A Mountainside Bursting with Gold – Flagstaff’s Inner Basin Trail

Contrary to popular belief, Arizona is not just a dusty desert filled with cactus and tumbleweeds. While that is something you will find a lot of in Arizona, there is much more to the landscape of this great state. Among the landscape of Arizona you will also find canyons, rivers, lakes, forests, grass lands and mountains. Arizona has a little bit of something for everyone.

One of the most prominent features of Arizona’s landscape is the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff. The San Francisco Peaks are a mountain range that are the remnants of a much larger volcanic mountain, a stratovolcano, that is believed to have erupted approximately one million years ago in spectacular fashion spewing rock, cinders, ash and lava across state. While the San Francisco Peaks themselves are not believed to be currently active, they are part of a much larger volcanic field, which includes nearby Sunset Crater the product of an eruption less than 1000 years ago. This is a reminder to us that this land is alive, full of energy and ever evolving.

The San Francisco Peaks range consists of six peaks, the tallest of which, Humphrey’s Peak, stands 12,633 feet above sea level. These six peaks encirle a horseshoe shaped inner basin created by the caldera of the volcano.

These high mountain peaks, their alpine environment, and rich fertile volcanic soil make this a perfect place for outdoor recreation. Here within this mountain range you can find some of the best Arizona had to offer in the way of camping, hiking, mountain biking, winter sports and more.

One of the best things to find here is Arizona’s rich display of fall color. Thick stands of Aspen trees, blanket the mountain range . It is like bands of gold bursting from the mountain side as you view it from afar. From the Inner Basin Trailhead at the Lockett Meadow Campground, the trail winds its way uphill, weaving in and out of the tall, thin aspens all the way into the inner basin. Once inside the inner basin, stands of golden aspens are strewn about the caldera in stark contrast to the remnants of lava flows that can still be seen on the mountainsides.

As you traverse this trail during the month of October, the golden leaves rustle in the breeze and rain down on you like confetti, clinging to the deep green pine trees and covering the earth with a blanket of warmth.

How to get there:

Drive northeast of Flagstaff on US Highway 89 for 12.5 miles. Turn left on Forest Road 552, directly across from the Sunset Crater National Monument turnoff. Follow FR 552 for approximately one mile. Turn right at the Lockett Meadow sign and continue to the campground. This dirt road is closed in early spring and late fall due to snow.

GPS (Map): 35°21’23.2″N 111°37’22.6″W

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