logo Arizona Trailblazers
Outdoor Links
Hike Arizona
Trip Planning Guide
Trip Report Index
Calendar of Events
San Francisco Peaks Trail
May 3, 2022
by Stan Bindell
Trailblazers ready to start the hike. [all photos by Stan]
Stan, Sharon, Terri K, Diane, Terry the Sweep, Lisa

Aspen trees and scenic views of the San Francisco Peaks are the allure of the San Francisco Peaks Trail, that begins at Aspen Corner about three quarters of the way up Snowbowl Road.

I was on this trail when it opened in the 1990s and Arizona Highways editor Robert Stieve led a hike here. I liked it enough that I come back at least once a year. Editor Stieve liked it enough that it’s included in Arizona Highways book of Arizona’s 52 best day hikes.

Scenic view from the start of the hike.
Hikers at the Arizona Trail sign.
Sharon, Diane, Terry the Sweep, Terri K, Lisa

The hike this year was different than most of my other hikes on this trail, which are usually in the summer or the fall, to see the brilliant colored leaves. This time there were plenty of patches of snow just off the trail with two of the patches on the trail. Terry the Sweep had the most fun with it as he posed with a snowball in hand. There was also plenty of snow on the mountain above us.

Terry the Sweep with a snowball.
Terry the sweep in the snow.
Exposed tree due to wind.
Downed tree in trail.

Parking at Aspen Corner you are immediately surrounded by the aspens. Less than a mile in, you come across a lush meadow with panoramic views of mountains off in the distance as well as above. Plenty of ponderosa pine and aspens dot the trail. Lots of flowers will be out in summer, but it was too soon except for a small amount of yellow flowers.

This was a somewhat cold day with temperature at 50 degrees at 10 AM with at least 20 mph winds and increasing winds as the day went along. There was a handful of trees down on the trail due to the wind, and you could clearly see some trees where the wind had caused limbs to break.

Terri K
Terri K

Clouds were coming and going so we would cool off with the clouds and warm up when they would disappear.

Part of this hike was a side trip to Bismarck Lake. This often dry lake was the size of a pond, due to the snow-melt. We stopped here long enough for a snack, but sat on the rocks in the trees to get some windbreak.

The biggest tree in the trail.
Arizona Trailblazers at Bismark Lake.

Indeed, this is where the wind was the fiercest as we had to hold onto our hats.

Bismark Lake.
Scenic mountains.
Scenic mountains.
Arizona Trail sign.

Seven trailblazers took the trek as we carved out 17.1 miles. We were going to do 12 miles, but when we got to the six mile mark everyone agreed they wanted to do more. We were at eight plus miles before we turned around.

Then on the way out, I somehow missed the last turn. I had been on this trail at least 20 times before and never missed this turn previously. It cost us an extra hour, before we went back and found the turnoff.

The San Francisco Peaks Trail starts at 8,928 feet, but doesn’t go up more than 100 feet as it is extremely flat. It is also part of the Arizona Trail.

The trail is rated as easy. It is an in and out so you can turn around at any point. Or continue as long as you like.

For more information about the San Francisco Peaks Trail, call the Peaks Ranger District at (928) 526-0866.

      top Top of Page
Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
Comments? Send them to the AZHC .

updated May 6, 2022