Inner Basin is one of the top hiking destinations in the Flagstaff area. In the Fall, families drive in from all over the state to experience the splendid autumn aspens. The trail is about 4 miles in total length and has some steep parts, but people of all ages and abilities can complete it. A picturesque aspen grove is encountered less than halfway in, but you must hike the full length to reach the alpine meadow that offers panoramic views of the San Francisco Peaks.
What Makes It Great
This hike is good any time of year that isn’t too cold and snowy, which is generally late Spring through early Fall. When it gets really great is during October, when the aspens turn gold. Another highlight of the trail is of course the high mountain peaks, visible from the bottom of the trail at Lockett Meadow and from the top at Inner Basin meadow. The trail is open to hikers and mountain bikers. The first half is along single track that winds up the hill through pure stands of tall aspen. The second half is along a gravel service road through aspen and mixed conifer forest. Up here are several buildings housing wells for the City of Flagstaff. Natural springs in this pristine environment supply a portion of the city’s drinking water.
There is a campground near the trailhead at Lockett Meadow, where you can stay overnight to extend your experience. Camping is a good idea if you want to explore more trails in the area. Inner Basin Trail links up with Shultz Pass, Abineau/Bear Jaw loop, and the historic Weatherford Trail, all of which traverse more spectacular scenery in the San Francisco Peaks.
Who is Going to Love It
Inner Basin is a favorite of leisurely as well as hardcore outdoor lovers. Families will appreciate an all-day stroll through the aspens, while runners will enjoy a high-elevation challenge. Mountain bikers will pant on the uphill and grin all the way back down. Dogs are welcome on this trail if kept on leash. Flagstaffians are lucky to live so close to this place, but it is well worth the drive for those who live in Phoenix or elsewhere, especially in the Fall.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Flagstaff, take Highway 89 N for about 12 miles. Look for the sign for Sunset Crater/Wupatki, and turn left directly across from this road. Continue on the gravel road for 4 miles, following signs to Lockett Meadow. Drive through the campground to access the trailhead.
Day-use parking is free in designated lots, so pay attention to the signs. There are 17 car-camping sites available, each one at $14 per night. It is first-come first-served and often fills up in the Summer and Fall. There are pit toilets, but no water available at the campground. Fires are allowed in established fire rings but are subject to seasonal restrictions.