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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

no permit
103 4 1
Guide 4 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Flagstaff NW
5 of 5 by 1
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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 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 → 9 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Winter
Sun  6:11am - 6:31pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Highest Spring in Arizona!
by Jim_H

Likely In-Season!
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 completely 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 from 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 up hill. Once at the top of the opening, start in a northeast trajectory towards the bottom of the rocky Dutchman Glade. Once there, you can 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 passed 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. Loosing elevation takes you down slope 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. You should hopefully 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 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 up-hill 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, you shouldn't go to the summit of Humphrey, as that is illegal. Well...just 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 maybe dry, in late spring to early summer before the rains come, overflowing in spring when the snow is melting above it, and again in monsoon season when there has 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 wind is expected in spring, and therefore an otherwise nice day may not be so great if unlucky. Think 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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Philomena Spring using Humphrey Summit Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Much colder and wetter than hoped for, but the summit was nice. I had it to myself again for my 45 minutes to hour spent on top. I paid a visit to the spring, traveling cross country to it from below instead of descending to it. The forest was cold, moist, and dark with the clouds and I realized I am pushing it, as it isn't fall yet. I would like to wait until the fall conditions arrive to come back to the Peaks, perhaps coming from the Inner Basin for a change.

    My 90th summit was fairly unremarkable. Lots of humidity around and distance views were shot. Felt less special than the others, but I have been up here doing it pretty frequently. Perhaps, a visit to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, or Tucson is in order? The tundra plants really look like fall is here, and I found an area of landslide up around 12,000'.
    Philomena Spring using Humphrey Summit Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    A very good hike and some new terrain was covered, which is always nice. The conditions could not have been better for this, and a bear was spotted in addition to elk and deer. Larry had trouble with his ankle and we decided to descend the other route, which proved to be a bit more scenic and was a really nice way to go. I still prefer to ascend my way, becuase I am better at knowing where I am with regard to elevation, and the views are better overall. You can go faster downhill on the game trail, however.
    [ gps route ]

    I finally visited the hot tub, and spent some more time at the spring. The only draw back for this was myself thinking that I wish I had been a back country skier when I lived in Flag, but that was never a priority. The AZ trail is really nice up here, and it looks like it would be a fun bike ride. The Aspen loop is a cruel series of gentle snake curves.
    Philomena Spring using Humphrey Summit Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I haven't been on Humphrey since August of 2012. It was good to be back. Summit # 85!!!

    While the weather was not the ideal I had hoped for, I enjoyed it immensely. It reminded me a lot of my very first summit just over 8 years ago, humid, cloudy with small gaps of sun, and the odd smell of the alpine vegetation that is sort of like cold cream. Color in the aspens has started in the Inner Basin, and parts of the summit trail, thought the avens is near or past peak of red color in many places. Today was the last full day of summer, but the fast moving clouds said fall. If you saw them, you would understand. I leave tomorrow, but a drying trend has begun for the week, so fall is here! Hopefully, I return in less than 2 weeks and weather is warm, sunny, calm and dry.

    After the trail, I went off the west ridge to Philomena Spring, which is flowing very well with all the rain, and there is a small stream on a slight ridge a couple of hundred feet below the spring. The sound of running water is so very unusual for the Peaks! I bet this did it last year, but I don't know about drier years. It is obvious that the western slope of the Peaks is not lacking for rain this September, as everything is super wet and the trail still muddy.

    After hanging out at the spring for a while, I hiked out and down the Allison Clay but started over to a helmet I found, and despite being above where I normally turned to cross the slope, I went into the trees and crossed up higher,which brought me across the Dutchman a few hundred feet above the end of the 5th switchback. So, I took the trail the rest of the way out. ...

    In the aspen and the avens.
    Philomena Spring using Humphrey Summit Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Philomena Springs/ Humphrey
    I took the trail to the Dutchman and crossed over that and then went off trail to the Allison Clay. I hiked up the AC and went over the next ridge and into the next chute to the north. I was crossing that basin planning to go over the next ridge and into the following basin to the north to look for the spring when I happened to notice some old wood with nails in it. I thought, "there must be a lot of that out here", and turned back to look at it. It was then I noticed the metal pipe line. That made no sense, since according to the maps, I needed to go one more basin to the north to find Philomena Springs. This wouldn't be the first time a map of the Peaks had errors, so I followed the pipe up hill. Eventually, it ended and I kept going. I came to a dry metal trough and was a little disappointed. I decided to look around to see if there was any water, or signs of it. I started hearing flowing water in the rocks and found an area that had been cleared out and had a large amount of cold water flowing through the bottom.

    I started walking around to see if I could find some more water in other places, but never did. I wanted to take a look in the next basin to the north and see if any evidence of a pipe or water was present. I stood hundreds of feet above the basin and couldn't see anything. Wind rushing by the rocks sounded a little like water, but I probably could have spent all day there and never found anything. As it was, Philomena is really just an accessible spring because humans cleared the rock away and made it accessible. I could see hikers above me, and since I was higher than I expected to get, I headed for the summit. I thought I wasn't going to today, but it was just so nice and I was so close, it seemed wrong not to. More so given how easy it was to find the spring. I popped up on the west side of Humphrey and made summit #81, and then hung out for a while. It was not very windy, just light gusts, and pretty warm. The views were short as it is very hazy and fires are smoking out the north and east views. I can live with it.

    I headed down the way I came. You need to like scree to do this, and have high comfort with talus. I spent some time relaxing at the spring and then did my best to retrace my steps to my car. I skipped the last section of trail and went down the ski run. Upper Hart Prairie is very lush this year and nice to walk through. Left before the sunset, but I bet it was great passing through the Beale Fire smoke. It is also helpful to know what sennecio looks like to make it easy to avoid.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Flagstaff, proceed on US 180 West for 7 miles to FR516, AKA, "Snowbowl Road". Turn right onto FR516 and take this to Arizona Snowbowl and the first large signed parking lot on the left, the same lot used for the Humphrey Summit Trail.
    page created by Jim_H on Aug 13 2014 12:51 pm
    1 TB Flash Drive... $40
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