits Rest Most of the wide trail is paved, but it is not paved between Powell Point and Monument Creek Vista. Area: Massive desert canyon When I did the hike: Sunday, September 4, 2011 (Mather Point to Transfer Point) Recommendation: You don't need to do the whole thing (the views don't change much a short distance from the viewpoints as the canyon is so massive), but hiking at least a small portion of the rim trail gives you an even better appreciation of the canyon than just going to the viewpoints.
Grand Canyon - rim to rim Directions: From Flagstaff, I180 to the rim or I89 to 64 to the the lodge area. $25 per car for a week pass or National Parks Pass Logistics: Since there are so many things that need to be set up before hand, I've added a special section for things that need to be arranged to plan for this hike. The official Grand Canyon web site is at You can find the phone numbers needed to make reservations at that site (not listing them since the numbers can change). Keep in mind that the canyon is in the desert and summer hiking is not recommend. An added complication is that the facilities at the North Rim are closed from October 16 to May 15. Hiking the canyon in one day is strongly not recommended. Thus, you'll need a reservation at the Phantom Ranch or get a back country permit to spend the night at the canyon floor (need a back country permit for _any_ camping inside the canyon). The Phantom Ranch takes reservations 2 years in advances and sells out quickly - reservations for 23 months ahead are opened on the first day of the month (I was able to get a female bed when I finally got through that day, but the male beds were already soldout). There are 2 male dorms and 2 female dorms for hikers with 10 beds in each. They don't advertise these, but there are also a couple of hiker cabins (don't know the number) and a couple of group cabins. They don't have waiting lists until 24 hours in advanced - you can get on the waiting list at 6 am the day before at the check in station in the Bright Angel Lodge, but you won't know if you've got a spot until 6:30 am the morning of the night you want to stay there [we got _really_ lucky and got my dad a bed this way]. If you are going to eat at the Ranch (and who wants to carry extra food), you need to reserve your meals at the same time you make the bed reservations. If you want to camp outside at the Bright Angel Campground on the canyon floor, you need to get a back country permit (don't need one for the Ranch). These do sellout, so get it at least a month (if not 2 years) before you go - trust me, you don't want anything unknown after 2 years of planning for a trip; it can make for a very unpleasant couple of days praying for things to work out. You can try for a last minute permit by going to the backcountry permit office (in the lodge area) and getting a wait number, showing up the next morning a little before 8 am and hoping that something has opened up for that night or the following night. There is a limited number of campsites and camping outside of the campsites is not allowed - rangers do patrol, will fine you heavily, and will kick you out of the park. Bright Angel Lodge at the South Rim is the cheapest of the lodges and convenient. The Grand Canyon Lodge is the only lodge at the North Rim (there is a camping area). Trans-Canyon Shuttle offers a shuttle service between the two rims and you need to make reservations (it was $65 per person when I went). It is a 5 hour drive between the 2 rims. The 1 pm shuttle gets to the North Rim a little before sunset - if you want to see some of the North Rim, you might want to spend two nights at the North Rim. And if you can arrange it, an extra night at the canyon floor would probably be neat for additional exploring and/or a day of rest. Trails: After 2 years of planning, it was _finally_ time for the great Grand Canyon hike. We were going from the North Rim to the South Rim. From the North Rim, the North Kaibab Trail goes from the rim down into the canyon to the Phantom Ranch (the Bright Angel Campground is just after the Ranch). The very dusty trail is two-person width except for narrower portions along cliffs. The trail goes down, down, down for almost 5 miles before leveling off (okay, very slight down grade) for most of the rest of the way. Take a break near Roaring Springs at the house where there are stumps to rest on (don't take the side trip to Roaring Springs, though). Do take that side trip to Ribbon Falls (8.4 miles in). The falls are well worth it and it gets you around having to hike over Asinine Hill. The falls also make for a wonderful lunch spot - we spent a while there eating lunch, soaking our feet, and exploring. Take the lower fork on the narrow trail on the way back from Ribbon Falls and go across the stream back to the real trail - it is a wet water crossing, though (taking the lower fork gets you around the hill). After a couple of hours you will start mis-guessing which is the final bend you have to go around before you are finally done. It is 14 long miles from the rim to Phantom Ranch (and another 1/2 mile to the river). The rim is at 8,241 feet, Roaring Springs is at 4,800 feet, Cottonwood Campground at 4,000 feet, and the Colorado River is at 2,425 feet. After 7 1/2 hours of hiking, we were finally there. We showered, rested for a short bit (and my dad had a beer - they have beer and wine, but no soda pop), and then walked the 1/2 mile down to the river - the Ranch and campground is in a side canyon. After dinner, I went out an watched the gorgeous moonrise (almost full - highlight of the trip). I was surprised when I got back to my dorm and found the lights out and others already asleep at 8:30 pm - apparently early nights are the norm for the ranch. For the hike out of the canyon, there is a choice. The South Kaibab Trail is the shorter (6.9 miles), but steeper (4780 feet) trail and has no shade but better views - it goes up along the ridge. There is no water along the South Kaibab Trail. The Bright Angel is longer (9.8 miles), not as steep (4460 feet) trail through a canyon with shade. There are 3 water stops along the trail (1.5 miles from the top, 3 miles from the top, and at Indian Gardens). Oh how I wanted to go up the South Kaibab Trail. But my dad was with me so the shade would be better for us and the water stops would be needed as we would be going at a slower pace. Alas, another trip is needed. The Bright Angel Trail goes along the river for about 2 miles before turning into a canyon and heading up along a (sometimes) stream. The 2 person width, dusty trail stays in the canyon before coming out at the Indian Gardens campground after 5.2 miles (from the Ranch). The Gardens is a good spot for a rest. From here you can see the South Rim (in the canyon you can't see the rim) - you'll groan with the thought of having to hike up there. As the trail approaches the rim, the switchbacks start. We had lunch and took a long rest at the 3 mile water stop (3 miles from the top). We made good time, even though we were going at a slow pace with lots of short breaks and completed the hike 7 hours after we started. Going from the North Rim to the South Rim is the recommended way to go for a one-way rim-to-rim hike. If you want to do a same-rim hike (again, don't try to do it in one day unless you are one of those insane mountain joggers), take the South Kaibab Trail down and the Bright Angel Trail up. Note that mules use all 3 trails (though for the North Kaibab Trail just from the rim to the Cottonwood Campground). Also note that the rims tend to be about 20 degrees cooler than the canyon floor - I had my jacket on for the first hour on the North Kaibab trail. Area: Spectacular, huge canyon. Desert area. Picture When I did the hike: October 3-4, 2001 Recommendation: Awesome. Pain in a neck to get it arranged, but not too many people can say that they have hiked the canyon.
Grand Canyon - south rim Directions: From Flagstaff, I180 to the rim or I89 to 64 to the the lodge area. Take the free shuttle to the visitor center and then pick up the free green shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead (trailhead is only accessible by the shuttle). Chemical toilets at the trailhead and some spots along the way. Flush toilets at the Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Trailhead. Water available at ranch and 3 spots along Bright Angel trail, no water available along South Kaibab Trail. $25 per car for a week pass or National Parks Pass Logistics: See the Grand Canyon rim to rim Logistics above for Phantom Ranch arrangements. I was able to make a last minute reservation (called early that morning) in part because I'm female and in part because they had cancelled all mule rides down to the ranch due to bad weather having damaged part of the trail the previous Saturday. It is a gamble to try to get last minute reservations and hiking down to the river and back up in one day is strongly not recommended. And, if possible, spend the extra and stay at the ranch (air conditioning and showers) instead of the campground - In 2011 I talked to a number of campers and they had a miserable night (hot and it rained during the night). [Having now actually done the down-and-up in one day, I can personally say it is a very dumb, foolish, and dangerous thing to do, even if you are in good shape.] Note for day trips: If you want to go below the rim and don't have reservations, a hike along Bright Angel to Indian Gardens is a good full day hike (you'd also have to do the extra 1.5 miles out on the Plateau Point trail to actually see the river). But the best day hike with the best canyon views would be along the South Kaibab Trail to about 1/2 mile past Cedar Ridge (to the middle of the saddleback between the 2 peaks). Some do day trips to Skeleton Point and back, but that's a lot harder and the only added benefit is a brief glimse at the Colorado River. Bring lots of water for a day trip on the South Kaibab Trail as there is no water along the way and almost no shade. Trails: I made a return trip to the Grand Canyon so that I could hike down the South Kaibab Trail and then up the Bright Angel Trail (which I had hiked before). The dusty, two-person width trail switchbacks down, down, down 4,654 feet to the Colorado River. The South Kaibab trail is the more open of the 3 trails that go down the canyon with great distance views almost the whole way. There is no shade along the way (or water - so carry plenty). The Cedar Ridge area is a small open flat area with a couple of trees to provide shade to rest under - there are also pit toilets here. From this area, go to the left and out as far as you can for some more spectacular views and a peaceful resting spot. Back at the main area, the trail continues down and along the ridge to Skeleton Point. And then it turns the corner and starts switchbacking down and down again. Then comes the a short jaunt across the Tonto Plateau (pit toilets right before you head down again) and then the river becomes part of your view (you can see it a couple of spots above, but you have to look over ledges). The last section of the hike down does have some shade spots from the cliff walls. At the end of the down, the trail goes through a short tunnel and then across the long Kaibab Suspension Bridge (not as scary as the Bright Angel Suspension Bridge as there is a black tarp across it and no spots beneath your feet where you look down and see the river). The ranch is a short ways ahead and up a side canyon. Take a break at the river to soak your feet (and watch out for slippery mud) and rest. If you are foolishly doing a down-and-up day hike and not staying at the ranch, the water and toilets are on the left just after going over the small bridge over the creek from the side canyon as you are heading towards the Bright Angel Suspension Bridge. You should have plenty of time for this hike (both up and down - plan for a day for each hike), so don't rush and stop a lot to rest and enjoy the views along the way. There is a canteen at the ranch that servers beer and wine, but no soda (they also have toilets, phones, water, and food - meals need reservations). The ranger services puts on an afternoon and evening talk that may or may not be interesting (boring on my first trip, interesting on this one). Most people go to bed early (and breakfast is early). A trip to the river for the moonrise should not be missed. The Bright Angel Trail crosses the icky Bright Angel Suspension Bridge (can see the river beneath you as you cross) and then heads 2 miles, fairly level along the river before heading up a side canyon. There is a small beach at the river where the trail turns up the side canyon that is nice for a long stop and feet soaking (if you've planned well and aren't rushed to get up to Indian Gardens or the rim). [2011: Looks like they've built a vault toilet at the corner, probably will be open in 2012.] Just past the corner is a hut for shade, but no water. It is a fairly gentle up (but an up) for a while, but once the switchbacks start, it's a hard, long up to Indian Gardens - to me this is the longest stretch and I always mis-judge how much further Indian Gardens still is ahead (so take rests when needed and don't wait because you're "almost" to Indian Gardens). The gardens is a green area with trees and a good resting spot - there are toilets and water there. If you are taking a longer break at Indian Gardens, there is a small pond to the right that is great for feet soaking or even full-body immersion. I took the 3 mile (round-trip) side trip out to the Plateau Point on one visit (most thought I was crazy as they needed all their energy for the hike up, but I knew I was in very good shape and not in a rush to get to the rim). It is a fairly level hike to a view point of the river. Not anything exciting compared to what has come before - maybe worth it for those are doing a tough day hike up and down Bright Angel and want to see the river (you don't get a view of the river coming down the Bright Angel Trail until you are almost next to it) - but don't feel you're missing much if you skip it. Back at Indian Gardens, the trail is a gradual up the canyon to the wall and then it is up, up, up as it switchbacks the rest of the way. There are 2 rest stops along the way with toilets and water. Note that mules use both trails and hikers need to step to the side to let them pass (which also means you get mule smells the whole way). Also note that the rims tend to be about 20 degrees cooler than the canyon floor. Warning: it is desert country and heat exhaustion is a major concern for hikers. If you or one of your group is feeling overly hot, nausea, dizzy, or have a headache - STOP! Take a long break (hopefully in shade) until you are feeling at least a little better. Drink a lot and eat something - if you see a ranger, let them know that you aren't feeling great and ask for some Gatorade and pretzels (they carry those supplies). Also, bring a headlamp for below the rim hikes so if need be you can finish the hike after sunset. Trail Length + Elevation: Total: 16.7 miles South rim is at 7200 feet/6785 feet, Ranch is at 2,546 feet [distance listed is one-way] South Kaibab Trail: 7.1 miles, 4,654 feet .75 miles, 880 feet rim to Ooh-Aah point .75 miles, 260 feet Ooh-Aah point to Cedar Ridge (Cedar Ridge has toilets) 1.5 miles, 860 feet Cedar Ridge to Skeleton Point 1.4 miles, 1190 feet Skeleton Point to Tonto Trail Junction (toilets at junction) 1.9 miles, 1610 feet Junction to Colorado River Bridge .8 miles, 146 feet Bridge to Phantom Ranch Bright Angel Trail: 9.6 miles, 4,239 feet 1.7 miles, 146 feet Phantom Ranch to branch up from Colorado River 3.3 miles, 1400 feet river to Indian Gardens (toilets and water at Indian Gardens) 1.5 miles, 30 feet Indian Gardens to Plateau Point (side trip) 1.6 miles, 960 feet Indian Gardens to 3 Mile Resthouse (toilets and water at resthouse) 1.5 miles, 960 feet 3 Mile Resthouse to 1.5 Mile Resthouse (toilets and water at resthouse) 1.5 miles, 1,065 feet 1.5 Mile Resthouse to rim [For a round trip, it is recommended to go down the South Kaibab Trail and up the Bright Angel Trail] Area: Spectacular, huge canyon. Desert area. Picture When I did the hike: Friday and Saturday, September 22-23, 2004; Tuesday, July 17, 2007 (dumb one-day down-and-up hike); September 5+6, 2011 Recommendation: Wonderful. A hike all the way into the canyon is worth the effort - you don't get the full affect from just the rim. If you can't stay in the canyon, a day hike along South Kaibab to Cedar Ridge (1.5 miles, 1,140 one-way) would be nice. [Indian Gardens along Bright Angel (4.6 miles, 3,060 feet one-way) would be a long, hard day hike.]
Slide Rock State Park Directions: Highway A89 to just north of Sedona. $5. Trails: There is a short (less than a mile) Clifftop Nature Trail along the short cliff above the creek (don't let the trail name fool you, you aren't hiking up to any of the massive rocks above you). And lots of places to walk and rock scramble next to the creek. Area: Red Rock area. This is a swimming area - people slid down the rocks in the creek (thus its name). Picture When I did the hike: October 5, 2001 Recommendation: Nice little short break. Would be great for soaking the feet and relaxing at the creek after doing a longer hike in the area (see for a good list of hikes in the area).
Brins Mesa Trail - Red Rock Country Directions: Highway A89 to Sedona to Jordan Road in the middle of town. If you were heading south on A89, take a right; if you were heading north on A89, take a left on to Jordan Road. Go to the end of the road and take a left onto the next road. After a little bit, the road will turn to dirt. Park near the gate that is across the road. $5 for a Red Rock Pass (only need it for a parked vehicle - pick one up at a Gateway Visitor Center) Trails: There are a number of interesting sounding trails in the Red Rock Country and we chose the Brins Mesa Trail for our one day stop. The Brins Mesa Trail is a 3 mile one-way dirt trail with a number of impressive Red Rock formations visible along the way. The trail is fairly wide and does not have much elevation change. We only hiked for an hour before turning around (we were still worn out from hiking the Grand Canyon the day before). Area: Beautiful Red Rock area. Massive Red Rock formations. Thin, deserty forest. Little to no shade. Picture When I did the hike: October 5, 2001 Recommendation: The Red Rock area is really pretty. I wouldn't want to hike here in the summer, though. Even in October it was still a warm hike.

Patricia Bender Not affiliated with or representing anyone besides myself