My two sons and I drove up to Flagstaff from Gilbert on Friday, July 25, 2008. We stopped by NAU to watch the Arizona Cardinal practice, ate lunch, then drove up to the trailhead. We navigated through town to highway 180 (Milton Road north, left on Humphreys Street, then left again on North Fort Valley Road. Once we turned on to North Fort Valley Rd, it was about 6 miles to the Snowbowl turnoff, Forest Road 516. 6.1 miles up this road will bring you to a fork in the road where you turn left to go to the trailhead parking lot or right to the chairlift. The forest service had port-a-potties in the trailhead parking lot.
The trailhead is clearly marked on the NE end of the parking lot. We backpacked in, intending to spend the night on the trail, although most make a day hike out of this. After walking across the meadow where the chairlift is, you enter into forest. This is a very well-used, clearly identifiable trail. At switchback #2 there is a forest service sign and logbook to sign in. We found a wonderful campsite with a fire ring and flat areas for our tents just below switchback #6. It took us about 1 hour 40 minutes to reach this spot from the trailhead. After setting up camp, we proceeded a short distance up to switchback #7 where, instead of following the trail up to the peak, we continued straight ahead (NE) off the trail. There are several well-placed cairns along the way, although there are places you have to look well. We also had GPS coordinates that ended up being accurate (N35 20.455 W111 41.389). The debris field is in a very rocky area, so be careful as you check it out.
We then returned to our camp, had supper, and watched as a summer thunderstorm came upon us. Thankfully our tents served us well in the rain and wind!
Saturday morning we broke camp and hiked back down the mountain, passing several hikers along the way. I must say that I can't remember running into more friendly and talkative people on a hiking path than we did this morning! It took about 1 hour 15 minutes to get back to the meadow where the chair lift is. If you stand between the chairlift and the cables on the ground, and look back up the mountain, you can see the clearing where the debris field is. If the sun is shining, it will reflect off of the aluminum parts.
This was a fun hike, yet humbling when you consider 8 men lost their lives on a training mission here in 1944.