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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.

Philomena Spring using Humphrey Summit Trail, AZ

Guide 4 Triplogs  2 Topics
  5 of 5 
no permit
103 4 2
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,270 feet
Elevation Gain 2,390 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,450 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 17.25
Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Historic & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
15  2015-09-02
Humphreys Summit Trail #151
24  2014-10-04 Jim_H
59  2014-09-21
Humphreys Summit Trail #151
20  2011-08-06
Philomena Springs/ Humphrey
Author Jim_H
author avatar Guides 60
Routes 56
Photos 8,510
Trips 1,855 map ( 11,120 miles )
Age 41 Male Gender
Location Marana, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Jun, Aug, Sep → 9 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Winter
Sun  5:35am - 7:31pm
Official Route
0 Alternative

Highest Spring in Arizona!
by Jim_H

Likely In-Season!
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The highest spring in Arizona couldn't have a nicer setting! Featured on the west side of the San Francisco Peaks, it has some of the finest views of any spring, and the alpine setting is unique for a "desert" state. Access is the main issue, but it is actually easy to find if you know where to look. Well, isn't that always the case! Don't use the USGS maps, as those currently have the spring one basin to the north, so you'll be lost if trying to find it. I recommend the existing HAZ data and my guide GPS route, which was never hiked and is only a guide.

This description leaves Arizona Snowbowl and uses the first few switchbacks of the Humphrey Summit Trail #151. After that point, it is all off-trail, and you will need good route finding skills and be comfortable on steep and rocky slopes. You will not approach the bomber wreck.

From Snowbowl, take the summit trail to the end of the switchback that begins at the sign-in box; the third switchback. Here you are at the bottom of a small opening, and it is the same one used in the winter route description. Exit the trail and proceed uphill. Once at the top of the opening, start in a northeast trajectory towards the bottom of the rocky Dutchman Glade. Once there, you either rock-hop across that or walk in the forest around the rocks. You don't need or want to hike up high here, but you need to get past it. Using it as a known weigh-point is helpful, or was for me when I hiked this as a frequent Peaks visitor.

The next part is the most tricky because you want to hike almost parallel to the 9850' contour interval you happen to be near at the bottom of the Dutchman. This is because gaining too much will force you to descend a rocky avalanche slope that is tree-strewn, and it is completely unnecessary to subject yourself to that kind of route. On the other hand, losing elevation takes you downslope from where you want to be, and you might miss the Allison Clay Avalanche Chute. So, proceed across the forested slope and attempt to keep close to 9850', if you can.

Once you reach the end of the forest, you should be looking into or down a short slope into the Allison Clay Avalanche Chute, which is one of many active chutes on the Peaks. Down trees are numerous here and mostly dated from a late 2008 slide. Hopefully, you should enter the slide low enough to look up most of it, and you can begin to hike up the rocky path. It's not as rough as the Dutchman, so don't worry. You will be in it for a while and will need to get close to the treeline on the slope that is to your north. Ultimately, you are trying to reach a point that allows you to enter the southwest and west-facing Bristlecone Pine forest, so you can once again traverse a slope to the next basin. You don't want to go high and cross over in the alpine tundra, as you will only increase the distance of the steep slope you will need to descend, and you will also unnecessarily rough up the fragile environment.

If you have entered the open pine forest, start to go north to the basin where the spring is located. You can gain some elevation here, but try not to go too high. What you gain, you need to lose to access the spring's basin. You want to enter the basin low enough to view the alpine flowers in-season but high enough to avoid missing it or going through thorny shrubs. You will probably drop in from the pines, down a short slope, and see an iron pipe. If you do, this is good, as you can look up and see where you want to be. From any point in this avalanche chute, hike up near the pipe until you get to some man-made catchment structures. The actual spring is slightly uphill and to the northeast from these. If flowing, you can use the sound of the flowing water to locate it. I recommend locating Philomena when the water is flow, of course! Once at the spring, relax and enjoy. Officially, it would be best if you didn't go to the summit of Humphrey, as that is illegal. Well... be careful in the tundra and watch the plants! This hike is considered round-trip and as an out and back, so return from the spring to your vehicle the way you came. It is much easier returning!

Being located so high and with little water retaining rock and earth above the spring, water availability is highly variable. Nearly dry or may be dry, in late spring to early summer before the rains come, overflowing in spring when the snow is melting above it, and again in the monsoon season when there have been abundant rains, Philomena Springs may be frozen from the middle of autumn to early winter before the snow covers the spring if it doesn't dry out entirely after the summer rains end. June is a nice time to visit, but don't expect water; consider yourself lucky if you get any. September, and during breaks in the monsoon surges, is the best time to visit. This is the San Francisco Peaks, so the wind is expected in spring, and therefore an otherwise nice day may not be so great if unlucky. Think of high winds in spring!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2014-08-13 Jim_H
    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.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To Humphries Trailhead
    From Flagstaff follow Highway 180 West 7 miles to FR516. Turn right onto FR516 (N. Snow Bowl Rd) and follow 6.2 miles to the first large signed parking lot on the left.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 164 mi - about 2 hours 41 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 269 mi - about 4 hours 9 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 16.0 mi - about 31 mins
    page created by Jim_H on Aug 13 2014 12:51 pm
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