Inner Basin Hiking Trail
★★★★★ Moderate / Flagstaff Area:
It’s impossible to describe the stunningly beautiful Inner Basin Hiking Trail without yelling “Wait! There’s more!” This gorgeous hike surrounds hikers with fields of summer sunflowers and endless fairytale-esque groves of Aspens. Expect to encounter a whack-a-doodle mix of elk grazing the meadows beside high-altitude runners in training. Indeed, every twist and turn of this Flagstaff hike is truly extra-ordinary.
TRAILHEAD: Lockett Meadow Campground, FLAGSTAFF • DIFFICULTY: Moderate • DISTANCE: 3.9 MILES (7.8 miles rt) • APPROX. TIME: 4-5 HOURS • ELEVATION GAIN: 800 FEET (50 STORIES) • APPROX. CALORIES BURNED: 1,200-1,360 • BEST TIME OF YEAR: APRIL – OCT. • PETS: YES • KID FRIENDLY: YES • FACILITIES: yes (but no water) • FEES: NONE
Even the drive to the trailhead is worth noting. So very worth it. The drive includes a two-mile climb up a steep, one-lane, gravel road (full of tight turns and perpendicular, guardrail-less drops) to reach the trailhead, which is located at the ridiculously gorgeous Lockett Meadow. Yep! Even the start of this hike is exceptional.
Kicking off from the trailhead parking lot behind the intimate, 12-site, Lockett Meadow campground, the Inner Basin Hiking Trail remains fairly easy as it passes beside slopes of young tree growth and under tall pines. After approximately three-quarters of a mile the trail steepens slightly and enters some of the most incredibly beautiful Aspen groves I’ve ever seen. Here the sunlight streams across slopes dense with tall white Aspens – that extend as far as the eye can see. The trail bed is soft and rimmed by bright green grasses intermingled with small purple wildflowers.
This stunning section of the Inner Basin Hiking Trail continues for another mile-and-a-half, switchbacking up the brilliant slopes. At the top of a hill it spills out onto the old Pipeline Road, a now-closed route previously used to service mountain springs. Views of the surrounding summits peek between tree branches in this predominantly flat stretch. The trail passes a mountain substation and then winds left towards the inner basin.
Less than a half mile further, the pines suddenly retreat and the rolling plain of the inner basin appears. In summer numerous wildflowers dot the landscape, with millions of golden sunflowers swaying in the breeze. A small shelter housing an active well rests atop the meadow. And a there is a covered bench for taking in the incredible views. It is common to see elk and porcupine in this area. And I was surprised at the number of high-altitude runners that take advantage of the wide trail to train.
Crossing the basin meadow, the hiking trail reenters the pines and ascends modestly towards the slope of Mount Humphreys. One mile further, it ends at the midsection of the Weatherford Trail (which continues on to the summit).
Hikers on the Inner Basin Trail should be cognizant of the weather. At an altitude of 9,000′ the basin is exposed and susceptible to quick moving storms. If weather does roll in, take proper precautions.
The Inner Basin is actually the top of one of the original (and now defunct) volcanos that formed the San Francisco Peaks. The 485′ deep well that sits in the meadow was drilled in 1971 and still pumps water to Flagstaff.
Directions From the intersection of US-89 and I-80 (in Flagstaff) follow US-89 for 12.5 miles to Forest Road 545 (directly across from the Sunset Crater National Monument turnoff). Turn left on FR 545 and drive 1.1 mile to the T-intersection of Forest Roads 420 (on the left) and 552 (on the right). Turn right on FR 552 and follow the signs to Lockett Meadow – which is located five-miles in, at the end of the road. Parking for the Inner Basin Hiking Trail is at the back of Lockett Meadow Campground. Please note that FR 552 becomes very steep and narrow for the last three miles. It is closed during winter, early spring and late fall when there is snow.
- Aspens, Basin, Dayhike, Family Friendly, Meadows, Mountains, Pet Friendly, wildflower
- August 8, 2015