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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Waterline Trail #146, AZ

no permit
12 53 3
Guide 53 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Flagstaff NE
3.1 of 5 by 15
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 14 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,000 feet
Elevation Gain 2,314 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,600 feet
Avg Time One Way 5-7 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 22.66
Interest Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
9  2019-08-10
Abineau Bear Jaw Loop
5  2019-06-07
Schultz Peak
12  2019-05-25
Abineau Bear Jaw Loop
6  2018-05-07
Lockett Meadow - Waterline Loop
13  2018-04-08
Inner Basin Loop
5  2017-07-15
Abineau Bear Jaw Loop with some offtrail
7  2017-07-15
Abineau Bear Jaw Loop
8  2017-07-08
Inner Basin Waterline Trail
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author Jim_H
author avatar Guides 55
Routes 44
Photos 7,651
Trips 1,608 map ( 9,661 miles )
Age 40 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Jun, Aug, Sep → 10 AM
Seasons   Summer to Autumn
Sun  6:08am - 6:35pm
Official Route
23 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Closed but maintained FS road
by Jim_H

Likely In-Season!
The Water Line Trail, or Water Line Road as it is also known, is the gravel access road that climbs the east slope of the San Francisco Peaks into the Inner Basin, and beyond. It is the main access to the water pumps which are used to procure water from the Inner Basin for Flagstaff's water supply. At some points along the road you come to square concrete "manholes" which have accesses to the water line that follows the road down to town, and gives the road its name. When the water is flowing, you can hear it in these manholes.

The Water Line Road has two parts, the maintained lower 2/3 and the rough upper 1/3. I have been on the lower 2/3 from Schultz Pass to the Inner Basin. It is smooth and while not much of a hike, is an excellent mountain biking opportunity. It is about 9 miles up, and you will gain about 1700 feet to that point. The lower 2/3 is graveled and is smooth enough that a car could be driven up it, yet because the road is gated, you likely won't see motor vehicles on it. This section of road will take you to the first pump house in the Inner Basin, and the trail of that name. At that point you will encounter a faucet which is a source of water when the pumps are on. Its not filtered, but it is great for dogs, and you if you have a hearty stomach. At this point you can continue on into the Inner Basin to just past the 3rd structure that you will encounter. For a full description of this, see the Inner Basin trail. This watering area is also where you may be able to continue on further on the upper 1/3 of the road. Good luck if you choose to do so. I have never been more than 200 feet up on the upper portion, if I was even that far. I continued up a road that logically should have been it, but I'm not sure. If it wasn't the upper part, then I have no idea where this road goes. The road isn't maintained past its meeting with the Inner Basin trail, it was badly eroded and it had some downed trees across it. I turned back. This might be a more interesting hike, but on a bike its not really worth doing. Plus, its more fun to go into the basin and look at the peaks. Heading down the Water Line Trail is a lot of fun, and it goes rather quickly. Be safe and try not to let your speed get away from you.

The Water Line Road is part of the boundary of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area. Before you get into the Inner Basin everything past the gas line and upslope is basically the legal wilderness area and everything down slope is legally just forest. It looks the same on either side.

One thing of interest on this trail is the vegetation. The lower part is almost pure ponderosa pine. The upper part is some nice aspen and some spruce-fir. The middle part was at one time a decent mixed conifer stand, but it has since degenerated into a thicket of young white fir in many areas. Its interesting to see the large snags of ponderosa pine, douglas fir, and even a few white firs that have died as the young white fir juveniles have out competed them. Unfortunately, with the dry conditions in recent times the young trees don't always look so healthy and I could see this area burning up in a fire at some point, and hopefully converting to an aspen stand. This is something to think about when riding slowly up the road. Its best to pay attention to the road when descending.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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

2008-02-16 Jim_H
  • Kachina Peaks Map
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    Kachina Peaks Map

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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 23 deeper Triplog Reviews
Waterline Trail #146
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Inner Basin Loop
It was June 3 last year when we bagged Humphreys from the IB [ photoset ] JUNE 3rd!

Nearly 2 months earlier in a year with significantly less snow I decided it might be fun to get up into the Inner Basin and maybe glissade down. Kyle and I grabbed our ice axes and crampons and headed for the mountains.

The Inner Basin is an extra challenge in the winter since the FS closes the road that accesses it. I was happy to explore FR 553, which is open seasonally from 9/1 to 12/31 for hunter access. Actually, it's open all year (winter weather permitting), but the gate between it and the inner basin is only open in the fall. There's a mile of miserable Hanging Gardens- type 4-Lo along the way to keep the riffraff out. We had to clear the road of a few winter deadfall trees today, but eventually we got just a couple hundred yards from where I had hoped we could get to, and started our hike from there.

The snow pack at the lower elevations was much greater than last year. But only in the sheltered spots. Up high it was clear that there was actually less snow than there was last June!

But it was the lower elevation snow pack that did us in. It was really pleasant and enjoyable to be here, but it was exhausting. 2-3 feet of snow along the trail made for some solid work. We didn't quite make it to the switchbacks that lead up to the Weatherford trail, which was an intermediate goal for the day. And there would be no glissading down the cirque! But it was still a few hours of fun in the spring snow.

Had I been hiking with snowshoes, it looked like getting all the way to the Doyle Saddle would be relatively straightforward. From there the traverse was mostly clear, with one good section of the traverse still snow-covered (but much less than last June!)

There will be snow on the trail now for a few good weeks, and probably well into late-May in sheltered areas. But now that I know I can get close to the IB, I suspect I'll head up earlier in the spring in the coming years. The IB is a special place when nobody else is there!
Waterline Trail #146
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San Francisco Peaks Loop
Started hiking at 6a.m.
We summited Rees, Abineau and Humphreys; then descended on the Weatherford Trail to the Inner Basin. Lightning and thunder started right on the dot at 1pm. We had to hunker down under a rock outcropping on the upper Weatherford for a few minutes while the down strikes finished up their business and it was safe to proceed. The storm brought with it a violent hail barrage. This also passed quickly, leaving us with perfect weather to enjoy an early afternoon stroll through the inner basin.
Waterline Trail #146
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Inner Basin Waterline Trail
Three weeks later.... remember I said I wanted to make this my workout hike for the summer. Well I did it again and Kathy, Karl, Amy and Tugger decided to join me the day before. I was glad of that plus Karl drove. I am still not in the mood to hike alone; I should say my brain doesn't want to hike alone :lol: .

Kathy kept a pretty good pace. I guess she decided since I was in training mode, she was gonna really make me work out. I dragged the last mile up from Bear Jaw Canyon as I watched ahead to see if Karl, Amy and Tugger had stopped yet; and finally we made it to the spring box at Rees. For some reason I thot the spring box was at Bear Jaw Canyon thus we ended up hiking an additional mile... again. (Kelly and I ended up doing another mile 3 weeks ago too)

It hailed a bit at lunch and then rained so we had to rain gear up. It got cold so we decided to head back down. The rain let up and it finally warmed up enough so at the ten mile mark Kathy and I took off our jackets along with a small break before we finished our trek. It was, as usual, a glorious day on the trail and as great a hike as three weeks ago.

At the car we had our celebratory beer. As we drove into Flagstaff the skies opened up and it rained pretty hard. We met Amy's cohort in town and they had lunch at Cornish Pasty; what a cool place. On our drive back we could see the bright flames of the Brooklyn fire line to the east of I-17 as it was dark now. We also had a delay due to a traffic accident below Sunset Point.

Now don't be alarmed but I did not take any video and took very few pictures... mostly because I had taken them 3 weeks ago. I think I got my camera out five times. Even I'm surprised.

Waterline Trail #146
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Inner Basin Waterline
hooked up with angela for a hike in the high country
this combo offered gentle uphill, beautiful aspen forest, shady canopy, and glimpses of great views
got going shortly after 9:00
hard to believe it's been four years since last on inner basin
enjoyed it just as much this time
hit waterline and took that all the way to abineau canyon
hadn't been on the part between inner basin and bear jaw
lunched at reese canyon, and enjoyed the views at the end of waterline
a quick break on the way down, and more aspen gazing in afternoon light
pleasant hike with good company :)
angela's triplog has a few more details
Waterline Trail #146
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Inner Basin Waterline
Yep, I did a 14er!...

Finally got to hook up with Kelly. We wanted to do the Granite Hot Shot hike but obviously, that's way too hot for me so we had to go higher. Kelly thot this would be a nice hike for me as I am not in real good hiking shape with respect to elevation. It ended up being the perfect choice; even with adding the additional mileage since we decided to go to the Abineau Junction.

Our drive up and back on the I-17 would be interesting today. Not too far south of Flagstaff this happened: around 8:30 we saw a man right in the middle of the freeway while we were going 75 MPH. A motorcycle rider from the other side of the road gave me the slow down signal earlier (at first I thot he was a trooper and that I missed that 65 MPH change sign) so I did, and we see this man in the middle of the road acting like he wanted us to pick him up. Hard to believe there would be two separate incidents in this area as NO, this was not the naked man that attacked the trooper. However, we did see a trooper heading south on I-17 as we were passing by Flagstaff but that was 15 minutes later so perhaps that was the trooper involved in the other incident.

I had forgotten about that tricky road going up to Lockett Meadow. We did see a car that got sucked in one of the curves. There was a fire crew that were there helping to pull him out so we proceeded. We were glad there was ample parking and geared up for our day. Unbeknownst to me, I had left my window open and lucky for me, nothing had been disturbed (including my purse).

Now, on to the hike. We were surprised at the deadfall we saw on this lower part of the trail. Nothing too major but more than one would expect. As usual, once you hit the aspen section, it's non-stop awe and wonder at it constantly for over a mile. The trail climbs at a very nice angle but I did get my poles out, mostly so I could still keep Kelly in my sites. We've been thru this section before (almost exactly four years ago :o ) but you still can't help but be struck by its AWEsomeness!

Once we made the turn on the Waterline Trail after passing by the buildings, we were instantly happy with our choice of trails for the day. You get some peeks at the terrain over yonder from time to time and then of course, we get to walk side by side and chat and enjoy the tree lined road. This hike is a gradual up-climb the whole way. Once again, like the lower Inner Basin trail elevation, the grade is subtle UNTIL that last mile.

We had lunch while sitting on a covered spring box at Reese Canyon before tackling that last mile and 400 feet in thinning air. I did find a snowbank to sit on for a quick moment so that was kind of fun. The view from the Abineau Junction was great so it was worth it. Kelly hiked the first 6 miles for me and I hiked this last mile for her so it all worked out :) as I had planned at turning around at Bear Jaw Canyon. So after talking with some other hikers and telling them about our lunch spot we headed back down. Had to stop at the snow pile again and lob a couple snowballs at Kelly and a tree trunk.

Needless to say, going down went pretty fast. The sun was now ducking behind clouds so the light changes were fun to watch. We ran into a couple bike riders as they were heading up and then they passed us on the way down. We hiked the 5 miles down to the Inner Basin Junction with the green buildings and stopped for a break. The last mile of that stretch seemed really long. And now, it was back into the Aspen section with a little different light than this morning. Still as spectacular as ever and we soaked it all in with some more photos because one can never have enough aspen forest photos, right?! The birds were also singing making our day out with Mother Nature on this Father's Day even more pleasant.

We stopped outside of Flagstaff to pick up fuel and a snack as we had a dinner engagement with the Mays; the best way I can think of for your post-hike meal. Plus we wanted to catch up with them about what's going on and in the works. We were running late because we added those extra miles and then, we almost didn't make it at all as they were taking people off the freeway at Cordes Jct around the BumbleBee fire. However, they hadn't finished putting the cones down so we were able to sneak thru and avoid that situation. I got the siren from the officer but quite a few folks were still getting around where the cones had not been laid yet... thank goodness; otherwise, it would have been a long drive home and I was already tired.

Anyway, this will now be my workout hike rather than Kachina. I don't like that sun exposure on part of the Kachina Trail as well as the lightning exposure so I think this hike with plenty of shade and beauty is the ticket for me. Thx Kelly for coming up with this and putting up with my babbling about Wayne. Also thx to the Mays for a most wonderful post-hike meal.

Part 1 Inner Basin [ youtube video ]
Part 2 Waterline [ youtube video ]
Part 3 Waterline and Inner Basin [ youtube video ]

some lupine, columbine in lower section
Waterline Trail #146
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Inner Basin via Bear Jaw
We had to get out of the Phoenix heat for the day so we headed up to Flag. There were only a couple cars at the TH when we arrived which was unexpected. We took Bear Jaw up to the Waterline and then headed over to the Inner Basin. There were a lot of people in the Inner Basin. Once in the Inner Basin, we cut over to the old road that heads up towards the Cirque. We took lunch at Bear Jaw Spring and then headed back. There was a little water flow near Bear Jaw Spring but I think it was just snow melt in one of the adjoining drainages. I think the spring itself get sucked into the pipes right at the source. We could notice some of the smoke from Kendrick on the way back down Bear Jaw but it wasn't too bad.
Waterline Trail #146
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Rees & Abineau via Lockett Meadow
Based on the colors at Elden last week, we knew we had to get back up to Flagstaff and get to the Inner Basin color show. We knew this would be peak peekin' season at the Peaks. Starting at 8am, got us a close parking spot and allowed us to avoid the masses on the way up.

Up the Inner Basin trail #29, I always enjoy this one.... when it's not fall and especially in the fall. Just a beautiful trail that meanders the switchbacks up to the Warterline Trail #146. Definitely one of my favorites.

At our turn for the Waterline Trail, we would not see another soul for quite awhile. Roughly following a previous Chums route, we off trailed it up to Rees Peak approaching it from the ENE. It's a 1.75 mile 1,800' climb to this bad boy. I was concerned for downfall for the climb, but that was never a factor at all. This is a worthy peak for the views!

Rees Peak Video :next: ... OdTo

With weather rolling in, we talked about our choices and decided to continue. We continued our contour of the ridge-line over to Abineau. In .6 mile you drop 200, before climbing 600' to this peak. There is a perfect spot at the top for lunching on this one. On the way up we got some moisture mostly in the form of hail. This resulted in a beautiful Rainbow that anchored one side of itself to the Golden Aspens.

Abineau Peak Video :next: ... cAiM

We decided at this point to descend the ridgeline between Rees Canyon and Bear Jaw Canyon. We stumbled on some minor parts of the B-17 Wreckage from 1944. We did a cursory look for some of the larger pieces, but found no more in the brief time we checked.

We passed a couple of interesting stands of leaning aspens on our way down before hitting the Waterline Trail again. There's plenty of easy color to be found on this trail. We saw a few MTB'ers, but was surprised we did not see more.

Back on the Inner Basin trail, descending to the parking lot, it's always fun to people watch. From Full packs to no packs... From Hiking Boots to Vans and dress scandals.... From brand new, clean and pressed complete hiking outfits to jeans so tight you have a guessing game to determine how they'd gotten into them.

Karl made a new friend on the drive out.
Waterline Trail #146
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Rees & Abineau via Lockett Meadow
The off trail was easier than anticipated. Steep, no where near sliding steep. Downed trees are easy to avoid. We had pretty much all phases of weather. Chilly, sleet, toasty, breezy, calm, you name it. Autumn was rockin' along our entire loop. The nicest spot was a tall stand of bending aspens near Waterline descending Abineau.

Lots of people up on Humphreys before the Norwester rolled in. Peaks were nice. Inner Basin was a hummin! Not as crazy cool as Squaw but almost up to par. Lots of large happy groups. Tweedledum and Tweedledee amused each other all day.

Way too many photos and video. Enjoyed it all.

About as good as aspens get. Roughly 15% green left so it'll probably play out good through next weekend.
Waterline Trail #146
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Would I do this hike again? Every day? Yes.

This is simply probably my favorite hike that I have done in Arizona. It's close with the Kachina Trail but this trail is a bit more difficult and more sustained climbing.

My trip got off to an inauspicious start as I realized I had forgotten my hat. I haven't hiked without a hat or something on my head in a VERY long time. I was bummed but it turned out OK.

FR 151 and FR 418 are actually pretty good roads. My SUV made it just fine and even I didn't worry... :y:

When I got to the Trailhead it was 37 degrees. When I arrived home it was 97 degrees. Yikes.

Back to the hike... I chose to go up Bear Jaw first and then to descend Abineau. Although I say that I wouldn't have wanted to ascend Abineau, next time I might do it just for the challenge as it is MUCH steeper.

I marveled at the views along the higher parts of the trail and the aspens are not at peak but probably middle peak, maybe. I saw one hunter and there was one other vehicle at the TH which I believe may have been a fellow HAZ'er Preston Mc.

I got back to the TH, took my pants off, switched to shorts and readied for my next adventure about 2 miles down the road...
Waterline Trail #146
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Beautiful day for a hike in Flagstaff! Went up Abineau and down Bear Jaw. Aspens had some color.

Came in from 180, on the northern 151 route. FS151 and 418 are in good shape with just pot holes here and there. FS9123J is rough, but I would say passable in a car, rain ruts in the parking area would be the biggest obstacle, but you can drive in and out without having to cross them.

Aspens were starting to turn yellow.

Permit $$

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike
From Flagstaff, proceed north on US 180 to the Schultz Pass Rd turn-off. Head east on Schultz Pass Rd to Schultz Pass, and park at the parking lot for Schultz Tank. On foot, horse, or bike proceed about 250 feet east on the Schultz Pass Rd to the first left after the Weatherford Trail. This road is the trail. Follow as you so desire.
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