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.
Click here to download a trail map
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
12 Responses to Inner Basin Hiking Trail
Good write up and description. Very useful.
Thank you Fran. I hope that you enjoyed the hike. The quantity of Aspens on this trail make it kinda magical.
You Should have added ” …a completely death-defying experience when driving this road”
Ha! Thanks Lindsay. The narrow road up to Inner Basin, with its steep drop offs and minimal shoulder, can definitely get the heart pumping! Take it slow and hug the mountain side and you should be fine. Hope you enjoyed the basin!!
Is it a one car lane road?
Hi Shannon, So sorry for the delayed response! Yes, the drive up the hill is comprised of a steep, gravel and dirt, one lane road for a few miles. During the busy fall foliage season there are sometimes (not guaranteed) forest service personnel who help manage the traffic flow. The drive is worth it. Just take it slow. Enjoy.
So…what happens if two cars meet in the middle of the single lane stretch, one going up, one going down? I guess there are pullout areas visible with enough notice for one of the cars to move aside and let the other go by?
There are areas that are wide enough for cars to slowly pass one another, if one pulls fully over to the side.
I am wanting to visit here with my 2 year old and 4 year old, i know it will make things more difficult but is it doable? (The hike) – has anyone else done this with young children ?
Not sure how active your kids are, but this one might be a bit difficult for kids that age. A backpack for your 2-year-old would be recommended. It takes a bit to get into the Aspen Grove. That being said you could always hike in just as far as they are comfortable. Have fun.
I’ve been wanting to do this hike for a while and now that autumn has arrived would like to make it up sometime this month. I have an almost 2 year old daughter and wanted to bring an all-terrain 3 wheel stroller. From what I read it seems pretty easy but don’t wanna make the drive if it’s not doable.
Hmmm. I’m not terribly familiar with these strollers, but it seems like it would be feasible. The trail is not flat, and can be narrow in spots. But it doesn’t have large boulders to navigate. I would also suggest checking in with the park service to see if there are any limitations on stroller use.