Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

October 15, 2010

Roughriders Hike to Humphreys Summit


by Mike Holmes

On September the 25th Bob Hudson led the Roughriders hiking group of the Sedona Westerners to the summit of Humphreys Peak in Flagstaff. Since the Roughrider hikes are expected to be more challenging, the 9 mile round trip to the summit of Humphreys provided exactly what the group was looking for.

Humphreys Peak was named in 1870 for General Andrew A. Humphrey. Humphrey was a General in the Union Army during the Civil War, and later became Chief of Engineers of the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Roughriders at the summit. Left to right: Mike Holmes, Bob Hudson, Mark Frank, Paula Potter, Mike Rousonelos, Kristina Berger, Marcia Frye, Charlie Schudson. Photo by Michael Holmes.

The history of Humphreys Peak and its varied climate zones make this an interesting and well travelled trail. Humphreys Peak is the highest point in Arizona with an elevation of 12,637 feet. Humphreys is one The San Francisco Peaks. The Peaks are composed of six peaks, Humphreys, Agassiz, Fremont, Aubineau, Rees, and Doyle. The San Francisco Peaks range was once a huge, cone-shaped volcano that was about 20,000 feet high. Eruptions built the peak between 1 million and 400,000 years ago. At some point in history, the mountain exploded leaving the peaks, including Humphreys, along the outer rim of the caldera. Humphreys is the 26th most prominent mountain in the lower 48 states.

Bob Hudson led the group to their first break at the site of a huge rock fall. The rock fall provided the first of many views of the area to the West. After a short break Bob set a pace that that would get the group to the summit for lunch. After hiking 3.5 miles the group broke through the tree line and achieved the saddle between Humphreys and Agassiz.

As the group approached tree line they, passed from a forest of pines and aspen to an area with Bristlecone Pines. Bristlecone Pines are some of the oldest living organisms in the world. Some Bristlecone Pines have been living for almost 5,000 years.

Bob chose the saddle between Humphreys and Agassiz as an opportunity to take another short break to enjoy the view and rest for the last mile to the summit. The summit is another 1 mile and 800 feet of elevation from the saddle. The last 1 mile of the trail starts at an elevation of 11,500, and traverses the only region of tundra in Arizona. In this area of The San Francisco Peaks there is no off-trail hiking to protect the endangered plant, the San Francisco Peaks Groundsel.

While the views at the saddle do not offer the unobstructed 360 degrees that Humphrys summit provides, the saddle offers an excellent alternate destination. The saddle is also a transition area where the vegetation changes from the Bristlecone Pines to the area above timberline.

After a short rest, the Roughriders pushed on to the summit in time for lunch at the top. The summit was calm and clear with views of Verde Valley, Oak Creek Canyon, The North Rim of The Grand Canyon, and Hart Prairie. Hart Prairie was the original stage coach route for the Moqui Stage Line from Flagstaff to The Grand Canyon. The Moqui Stage Line operated from 1892 until 1901.

After a nice long break with outstanding weather conditions Bob Hudson regrouped everyone and led them back to the trailhead.

The Humphreys trail gains 3,000 feet in 4.5 miles. While this is a very popular hike, the elevation gain from 9500 feet at the trailhead to the summit at 12,600 in 4.5 miles offers a good workout. Humphreys has been identified as the easiest high point to reach of all of the Western United States summits and the Roughriders agreed that the hike was well worth the effort.

The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining the club, log onto our website: You may also join by attending a monthly meeting, our next one will be on Thursday, November 11th, beginning at 7p.m. at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley Center, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.