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Agassiz Peak, AZ

124 25 2
Guide 25 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Flagstaff NW
4.2 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Route Finding 5 of 5
Distance Round Trip 6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,320 feet
Elevation Gain 3,036 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 7 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 21.18
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack No
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
10  2019-04-26 chumley
12  2018-04-14
Agassiz from Inner Basin
11  2016-02-24 chumley
11  2014-06-22 Lucyan
9  2010-03-18 Jim_H
12  2010-03-06 Misubri
4  2010-02-03 toddak
17  2008-12-21 Jim_H
Page 1,  2
Author Jim_H
author avatar Guides 55
Routes 44
Photos 7,651
Trips 1,615 map ( 9,681 miles )
Age 40 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar → 9 AM
Seasons   Winter to Early Spring
Sun  6:15am - 6:24pm
2 Alternative
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Forbidden Peak
by Jim_H

Hiking Agassiz Peak is only legal when it is covered by snow, and you will need to obtain a free backcountry permit from the US Forest Service at one of their offices prior to hiking. A permit can also be obtained at the Agassiz Ski Lodge on Weekends after 9am. Ascending Agassiz peak during snow free conditions can result in a $500 fine, as can not having a permit. While you can set out to hike this peak from other locations, leaving from the Snowbowl ski area is the best and easiest route to take. This is because all other roads are closed and any other trailheads are at much lower elevations.

When most people look at the San Francisco Peaks from Flagstaff they see two pointed peaks. Often, tourists and those unfamiliar with the Peaks assume that the large pointy one on the left is Arizona's highest point: Humphrey's Peak. This is not accurate, as Humphrey is only visible from Flagstaff through Fremont Saddle. The large pointy peak on the left is Agassiz Peak. The other lower one is Fremont, which is also a good hike.

Agassiz peak comes in at 12,356 feet above sea level. It's almost as high as Humphrey and it disappoints many people to see the signs on the Weatherford and Humphrey Summit Trails that tell hikers to stay on trail and protect the fragile tundra or risk a $500 fine. Its best to observe the letter of the law if not the spirit, as there isn't much tundra in Arizona. With the traffic on the Peaks in summer you have a good chance of being spotted by a ranger.

There is good news though. For cold tolerant individuals who enjoy winter activities that do not involve chair lifts, it is possible to legally hike Agassiz Peak when covered in snow. All you need are lots of warm and dry clothing, some snow shoes, a free backcountry permit, and a desire to do something that most who hike Humphrey in summer will never do. It is also important to remember water, despite the snow. It might be tempting to use the snow for water, but there can be algae on the snow which can cause mild to severe digestive problems.

There is bad news though: there is no trail. The trail you could take lies buried under many inches to several feet of snow. Hiking the ski slopes is not allowed. If you want to, you could take the Agassiz chairlift to the top and then hike the rest of the way up, but that is cheating. A more realistic approach is to find and take the Snowbowl snow-cat trails to the ski patrol hut, or backcountry hike up slope with your snow shoes through deep soft snow.

There are basically two easy ways to head up to the peak. The first is the safest and most direct: take the west ridge from the Agassiz lodge to Agassiz Peak. This can be steep, but it is very easy to follow and you can't get lost, just head up. As you go up, the mountain narrows and forces you toward the top of the Agassiz chairlift. Once there, continue up past the ski patrol hut towards the false summit and then to the true summit. Beware of winds above tree line. They can be extremely fierce. This is the best route to follow as it has the lowest likelihood of avalanche.

The second route is to head upslope into the backcountry north of the Sunset Ski Slope towards the saddle. This route is slightly more difficult and it can require some skill. It may be better to keep your path more to the north and away from the bowl that forms the upper part of Snowbowl. The steepness of the upper bowl will probably force you towards Humphrey's Saddle. Once there proceed up the ridge towards Agassiz Peak. Once again beware of the winds. You will be very exposed on this ridge, and if you venture too far to one side you may run the risk of being in avalanche territory. The traverse from the saddle to the peak is about 3/4 of a mile, so be prepared for what could be a long hike in harsh, really harsh conditions.

Once on the Summit of Agassiz Peak you will be treated to something few will see: an unobstructed view of all the terrain east, south and west of the Peaks. Bring your camera and take plenty of pictures. If the weather is good, make some phone calls and brag. Unlike on Humphrey, no one else will be there to get annoyed.

Heading down can be tricky. The safest way down is likley the way you came up. It can take a while to go back down, but if you ski you might just want to head down one of the Snowbowl runs-if allowed. Otherwise you can snow shoe, woods ski or roll down the hill as a big snow ball; what ever suits your fancy. Once back at your vehicle you can rest and enjoy what may have been one of the hardest hikes you will ever do.

Check out the Triplogs.

This is a difficult hike. Arrive fit and prepared or this could get ugly.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2007-12-17 Jim_H
  • FR22 Car Camping
    area related
    FR22 Car Camping
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent of 13 deeper Triplog Reviews
Agassiz Peak
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Agassiz from Inner Basin
Do you ever get the feeling that I'm not ready to let go of winter just yet? :sweat:

Last week I was able to determine that there was still snow on the route to Agassiz, so I decided to attempt my first daytime summit.

The weather and conditions aligned perfectly. After warm weather had saturated the snowpack last week, bitterly cold weather over the past couple of days froze it solid again. This allowed for much easier travel than the post-holing last week, where microspikes provided traction and there was no breaking through the re-frozen snowpack.

The wind died down for the day, but the temps stayed in the 40s, which helped keep the snow from softening up. Once getting above the treeline above Doyle Saddle, the snow cleared and I was able to do a couple of the Weatherford switchbacks on dry ground. Eventually I hit the final snow traverse. Nobody had done it yet this season, and I had already decided I wasn't motivated to do Humphreys, so I headed directly for the ridge above me.

The remains of the winter cornice provided a nice strip of snow straight up the ridge to the summit of Agassiz. There were a few thin steps so I think by next week this won't be fully snow covered anymore. At the summit, I enjoyed surprisingly calm winds, and somewhat hazy but still outstanding views.

On the way down, I re-confirmed that it is much, much easier to ascend an icy slope than it is to descend it. Nonetheless, I was happy to have an ice axe and the crunchy refrozen wind-packed snowpack allowed me to get some spike grips and make some switchbacks down to the trail.

Below the saddle, I switched to snowshoes and took a direct route skipping the switchbacks. The lower elevation snow had softened during the day and snowshoes prevented postholing. Surprisingly, the last 3 miles were the coldest on the day. The late afternoon sun just wasn't offsetting the temperature and wind which picked up quite a bit. Flexibility and options were the theme of the day, and I was able to finish the hike in a jacket, beanie, and gloves to stay warm.

I'll have to keep this one in mind for future spring ascents depending on the snowpack.
Agassiz Peak
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It was brutal above tree-line today. Started at 0630 in a fog bank with flurries, sun came out on the summit ridge, winds freshening to gale-force before noon. If you've ever been blown-over by a gust, or had to stop hiking to take shelter and put your hands and gloves down your pants to keep from losing fingers to frostbite, you know what it was like. Surprisingly warm and calm in places, only three steps away from a hurricane. Aside from the cold and wind, it was an incredible climb. Saw plenty of snow-devils on the leeward faces.

Trail-finding in the forest was impossible at times, with many sets of tracks heading in all directions. Used GPS a lot to stay on course; said 'to hell with it' on the descent, took direct aim at my car, and bombed downhill in the softening snow. This was probably to blame for the microspikes which disappeared from my left boot. If you happen to find 'em...

Unlike yesterday, views were clear enough to see the Grand Canyon from the top (state high-point #3 for me). Decided to add Agassiz since I was feeling good and it looked much more difficult from the Fremont side. Tough snow climb, but had a nice view of Flag from the top. No summit register to be found, and possibly on Humphreys as well (I didn't feel like digging around). Only met one other intrepid summiter.
Agassiz Peak
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I've been itching to get this one taken care of, and the stars aligned with a huge, bright moon to make this one happen!

Warm weather has compacted all the snow, and the two recent days of cool weather froze everything up again, making for a pretty nice firm surface to move on, and a subsequently stable snowpack. I did posthole one time, and it was all the way! I had forgotten to swap on the snow baskets on my poles, which would have been helpful, as I was able to push the poles their full length below the snow.

Originally my plan was to hit Humphreys first, and I decided that after a month of no snow the trail should be broken and well-traveled. I skipped the bottom part and joined it on a switchback just below the top of the new Humphreys quad. There were a few places where the trail breakers went wrong, and it was a choice of repeating their mistake for the sake of broken trail, or breaking a new one on the correct route. Either way, everything always got back on track after a few hundred yards. Until I hit the bottom of the switchbacks to the saddle, and then it was a total loss. I just climbed straight up. Damn that is steep!

Great views of the inner basin, moonrise, Humphrey's and the ridge over to Aggasiz. I headed that way and enjoyed the relatively low grade to begin with, before making the final steep push to the summit, which was much shorter than I had mentally prepared for. I snapped some photos and began to head down toward the top of the chairlift. The weather was pleasant and nearly calm for most of the night. But the breeze picked up on the peak and ridges either side, maybe 10-15mph, but when it's only in the 20s, that's chilly.

Back below the treeline, calmness ensued, and I was treated to 2000 feet of absolute bliss on freshly cut corduroy illuminated only by the moon and reflection off the snow. :D

Found a couch to crash on for a couple hours and my breakfast included a surprise puke. Not too bad! ;)
Agassiz Peak
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Flew up today and summited in 3 hours including about 30 minutes of breaks. There is a nice set of tracks to follow all the way to treeline. After some time on the summit I went over to Agassiz. I went down through Snowbowl and I hate doing that. It's like walking on slippery concrete.
Agassiz Peak
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I parked off Freidlein Prairie Rd and hiked up through the burned area on the south face. That was fine and so was the stretch of Kachina Trail I took shortly there after. I started up the steep grassy slope in the valley between Agassiz and Fremont and started to find it really loose and prone to rolling out from under me. It never really got better, and as I ascended the south ridge snow started to appear in dense drifts between the trees and forced me to go around them or climb over it. I could live with that until the trees became short and their low dead branches creates conditions I couldn't walk through. Up until this point, I was not really enjoying the hike, but not hating it either, and I was making good time considering the soft grassy slope and the scree and talus patches that had emerged. I had finally gotten to high enough up on the ridge that large rocks were available for me to climb over so I could avoid the loose scree and talus. I was coming up over group of boulders when one of them slid out and I rolled back. I fell about 10 feet and hit my ass and right elbow on a rock, and my right leg got badly scratched up from the rocks I rolled over. It hurt like hell and I ended up just laying on the ground for a few minutes until the pain subsided. I still had about 900 more feet to go, and since I had no broken bones and had gotten away fairly easily from the slide I pushed on. Angry Kachina be damned!

Maybe I should have turned back because the rest of the hike sucked and the scree on top was torture for my sore ass. Plus, even though I did not break any ribs, I must have it my right side hard enough on a rock that expanding my chest deeply was painful so that deep breathing became harder and harder. I finally topped out and I really could have cared less as by this point I wanted to be soaking in a hot tub. It was windy, perhaps 20 to 30 MPH, but mostly the view really wasn't even that great. I guess I've seen it so much it isn't impressive anymore. I took pictures and sat for a while resting.

Not wanting to die, I went down the valley to the west of the south ridge and had a horrible time keeping scree out of my boots and staying vertical. I fell back a few times and rough up my hand and got thorns in it from the goose berry shrubs on the slope. I think that I had a harder time descending than normal due to my injuries. I got down alright, but by the time I did I was beyond disgusted with my hike and I wished I had gone to Sedona or some other place. At that point even Elden yet another time would have been preferable. Oh well, live and learn and at least I got 4230' feet in today. Still, I am sick of Agassiz and the southern approaches is terrible. I might do this peak again, but I'll never do that route again.
Agassiz Peak
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I wanted to do Agassiz once more this winter, so it was today or never. It was a long trip over from Humphrey, and it seems I'm just not in the shape I used to be. Between the Cirque, Sedona, and this, I was exhausted on the last part of the hike up. I made it and it was a nice summit. I took a few pics of the view. The cirque looks great when coming up from the saddle.
Agassiz Peak
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I'm counting distance and elevation from the Saddle with Humphrey. The traildex map indicated an elevation gain of 560 feet from the saddle to the summit. I came over from Humphrey and really enjoyed being out on Agassiz today. It had clouded over long before I started to hike to Agassiz, but that didn't matter much to me. I had forgotten how great the views are from Agassiz and would probably do it more were it not for it being so close to Snowbowl. It's not just the views to the south that are pretty impressive, but also the view of Humphrey to the north. I should have brought my camera, even if only for myself. I hiked back down to the ridge just above the saddle to look at the cirque below Humphrey. It's very inviting looking. I then went down to the Snowbowl runs using the slopes below the saddle, but that time is in the Humphrey log.
Agassiz Peak
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Inspired by jhodlof's frequent trips Up High, I climbed the "forbidden peak" on a nearly perfect day, calm winds and mostly overcast. Snow had some icy crust but still mostly soft and deep. Very tough climb but well worth the effort, good to get all of the SF peaks done. Hopefully I didn't disturb any Senecio franciscanus sleeping peacefully under the snow.
Agassiz Peak
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Most of the snow from the big December storms had blown off or melted away by the time the recent round of heavy February snow hit Agassiz. This meant that traveling over from the saddle was on a mix of crusty snow, rock and deep powder. Rock with thin powder and deep powder were the most common feature. This wasn't ideal, but if you use snowshoes you should be fine. If you don't mind post-holing, then boots would also work. A crampon is useful on the crusty snow and ice, but the rock doesn't do them wonders. If you come up from the resort it probably won't matter too much, and you should be able to stick with nothing more than snowshoes.
Instead of taking the west ridge, I went back a few hundred feet and then descended into the upper bowl of Snowbowl before I followed the runs down. The packed runs are a pain to go down. Fresh powder or soft snow is much easier.
Agassiz Peak
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I really regret this trip. The winds were horrible. They weren't too bad coming down from Humphrey, but once I made the saddle things became unbearable and they only got worse. I reached the summit a few minutes before sunset. The winds must have been sustained in the 50s and gusting to near 70 miles an hour. I couldn't even stand up on top. Coming down on the west ridge was extremely difficult with the north wind coming over the west ridge. I love being short of breath coming down because it is hard to breathe. No, I don't really.
I took a picture from the summit of the sunset on Humphrey. It looks about the same as the other set (which I put it in with) except it is a little higher than they are. I had to take it sitting down. If I stood up I risked being blown over. This was crazy. I don't want to do that again.

Permit $$
information is in description

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
The trailhead is the same as the Humphrey Summit Trail. From Flagstaff, drive up US 180 to the AZ Snowbowl turnoff. Head up the paved road to Snowbowl and park at either the Hart Prairie lodge or Agassiz Lodge parking areas. Don't forget the backcountry permit if you plan to get back after skiing has ceased for the night.
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