Though Humphreys Trail is by far the most popular route to the highest point in Arizona, its much less-traveled alternative, the Weatherford Trail is actually a more pleasant hike because of its better scenery and more varied terrain. Though Weatherford Trail is more than twice as long, the gradient is less steep and the path less rocky. The route traverses the very best of what the peaks have to offer, from bottom to top and back again. It is a 22-mile round trip to the summit of Humphreys (elevation 12,633 feet) and back down on Weatherford Trail.
What Makes It Great
This long trail begins on the San Francisco Peaks’ south slopes in Shultz Pass, and wastes no time in starting uphill. Though the gradient is consistent the whole way, it is never excessively steep. This trail is actually the path of an old road financed by a Mr. Weatherford that took Model Ts into the alpine in the 1920s and 30s. The road has been closed for a long time, but since converted to an amazing hiking trail and extended to intersect with Humphreys Trail on Humphreys Saddle.
Along the way, you pass through dense forests of spruce, fir, and aspen, punctuated by grassy meadows that open up to stunning views of Flagstaff and Mt. Elden. At about the 7-mile mark you crest Doyle Saddle and get your first views across the Inner Basin to Humphreys Peak: breathtaking, especially now because you are at 10,800 feet elevation with much more to go. From here, enjoy the shady and less steep traverse along the side of Fremont Peak. The difficulty picks up again when you reach Agassiz Peak, where the trail punches above treeline and switchbacks across alpine tundra. Pass some gnarly volcanic rock formations before finally reaching Humphreys Saddle and connection with Humphreys Trail. From here, you can turn around and retrace the 10 miles to your car, but why not push on for one more mile to the highest point in Arizona? The summit of Humphreys is a reward well worth it.
Who is Going to Love It
Strong hikers who want a change of scenery and escape from the crowds on Humphreys Trail should do Weatherford instead. It is usually done as a long day hike, but backpackers can make it an overnight trip if desired. There are no designated campsites, but a few suitable backcountry spots along the way. Elite mountain runners use this trail for training because its steady gradient and high elevation make a challenging course. Almost entirely within the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, this trail is for foot and horse traffic only.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Wilderness area regulations prohibit mountain bikes and all motorized traffic. Dogs are welcome if on a leash. Dispersed camping is allowed anywhere on Fremont Saddle or below, but not above 11,400 feet in order to protect the treeless alpine tundra environment. Be sure to practice Leave No Trace ethics as always, but especially in this wilderness which is a precious wildlife corridor home to many species, including the endangered Mexican Spotted Owl.
To get to Weatherford Trail, take Highway 180 N out of Flagstaff and turn right at a traffic light onto Shultz Pass Road, which soon forks to the left and turns to gravel. Go 5.5 miles and park at Shultz Tank. Weatherford Trail begins across the road and is clearly signed.