Humphreys Peak is the highest mountain in Arizona and the hardest hike I have done in Arizona. It’s not that the hike itself is excruciating, it’s the easily changing weather and your level of preparedness that makes this one so hard.
This Humphreys Trail guide with tips also comes with a story… a very scary story of one of the few times I thought I might die. This Humphreys Peak trail guide is a warning and an example of why you need to take this hike seriously and be prepared.
At only 10 miles round-trip it truly shouldn’t be as hard as it is but with the weather, wind, shale rocks near the top and maybe getting off trail here or there… it can be an adventure.
You don’t need to be a great hiker to make the top but just be prepared. I haven’t even mentioned the thin air! Speaking of not being prepared I have never taken a beating from thin air before like I had on this hike. Instantly I was breathing significantly harder than any other hike I have done.
What started off as a beautiful walk through the woods turned into the worst 2-3 hours of my life, which I easily could have avoided had I been more prepared. Keep reading for probably the most scared I have been in recent memory.
As someone who hikes a ton this was the least prepared I had ever been for a hike and that’s why this article exists, as a warning to everyone to be prepared!
Bring extra layers of clothing and start in the morning to avoid being stuck out past dark. In October I wore leggings, shorts, sweatpants, t-shirt, Fall jacket & a hoodie, which was not nearly enough. My favorite hat also got blown off into the clouds…
My issue wasn’t water or food related but more not taking the weather and time of day seriously. My nightmare ended with me being the only one to make the Summit that day and doing it alone since my friends turned around.
At the saddle you think you just have 20 minutes left as you can see the peak… but you are oh so wrong. An extra 1.5 hours round trip and the worst time hiking ever. People around known to take even 3 hours round-trip from the saddle and back, it is rough!
I have never been colder in my life and I am from Canada. I had to make it to the top and the 3 false summits also were no help! It was already really cold and windy by the time I made it to the saddle and it just got significantly worse from there.
Truly I had never been so worried for my life on a hike as one bad sprained ankle or misstep, which is easy up there with so much loose rock, and I honestly could have been done… no one was getting me until morning. No service, wind that blew me over non-stop and chilled to the bone.
I made it to the top and my head was ringing and felt so turned around due to the non-stop wind howling through my ears for the last hour. After a few quick pictures at the top and hiding behind the rock pile I took the wrong direction down the shale adding another 15-20 minutes to my day i the worst place ever.
Of course it kinda got worse or equally as bad… just a different bad. As we got a late start due to thinking we could be up and down in 3-4 hours, which is possible in prime conditions. We also had a slower person in the group or else coulda shot up a little quicker.
So there I am by myself and freezing cold only for the sun to start going down… and fast. Of course with all of the mountains around the sun gets hidden a lot quicker than the same time in Phoenix, which was again me being so stupidly unprepared.
The last 1.5 hours I am hiking in pitch black, all alone, no one else on the mountain. What once was such a pretty sound of the trees creaking now sounded like crying babies. The cool sounds of nature and animals now were terrifying.
Then came the giant animal I came across and we scared each other equally as bad. As I walked all of the sudden a huge noise of tree branches cracking and rocks moving 15 feet ahead of me.
So this was pretty much hell… here I am now with 45 mins left in pitch black worried about being stalked by something or coming across cubs of some sort. Thank goodness my phone was charged and I had the flashlight or else who really knows…
I was exhausted and frozen but with an actual fear of death I was fully running in the dark for 45 minutes tripping on branches and twisting ankles on roots all along the way. It was miserable… absolutely miserable.
How Long Does It Take To Hike Humphreys Peak?
If you are a fast hiker in optimal conditions it could be done in around 4 hours. Most people take 6-8 hours taking into account all conditions. Also keep in mind that the thin air is no joke if you are not used to it and you will be breathing twice as hard as normal.
Is Humphreys Peak Hard?
Yes, do not take this hike lightly. It is the worst hike I have done just from not being prepared, the false peaks and the crazy weather I have never experienced on a hike.
Beware the three alse summits! Humphreys peak has three false peaks before finally reaching the fourth actual peak being Humphreys Peak. You keep thinking you have made it and boom… you got faked out again and see another summit beyond the one you thought was the end.
What Time To Start Humphreys Peak
Start as early as possible. I have read on a ton of forums people have started at 8am and not finished until 4pm or later. I started at 1:28pm and ended around 6:45pm in pitch black. Keep in mind I am an endurance athlete and it was no joke in the less than optimal conditions.
I would say if I was hiking alone and hurried up I could have done it in about 4-4.5 hours in the conditions I was in. In cold conditions with snow at the top be prepared for an all-day hike.
Where is Humphreys Peak?
Humphreys Peak is less than 30 minutes from Flagstaff Arizona. It is in Coconino County part of the Kachina Peaks wilderness area. It is actually located right beside Snowbowl with plenty of parking at the bottom as long as it is not a busy ski day.
What Should You Pack For Humphreys Peak
You should pack layers and a warm jacket even if it seems nice at the bottom. The Summer snow can be at the top, there is incredible wind, hail and you just never know what to expect from the time you start to the time you get to the top.
If you go in the winter proper shoes with spikes are suggested as well as hiking poles. You really should not hike it in the Winter unless you are a very experienced hiker. Of course bring lots of water and a meal of food plus snacks. Over pack and over prepare! Do every single thing I did not do ;).
Can You Camp At Humphreys Peak?
Yes you can camp below the tree line and be a reasonable distance from the trail. Be careful to notice as well you do not camp within snowbowl boundaries.
Tips For Hiking Humphreys Peak
Over-pack, over-prepare, dress in layers and be prepared to struggle breathing due to the thin air. I wore leggins, shorts, sweatpants, t shirt, Fall jacket and a hoodie in October… this was not even close to enough. It was so cold I barely drank much water and it was too cold for me to eat…
Bring pen and paper or a polaroid camera! There is an adorable little not box at the top for everyone who has summited Humphreys Peak. I personally could not move my hands or come close to writing anything but… if you can then great.
Humphreys Peak Weather
The weather at Humphreys Peak is anything but predictable. There is often snow at the top in the middle of an Arizona Summer. Everyone I have ever talked to has experience hail throughout all days of the year.
The wind is wind I have never experienced before and blew me over multiple times. The cold with the wind chill in October was 10 degrees F at the top, while at the bottom it was 50 degrees.
There are also lightning storms that happen often enough where you need to be extremely careful. If there are thunderstorms on the horizon you should turn back around. People have been struck by lightning and this truly is no joke.
Can You Hike Humphreys Peak In the Winter?
Yes, but if you want to hike to the top you should be a very seasoned hiker with proper equipment and clothing including poles and spikes.
Humphreys Peak Summit
10.5 miles round-trip | Out & Back | 4-8 hours
As mentioned Humphreys Peak Summit is one of the hardest hikes in Arizona just due to the thin air and the ever-changing weather conditions.
You begin at the parking lot strolling through a nice little meadow. From there if you hike in the fall you will go through lovely trees with leaves of all colors on the ground.
Halfway up the pine trees start to show up and it is still an amazing little hike with nice view points to peak out from the trees here and there.
Then you reach the saddle where things get even more serious. You think you only have 20-30 minutes left as you can see the peak but unfortunately the 3 false summits have much worse in store for you.
After the saddle there are no trees and you are exposed to the extreme elements with no tree cover to protect you. Hopefully it is a nice day and no surprises but be prepared for that to change!
False summit 1 is eerily similar to the feeling of Mordor and it just gets worse from there. Shale loose rock makes sure you aren’t steady on your feet and working for every inch.
After three false summits the fourth summit is Humphreys peak and you have made it! Be sure to roam around and take in all of the 360 views as you are at the highest peak in Arizona!
There is a little note box at the top as well to leave notes to other people who have summited!
- You get to say you hiked the highest peak in Arizona
- The 360 views at the top are incredible if you can see them
- The satisfaction of completing such a difficult hike
- The tree & vegetation change along the way, especially if in the fall with leaves that changed color
- The thin air makes it much tougher to breath than normal.
- You could die, jk… sort of.
- The weather
- Did I mention the weather? Be prepared for anything.
- It gets darker earlier due to the surrounding mountains
- Be prepared
- Dress in layers & great footwear
- Bring extra food & water
- Start early to avoid being caught in the dark
Hey I’m Fraser. My site is dedicated to the 22nd century person with a lust for travel and adventure, need for time efficient recipe ideas as well as anyone in need of self-help or a pick-me up! Thanks for visiting Inspire Travel Eat!