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Hiking to the Hoodoos in Red Mountain Amphitheater, AZ

Updated on March 22, 2017
Red Mountain, Northwest of Flagstaff, AZ
Red Mountain, Northwest of Flagstaff, AZ | Source
San Francisco Peaks
San Francisco Peaks | Source

Red Mountain, Northwest of Flagstaff, Arizona

Located about 25 miles northwest of Flagstaff, Red Mountain Trail takes you into the interior of a cinder cone of an extinct volcano.

Off Highway 180 in the Coconino National Forest, this hike is a great side trip when traveling between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.

Suitable for all ages, this easy to moderate hike should not be missed.

Red Mountain

Red Mountain Digital Elevation Model (DEM)
Red Mountain Digital Elevation Model (DEM) | Source

One of over 600 cinder cones in the San Francisco Volcanic Field, Red Mountain erupted 740,000 years ago. Rising 1,000 feet above the surrounding landscape, even from a distance, you notice that Red Mountain is not your typical symmetrical cinder cone.

Unlike most cinder cones, Red Mountain is "U" shaped with the opening facing west. In its northeast flank is a large natural amphitheater. You can't see the actual crater from the amphitheater. The vent from which molten lava flowed is on the backside of the amphitheater.

The Hike

The trail leading to the Red Mountain Amphitheater
The trail leading to the Red Mountain Amphitheater | Source

Red Mountain Trail is an easy to moderate hike, 1.5 miles long (3 miles round trip) with a gentile rise of 300 feet in elevation over the course of the trail.

This is a hike into the inside of the cinder cone, the mountain itself. It is not a hike into the crater. There is a separate, more difficult hike into the crater.

From the parking area, the trail follows an old road. This hard sand trail makes for easy walking through a piñon-juniper pine forest. After about 3/4 of a mile the trail turns left and enters the bed of a wash.

At 1.2 miles, cinder shoulders on each side of the wash guide you toward the interior of the mountain (see photo at right). Soon, you come upon large black lava formations on either side of a stone dam. A climb up a 6 to 7 foot ladder (with 2 sturdy handrails) and you are inside the beast.

Wind and water erosion have created an amphitheater with a sheer cliff back wall and a collection of out of this world shapes, ridges, cracks, and crevices. Ten to 20 foot pillars or "hoodoos" dot the amphitheater floor (See photos below). You can explore the "hoodoos" or just enjoy the view, colors, and the effects of sunlight on the rock formations. As my wife found out, a few trees provide a shady rest spot.

Photos from Inside the Amphitheater

Hoodoos in the Amphitheater
Hoodoos in the Amphitheater | Source
Cliff wall of Red Mountain Amphitheater
Cliff wall of Red Mountain Amphitheater | Source
Cindy resting in the shade in Red Mountain Amphitheater, Hoodoos in the background.
Cindy resting in the shade in Red Mountain Amphitheater, Hoodoos in the background. | Source

Directions to Red Mountain

  • Follow Highway 180 north from Flagstaff into the Coconino National Forest.
  • At mile marker 247, turn left (west) onto FR 247 (there is a sign "Red Mountain Trail" just before the turn).
  • The parking area is about 0.3 miles down this dirt road. There are no facilities at this trailhead.

GPS: N35° 32' 11.8314", W-111° 51' 23.328"

Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the San Francisco Volcanic Field
Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the San Francisco Volcanic Field | Source

Final Thoughts and Tips

  • This hike was our furthest from Flagstaff. In fact, we stopped on our way out of town as we headed to the Grand Canyon. It was a nice break in the drive.
  • There are NO facilities at the trailhead or on this hike. It is a long way to the nearest gas station.
  • Carry out what you carry in.
  • Sturdy shoes, water, sun screen, and maybe a hat, and you should be well prepared for this hike.
  • Don't forget your camera, the pictures inside the amphitheater are phenomenal.

© 2012 bankscottage

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    • bankscottage profile image
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      bankscottage 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      LaThing, it is far better in real life, particularly the way light reflects on the rock formations and in the cracks and crevisis in the amphitheater. There are a lot of interesting and great hikes around Flagstaff. Thanks for the votes.

    • LaThing profile image

      LaThing 5 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      Beautiful pictures, and I am sure it's even better in real life! Have to visit it if we ever go that way. Thanks for the detailed information, very helpful.

      Voting up, and useful.....

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      MsDora, thank you for your kind comments. Hope you plan on hiking with me more this summer.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks Outdoors Lover, for letting us hike with you and enjoying the pictures. I appreciate the view and all the associated facts. I admire you.

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Brenda, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Check out Red Mountain next time you are in the area.

    • brenda12lynette profile image

      brenda12lynette 5 years ago from Utah

      Apparently there is all kinds of stuff around Flagstaff I didn't know about. The pictures are great! Thanks again bankscottage!

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I'll have to look up Mos Eisley Cantina. Is that in a Bill Bryson book?

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 5 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      I always thought Hoodoo sounded like a character you would find in the Mos Eisley Cantina.

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks for stopping by, commenting and sharing Dan. I had never heard of the word "Hoodoo" before we went on this hike.

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 5 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Great trail guide and awesome pictures. Hoodoos are one of my favorite geological formations - they always look otherworldly to me.

      Up, Pinned, and Tweeted!

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      BuyaBiz, thanks for stopping by and commenting. You are the second one to comment about NM. It sounds like a great place. I am going to have to make plans to get there soon.

    • BizVT34 profile image

      BizVT34 5 years ago from USA

      Nice summary of a great place to hike. The HooDoos remind me of a similar geological formation in NM at Tent Rocks on the Kasha Katuwe reservation.

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      chef-de-jour, another hubber, harryneilsen, did a hub on hiking near Taos https://skyaboveus.com/climbing-hiking/Easy-Hiking... It is definitely on my list of places to go sooner rather than later.

      The light in the amphitheater doesn't photograph well, but in one place, it looked like a lightfall, a waterfall of light.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Enjoyed the read and the photos, many thanks. Those red/orange sandstone shapes are so evocative, and the whole area looks so dry. The pine trees must be like tinder.

      Three years ago I was In New Mexico up by Taos and I loved to watch the afternoon storms streaking in from the west across the plains and past the table topped mountains. OOO very nice. The Rio grande gorge wasn't half bad too!

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      luv2hike, there are a lot of interesting, educational hikes in Northern Arizona that can be enjoyed by hikers of all ages and abilities. Hope you get there soon.

    • luv2hike profile image

      luv2hike 5 years ago

      I just added this hike to my definite bucket list! Great hub.