Hiking the Weatherford Trail in Flagstaff, Arizona

Updated on March 8, 2018
Ramkitten2000 profile image

I've lived in Flagstaff, AZ, since 2003, where I'm an active member of the Coconino County Sheriff's Search & Rescue team and an avid hiker.

The Weatherford Trail, San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff, AZ
The Weatherford Trail, San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff, AZ

About the Weatherford Trail

Trailhead location: Schultz Pass Road (FR420). Heading east on Schultz Pass Rd., the trailhead is on your left, across from Schultz Tank.

Distance: 9.9 miles one way, from Schultz Pass Road to the Humphreys Trail junction at the saddle.

Elevation gain: 4,000 feet (plus 1 mile and about 600 feet in elevation if continuing on the Humphreys Trail to the summit)

Optional Loop: Humphreys Trail to Weatherford Trail to Kachina Trail
Distance: 17.2 miles


Our Weatherford Trail Loop Hike

We began our loop at the lower Humphreys Trail parking lot on Snowbowl Road, which is just across from the Kachina trailhead and that parking area. If you have access to more than one vehicle, you have the option of excluding the 4.9-mile Kachina Trail portion by parking one vehicle at the east end of unpaved Freidlein Prairie road, a short distance from the junction of the Weatherford Trail and east end of the Kachina Trail. Without the Kachina Trail, the total distance would be 12.3 miles.

Trip Report

It never fails; I see that weathered sign on the Humphreys Trail that informs hikers they are at 11,500 feet, and suddenly I feel the elevation. My legs become lead weights, and I daydream about a nap in an alpine meadow. But the saddle is not that much farther, so I keep plodding. Some big steps and short switchbacks, some sandy trail on the final approach, and then I deserve a rest. Once the saddle is reached, I tuck myself into a crevice on the lee side, and enjoy the well-earned view.

But today I couldn't see much from my usual nook, except a glimpse of the Inner Basin during a momentary gap in the cloud cover. Even protected from the wind (well, most of it), I started to shiver, and as quickly as possible exchanged my t-shirt for a thermal top, using a skill learned years ago in summer camp, where shy girls like me would change clothes without exposing much more than a bellybutton. Unfortunately, my skill in that area has lagged over the years, and I got a bit tied up. With an audience of other hikers, Steve helped me get my twisted clothing in order, and then I added my fleece and windbreaker. After a couple handfuls of dried fruit, which I could barely grasp with stiff, cold fingers, Steve and I continued on. Instead of turning left and heading another mile to the Humphreys summit as we usually do, we parted ways with other members of the Flagstaff Outdoors Club and went right on the Weatherford Trail, another 8.5 miles past Fremont and Doyle Saddles, down, down, down to the Kachina Trail.

I must admit, the upper part of the Weatherford Trail, traversing Mt. Agassiz, unnerved me. Above tree-line, a steep, talus slope with no break of rock or vegetation between the edge of a very narrow trail and long way down, caused me a minor panic attack. I felt exposed, and fixated on the idea of slipping and sliding down the mountain and over an unseen cliff. I froze in my tracks and called to Steve, who wasn't at all phased by the situation, and asked him to come back so I could walk with him. Actually, I walked right on his heels, clutching his backpack, and stared at his feet. I don't remember what I babbled about, but my monologue was interspersed with apologies as I stepped on the backs of Steve's sneakers for the next fifteen minutes or so. At one point, I was forced to let go and, standing stiffly while feeling the earth turn, practice inhaling and exhaling when Steve decided it was a fine time and place to pee. Couldn't he have waited?

Finally, the hairy part was behind us, and I was loving the rest of that wonderful Weatherford, marveling at how a 10-mile portion of it used to be a wider dirt road called the San Francisco Mountain Boulevard, a toll road on which finely-dressed men and ladies would ride their Model T's to Doyle Saddle for an afternoon in the mountains. The road fell into disrepair during the Depression years.

Today, other than a rumble of thunder and a couple of minor spritzes, we got lucky with the weather. We kept glancing back up at Humphreys, wondering how our friends were making out. Did they end up continuing to the summit, and, if so, would they get a view? It turns out that the answer was yes on both counts.

As for our own views for the rest of the day, they were nonstop amazing. Once I was able to let go of Steve's backpack and we descended below the clouds, which eventually broke up and let in some sunshine, I sported a constant smile. The Weatherford Trail is now amongst my favorites in the San Francisco Peaks. Maybe next time, I'll be more comfortable on that top section. Or maybe not. Still, I'll want to walk it again.

After a lunch stop in the grass at the east end of the Kachina Trail, my smile faded as I started to drag. Beautiful though it may be, the Kachina's little up and downs, like a kiddie rollercoaster, can take their toll on a weary hiker. But our grumbles were at least partly in jest. Shared fatigue is an odd sort of fun. And shared accomplishment is even better.

Just near the end of our loop, when we could hear the traffic on Snowbowl Road, we met up with a lady tarantula, at eye-level on a on a shaded boulder. Steve touched a finger to her brown, fuzzy behind, which she lifted, whether in pleasure or displeasure I'm not sure, as I shivered. Caressing big hairy arachnids isn't my thing, but it was a treat to see her nevertheless. We sure didn't expect to find a tarantula so high up on such a cool day. That was our second wildlife encounter, having come upon three large bucks at the lower end of the Weatherford Trail. We smelled a lot of elk and stepped in a lot of elk poop, but we saw none of those big critters today.

Nearly nine hours after we started out, we returned to our truck, a bit stiff, somewhat whipped and very satisfied. We'll probably repeat this loop next year, in the opposite direction just for the fun of doing something different, with the much longer climb up the Weatherford Trail

The Weatherford Trail, San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff, AZ

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Deb, this was a great hub about this trail. I've been to Flagstaff once in 2005, when my mother drove through it to get to Grand Canyon. But I don't think we did that trail. Maybe someday I'll go back and check it out.

      • Ramkitten2000 profile imageAUTHOR

        Deb Kingsbury 

        2 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

        Thanks! It is a beautiful hike--challenging at times, but well worth the effort.

      • Readmikenow profile image


        2 years ago

        I've been to Flagstaff, but didn't do that trail. It sounds like a great experience. Good story!

      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 

        2 years ago from Norfolk, England

        Oh that looks a beautiful place to visit. I'd love to go there.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, skyaboveus.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)