Coconino National Forest Near Humphreys Peak

Humphreys Peak
Humphreys Peak in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona

With late June temperatures in the Flagstaff and Williams, Arizona area hitting the 90s each day, it was time to move to a higher elevation after the 2016 Summer Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. Debra Dickinson hit on the idea of looking for a camp near Humphreys Peak, the tallest peak in Arizona. We then spent a day exploring the Coconino National Forest north of Flagstaff around Humphreys Peak.

After one night camped near Williams in the Kaibab National Forest, our small group migrated to a camp near Humphreys Peak at about 8,500’ elevation. The elevation gain provided an instant 10-15 degree change in temperature.

Robert near Humphreys Peak
Robert near Humphreys Peak in the Coconino National Forest

We actually identified two separate campsites near Humphreys Peak during our exploration. Our preferred camp was in a meadow with a spectacular view of the peak. Since some of the travelers in our group were unable to access this site in their vehicles, we ended up camped at the second site which was 1.2 miles off the Arizona Trail and at the base of Humphrey Peak. This site was heavily forested and was a stunning mixture of coniferous and aspen trees.

Wildlife was also abundant at this camp. Elk, deer, squirrels, coyotes, and hummingbirds were regularly seen or heard. An added adventure was driving through open range on the Forest Service road since this involved navigating through a larger herd of cattle.

Bismarck Lake

Bismarck Lake
Bismarck Lake was underwhemlimg...

Bismarck Lake in the Coconino National Forest During our time at this campsite we hiked up to Bismarck Lake early one morning. We knew nothing about the lake, but there was a sign at the trailhead announcing that it was one mile up the trail. One mile and about 300’ of elevation gain later we arrived at Bismarck Lake. It was a bit underwhelming given the high hopes that I had for a swim. Mountain lakes in Wyoming, Montana, and Upstate New York where I have done the most hiking tend to be crystal clear and cold. I forgot that I was in Arizona.

Monsoons

After about one week at the camp near Humphreys Peak we were effectively rained out. With monsoon season approaching and the weather forecast predicting thunderstorms every day we were concerned about being stranded on a muddy or washed out Forest Service road six miles from asphalt. As we drove out from our camp we passed Forest Service personnel who were preparing to close roads. Our timing was perfect.