12 Fabulous Hikes in Flagstaff
7. Veit Springs Loop
The Veit Springs Loop is one of the shortest, easiest, and most peaceful trails in all of Flagstaff. It is not technically part of Snowbowl, however, it is located a few miles up Snowbowl Rd. Luckily, most tourists keep on driving all the way up to the top, so it stays pretty desolate most of the year. It is just a mile and a half or so total and almost completely flat, making it the best choice for those not feeling up to shape for a longer/hillier hike. There is a lot of beautiful scenery packed into the short distance, as well as a few unique attractions like an abandoned log cabin and ancient pictographs hidden on a side trail.
Like the other Snowbowl trails, it really is a year-round destination with options for hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing throughout the year. There is a nice mix of pines and aspens, so the scenery is picturesque year-round with gorgeous pines that stay green all year and magnificent foliage in the fall.
Winter is my favorite time to visit as you need a backcountry pass to use the trails, so it is completely silent. The snow is basically untouched and it feels like a total winter wonderland as you snowshoe/ski through the dense, isolated snowy forest. I love that this trail barely gets any sunlight due to the thick tree coverage, and at times, I almost feel as if I am back in New England, especially on overcast days. The snow stays around for quite a bit due to the lack of sunlight, so you can keep snowshoeing and skiing here long after a storm, unlike most of the parks within town.
Distance: 1.5 mile loop
Best season: Any
8. Bismark Lake
Bismark Lake is a fantastic hike to consider during either the summer or fall season. It tends to stay pretty secluded despite the pretty setting, possibly due to the rough long dirt road (FR 151 Hart Prairie Rd) you need to take to get to the trailhead. This trail is peaceful and offers nice unobstructed mountain views, as well as a few colorful fall views due to the aspen groves lining the trail. Wildlife commonly seen includes raptors, deer, and elk, so if you visit early in the morning you may be lucky enough to see some wildlife in action.
The Bismark trail is very easy and flat and would be considered more of a relaxing nature walk than a rough hike. Because it is located in an open meadow, there are some terrific view of the San Francisco Peaks. As you leisurely stroll the 1.5 mile trail, you can enjoy all the sights and sounds of nature without exhausting yourself like some of the other harder trails in the area. Bismark Lake has an attractive non-touristy feeling; one in which you can truly appreciate the beauty which sets Northern Arizona apart from the rest of the state. The lake is usually dry, however, after a big summer monsoon, you may be lucky enough to see some rare water.
Like all of the hikes on the peaks, the Bismark Lake trail starts at a high elevation (8500 feet), so take it easier than usual as the high altitude makes even a simple hike that much harder on your body. If you are up for a real adventure, you can connect to the Arizona trail from Bismark. The Arizona Trail is a 800+ mile trail which runs from Utah to Mexico. Several shorter sections of this scenic trail can be found throughout the Flagstaff area including this scenic section which begins at the end of Bismark Lake.
Distance: 3 miles round-trip
Best season: Summer
9. Fat Man’s Loop
Fat Man’s Loop is one of the local’s favorites, and after taking a hike along this picturesque trail, you will easily see why. Not only is the hike beautiful and lined with all sorts of interesting plant life, it is also located right in town (just across from the mall), meaning it does not require an all day excursion like some of the other trails. Although the first 1.5 miles is uphill, it is more of a gradual climb, and after reaching the scenic overlook, you will agree that it was well the effort for the fantastic overviews of the city and surrounding natural landscapes.
Distance: 3 miles round-trip
Best season: Spring
10. The Arizona Trail (Aspen Corner)
There are various sections of the 800+ mile Arizona Trail (which stretches from Utah all the way to Mexico) scattered all over Flagstaff. My favorite section, and the most scenic in my opinion, is the gorgeous little section known as Aspen Corner. This is one of the newer sections of the trail. The trek from Aspen Corner to Bismark Lake is about 4.5 miles, although you do not need to go out this far to see amazing scenery and incredible fall foliage.
This hike is gorgeous during the summer months as you make your way through tall groves of aspens and take in the stunning views of the peaks. Fall is even more stunning as the aspens shine bright gold this time of year. Aspen Corner is one of the top fall photography hotspots in the entire state, and after a drive up scenic Snowbowl Rd, you will not have to guess why! Asides from the colorful aspens, there are relaxing views of the open meadows and stunning views of other area mountains like Kendrick and Bill Williams.
The parking lot for this trail is located about 6 miles up Snowbowl Rd. I highly recommend a scenic fall drive up Snowbowl Rd, followed by a mile or 2 hike along this fabulous trail. It is one of the most gorgeous leaf peeping destinations you will ever come across. Even if you are not up for a hike, it is worth the drive just for the amazing photography opportunities.
Distance: 9 miles round-trip
Best season: Fall
11. The Weatherford Trail
The Weatherford Trail begins a steady climb though beautiful pine and aspen forest on the Southern slope of the San Francisco Peak and continues onward about 11 miles to Humphrey’s Peak, the tallest summit in the state. The Weatherford is a longer alternative route to Humphrey’s Peak as opposed to the more popular 8 mile trek from Snowbowl. The trail is about 10 miles each way with just an extra mile required to get to the peak, so it would be silly not to go all the way if you have already gone this far. What once used to be a road to get up to the San Francisco Peaks was eventually transformed into the scenic trail which exists today.
Only advanced hikers prepared for a full day hike with proper hiking supplies or possibly an overnight camping trip should make the long and very difficult trek to Humphrey’s Peak, however, that does not mean you cannot simply complete a few miles to take in the gorgeous scenery. Be prepared for a long and steep journey at high altitude. Many prefer taking the Weatherford to get to Humphrey’s Peak as the trail is not as steep and rocky and offers more spectacular scenery along the way than the Snowbowl route.
Fall is my favorite time to enjoy the Weatherford. There are lots of gorgeous aspen groves which makes it a picturesque fall foliage hike. This side of the peaks sees leaves changing earlier than everywhere else, so I like to hike this trail as a kick off to the beautiful season. The trail is pretty quiet with only a hiker every now and then, and thus, it is a relaxing nature experience. Some hikers have reported seeing black bear and wild turkeys!
Distance: 22 miles round-trip
Best season: Summer or fall
12. Buffalo Park
Buffalo Park is a large urban park located just minutes from downtown Flagstaff. On any given day, you are bound to see locals out enjoying all sorts of fitness activities, from walking, jogging, and biking during the spring and summer, to sledding, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing during the winter season. Buffalo Park also happens to be a prime spot for new visitors to enjoy the fantastic scenery of the San Francisco Peaks and Mt. Elden.
The loop around the entire park is just 2 miles, although you have the option of connecting to longer trails within the Coconino National Forest for a more intense hike. Also, there are a handful of fun and challenging fitness stations to test your balance, strength, and agility.
Due to the picturesque mountain scenery and flat terrain, Buffalo Park is the best choice for easy hiking and biking, as well as winter snowshoeing and cross country skiing. No matter the season, new visitors cannot leave Flagstaff without checking out this wonderful city park!
Distance: 2 mile loop
Best season: Any