Red Mountain is an extinct cinder cone volcano comprised of unusually red rock. Its large cinnamon-colored amphitheater is obvious along Highway 180 when driving from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon. In a hurry to get to the national park, most would-be hikers blow on by Red Mountain and overlook this interesting trail. A 30-minute walk from the highway leads into a volcanic playground of boulders, hoodoos, and caves beneath the towering rock walls.
What Makes It Great
The bizarre rock character is the main attraction here. Unlike the craggy, gray basalt of most volcanoes in the area, Red Mountain’s ancient crater has eroded into undulating formations that more closely resemble the famous red rock of Sedona. Water, wind, and cascading sand have shaped the cliffs into buttresses, towers, and hoodoos--pillars that are curiously wider on top than at the base.
The 1.5-mile trail travels along sandy terrain at a gentle uphill gradient through juniper scrubland. Once in the amphitheater, you can find shady alcoves to escape the heat and enjoy a picnic. The last section of trail requires climbing a 6-foot ladder over a ledge. The real fun is in poking around the odd landscape, scrambling on the slabs to discover the carved-out towers, bowls, and other formations.
Who is Going to Love It
This hike is perfect for families. Kids will love playing around on the rocks and parents will appreciate the unique setting. The trail is relatively short, smooth, and flat. Though it is sunny and hot here for much of the year, the destination offers shady spots in the varied terrain. Bring plenty of food, water, and sun protection, but be prepared for chilly temperatures after dark.
Nature enthusiasts will also enjoy Red Mountain for its distinguished geology. The rock here has formed much differently than that of the other volcanoes in Northern Arizona, and Red Mountain is notably isolated from other highpoints in the desert between San Francisco Peaks and the Grand Canyon.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Flagstaff, take Highway 180 for about 25 miles to the signed parking for Read Mountain Trailhead, on the left. This is less than halfway to the Grand Canyon along the same route. Follow the dirt road for a short distance to the trailhead parking area. A single trail leads from here, more or less straight towards the mountain. It is about 1.5 miles each way.
Dogs are allowed on the trail if on a leash. This is sensitive wildlife habitat for antelope, deer, coyotes, birds, and other animals that should not be overly disturbed by wandering off trail or leaving waste.