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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.

Aspen Nature Loop, AZ

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Guide 52 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Flagstaff NW
3.4 of 5 by 21
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Loop 1.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,271 feet
Elevation Gain 270 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 40 min
Kokopelli Seeds 2.85
Backpack Possible & Connecting
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11  2018-09-22
3  2018-07-22 fricknaley
21  2017-10-14
San Francisco Peaks - AZT #34
15  2017-07-26 Oregon_Hiker
4  2017-03-25 arizona_water
15  2016-10-09
Humphreys from Hart Prairie
28  2016-07-09 JasonCleghorn
4  2016-06-30 fricknaley
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author Mountain Ginger
author avatar Guides 1
Routes 0
Photos 43
Trips 8 map ( 56 miles )
Age 37 Male Gender
Location Flagstaff, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Jun, Jul, Sep → Any
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  6:09am - 6:36pm
Official Route
8 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Super easy scenic loop
by Mountain Ginger

Likely In-Season!
This 1.5 mile hike through hart prairie is great for those short on time or those who prefer scenery over adventure. It's also a good test route for elevation acclimation.

This hike is on the western face of a gigantic mountain range and is more prone to inclement weather than the southern and eastern faces. Check the conditions before you head out. If rain/ snow is forecasted, head out early. If strong winds are forecasted, stay home or be very, very cautious.

I rated this hike as 1.5 out of 5 difficulty assuming you're acclimated to elevations above 8,000 ft. Bring water, Tylenol, caffeine and a snack if you're not used to high elevations. My genius friend swears by smoking a cigarette before a high altitude hike because nicotine increases blood flow. Don't try it if your under 18 or if you're not a fan of lung disease.

Start at Humphreys summit/ Aspen nature loop TH (North side of parking lot - West of hart prairie lodge at Snowbowl. Views of Kendrick, Sitgreaves and Bill Williams mountains are visible from the trailhead and throughout the hike. The initial decline snakes westward in and out of aspen, cork bark fir and pine for .5 mi until its fork, (this is the loop) head left (Southwest)for .4 mi until you reach the Arizona trail junction. Head right (North)for about .25 mi to the aspen loop junction - make another right at the junction and it's .8 mi back to the trail head. This is kind of a technical description for such an easy hike, so basically just follow the signage clockwise, bring your binoculars and enjoy the view!

Water sources / history lesson
The Spanish Explorers called this place "Sierra sin agua" translation: mountain without water. Just about every major water source on the mountain is property of the Flagstaff municipalities. Don't expect any along the trail, however agua and carbonated sugar water can be purchased at Snowbowl's Hart prairie lodge of just East of the parking lot and trailhead.

It's possible to continue north or south along the Arizona trail from the Aspen nature trail, in which case camping is possible, permitted and praised.

Car Camping
Consider nearby FR 522, Freidlein Prairie. Designated sites are available.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2009-05-20 Mountain Ginger
    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
    Aspen Nature Loop
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    Hart Prairie Loop
    On Saturday, after a Friday afternoon and night of heavy rain and wind that shook the tent (camped along Freidlein Prairie Road), I went up to the upper Kachina TH (Lot 6 at Snowbowl). There are picnic tables and views directly across the road to the west from where I parked. I went over there to have a look, and liked the look of the grassy hill below to the west. So I worked out a partially off-trail loop route. Started out hiking down that hill just below the picnic tables. I soon ran into a small trail, which I followed for a while, but when it seemed to be forcing me too far to the south I struck out off-trail again for a while. Eventually I came to another trail that turned out to be the Arizona Trail (section 34c), which I followed south for a short way toward a dense stand of trees (Aspen Corner). I found the old closed road that is shown by a dotted red line on my map. The map is "Flagstaff Trails Map," Emmett Barks Cartography, 7th Ed. 2016. The closed "road" is now just a pair of tracks with lots of grasses in between, and the left track disappeared quickly after I turned west on the "road." This took me to Alfa Fia Tank, which was quite lovely. I tossed a rock into the center to test the depth, and the sound indicated the tank was at least 3 feet deep. The water looks great to drink (after filtering or other treatment, of course). There were bright blue dragonflies on the eastern bank, and wild irises on the western bank, though only one of the irises had bloomed. It would be worth checking this place out in another week or two, if you want to see wild irises blooming -- there were many buds. The western bank has a bench that someone made out of a log across two big rocks. While I sat there making notes, a group of small birds (maybe ducks? - they were awfully small, for ducks) began to swim across the tank. I had not seen them fly in. Maybe they live nearby. This area would be nice to camp at, if you were backpacking along the Arizona Trail -- less than a quarter mile detour off the AZT, and trees nearby to the south to provide you some privacy. (Have to camp at some distance from the water source, and the ground around those trees is where I'd look for a place.)

    Heading west-northwest from the tank, the old road becomes a much wider and more obvious line that you can envision used to be a road. On it I crossed a pipe that was partially buried but very visible where it crossed the old road, and I passed two groups of hikers who were headed uphill along the same path. It brings you out onto Hart Prairie Road (FR151) at a place where there is what looks like a chute for livestock, built of flat, planed boards. (Most wood fencing out there is made of round, stacked logs.) The chute was on my left, as I headed west. Turning right (north) and hiking along Hart Prairie Road, I came almost immediately to a sign for "Galinas Tank" on the west side of the road. I made the short detour, on a trail through tall grasses, to check out the tank, which had no water, only plants that like damp spots. Here there were two, 3-foot high mounds of dirt. I couldn't imagine what, or who, would have made these big piles of dirt -- I snapped a photo with my phone, and I will post a photo later, after I finish the trip I'm on and if I can figure out how to post a photoset from the phone. (I'm way behind most of the country on tech!)

    Back on Hart Prairie Road headed north, there was a sign for private land on the right side for a camp (its name is Camp Colton, if I recall right) owned by Flagstaff Unified School District. I had seen a few huge green tents from the abandoned road/trail, before I reached Hart Prairie Road, so I guess those were part of this camp. Continuing north along HP Road, I came to a red-dirt trail headed uphill to the west. I'm bad at estimating heights, but the hill looked about 40-50 feet high, and I took that detour to see what I could see. Nice views of the mtns to the west, which I'd been using for orientation during the off-trail portions of the hike. Also nice views east, to Humphreys and Agassiz. Could see rain falling on a couple of places to the south -- maybe raining in Sedona.

    Continuing north on HP Road, I passed mile post 4 and hiked what felt like another half mile or so, to a right turn on Road 9007T. This road is only 1/4 mile or less long, and it ends at a parking area big enough for several vehicles, with a sign that says "Fern Mountain Wildlife Area." The road is a dead end, but points you to the east in between two areas of private property, so you can do an off-trail hike east from road's end across Hart Prairie without trespassing. I hiked uphill across the grassy prairie to catch the Arizona Trail (34c) again, and close the loop that way. While I was on that off-trail part of my hike, I began to hear gunshots. Since there's a cell signal in that area I called 911 after the 5th bang, but the man who answered said it was "probably just someone target shooting," which is a legal activity in the National Forest in July, "as long as they're not shooting toward campsites." I was concerned since I was off-trail, that the shooter might assume he could shoot in my direction without hitting any people. But I could not be sure where exactly the shots came from, because I was hearing them echo off Humphreys -- the only thing I was sure of was that the shooter was somewhere between me (in the middle of Hart Prairie), and Snowbowl. Later I saw the man with the gun, and he was on the Arizona Trail, just hiking at that point, having fired off 15 rounds or so.

    I came into dense trees again, just before reaching the AZ Trail. Then I hiked south a couple miles along the AZ Trail (section 34c) until I reached Aspen Nature Trail, which I followed up (east) to the TH for Aspen Nature Trail, which is a very short walk from the TH where I'd left my car.

    I saw two white-tail deer after hearing the gunshots. One was headed north on Hart Prairie, across my path as I headed east off-trail, about to enter a stand of pines. The second bounded across the AZ Trail, in a section where the trail was in dense trees.

    Only a few steps south of where I hit the AZ Trail there was a sign, oriented toward people hiking north on the AZ Trail, about restoring the meadow character of Hart Prairie by removing conifers from some areas. The sign has photos that were taken from the same vantage point, toward Fern Mountain, one in the 1890s and the other in the 1980s, to show the conifers encroaching on the meadow.

    A great day. Some distant thunder, a bit of rain, a bit of drizzle, overcast all day, but no scary lightning to deal with. Absolutely lovely views, easy route-finding, a family in a car on Hart Prairie Road who stopped to ask me whether I was "stranded" because a storm was threatening to break.
    Aspen Nature Loop
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    I Hart to Hump
    I needed to get some altitude training/miles in and I'm not a fan of nooner monsoon storms on mountain peaks so I camped at Hart Prairie and set out for Humphreys at 4:45am on the AZT.

    Snowbowl at 5:30
    Saddle at 7:05
    Summit at 7:45.
    Snowbowl at 9:50
    Back at camp at 10:15.
    Woke up from nap... tbd. :zzz:

    I passed 10 people along the way and there was one on the summit when I arrived. Weather was perfect. Light breeze and no bugs.

    On my way down I passed 36 ascenders before getting to the saddle. From the saddle to Snowbowl I passed another 326 on their way up. :o Though probably 75% of them were on the top half as not too many probably started much after 8am.

    I really like starting at Hart Prairie. The extra couple of miles are scenic and there are always deer in the morning. Plus, it makes it a 4k hike that way. Which has always been super imortant to me! : rambo :
    Aspen Nature Loop
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    After snowshoeing up the Dutchman Glade route in the morning, I wanted to take advantage of being on the mountain. I miss my pines and snow.

    This is my new favorite place to cross-country ski in northern AZ. I didn't realize how gentle the slopes are below the Snow Bowl parking lot, but there are many rolling hills and opportunities for Nordic skiing. I'm glad I got to experience this before the snow is gone.

    On my way down the hill, I heard a familiar sound. Part of Hart Prairie Creek is exposed below 8,800ft. It's really amazing to see the surface water break through the deep snow pack that surrounds it. This was definitely the highlight of this particular loop, but I will be back next year to connect with the AZT and several of the other features this area has to offer.
    Aspen Nature Loop
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    Humphreys from Hart Prairie
    I was camped in Hart Prairie and trying to decide what to do for my Sunday. Having camped two nights above 8000 feet I figured I was acclimated enough to attempt Humphreys. I estimated it would take me more than half an hour to drive to Snowbowl, so I decided to just start hiking from camp. Hart Prairie in the morning was peaceful and serene. I must have seen over 100 deer in several herds each counting in the dozens. :)

    Eventually I hit the AZT, and then the Nature Loop, though I cut a few of those useless switchbacks. The parking lot was busy, but the trail wasn't, which was nice. The register had 96 entries from Saturday. Presumably that would mean more than 300 people had hiked this trail the day before :o I was only the 8th entry at that point Sunday.

    I made great time up the mountain, getting from the trailhead to the summit in 2.5 hours. From the saddle to the summit and back I wore hat, gloves, and a windbreaker as there was a cool breeze. The clear skies of early morning had turned to ominous clouds and it snowed for a few minutes while I was on the summit. I absolutely love dramatic clouds. I had the peak to myself but didn't stay more than 10 minutes before heading back down.

    On the return trip, I took the higher traverse to the Agassiz Lodge where I was startled to find a line of people at least 200 deep waiting to ride the scenic chairlift. :o

    I followed the maintenance road that traverses the ski slopes to the maintenance yard and continued down the powerline road. From there I turned downhill on an old road cut until it met up with the Kachina Trail and then did a little off-trail exploring in some nice glades with plenty of aspen. My route brought me out at Aspen Corner which was in absolutely prime color, and apparently half the population of Flagstaff was there to enjoy it.

    I skipped the actual road/trail down Aspen Corner/Polar Aspen Alley to avoid the people and just dropped straight down toward camp below Alfa Fia for a fantastic day. There are some beautiful areas south of Snowbowl on the east side of the road, but it's easy to get caught in the wrong drainage too. There are a bunch of mountain bike paths too. I'd like to explore some of this area and get routes on a map as I'm sure there are some pretty good loops to be made in the shade of these pines and aspens.
    Aspen Nature Loop
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    Decided on this hike because of the elevation. I wanted to get acclimated to the elevation, for my Thursday Humphrey's summit hike. Also, I wanted to see Bismarck Lake, which I estimated was 2.52 miles North on the AZ Trail from the Nature loop. However, at 2.25 miles, I ran across two old gals going South and they said they never saw it and it must be much further North :? . So, I went a spell further and decided to turn around, as I did not want to over exert myself the day before a big hiking day.

    Conversely, the area is extremely green and lush! The wildflowers should be stellar!
    Aspen Nature Loop
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    AZT Aspen Hike
    Last summer I did a hike starting a the Humphreys TH, down the Aspen Loop, and north on the AZT. There's a really cool little stand of aspen and bracken fern, so I decided to do the same exact thing today. Started about 6:00pm, so the sun was getting low, the light was nice, and the weather perfect. Made it to the aspen grove and it was extra gorgeous with the sun going down. Took some photos, but left the tripod in the car, so I'm thinking a return trip during the same time of day may be in order soon! Glad I found this last summer, it's turned out to be one of my favorite short hikes on the Peaks.
    Aspen Nature Loop
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    AZT #34 San Francisco Peaks - Snow to Schultz
    Southbound: Snow Bowl to Schultz TH We had originally planned doing FR 300 down to Geronimo (a piece of Passage 27) but decided it might be a bit toasty for that so Shawn came up with the idea of doing the southern part of AZT 34 SF Peaks (Snowbowl to Schultz). So they came up from Pine and we came up from Phx to meet at Schultz TH at 9 AM to shuttle to Snowbowl.

    We were on the trail at 9:45 and squiggled our way over to AZT 34 via the Aspen Trail. The views on the open part of the trail are really quite nice. Also along the way we saw what I thot was Prairie Smoke that had bloomed, one of my very favorite wildflowers [ photo ]0 so I made everyone come and look just to make sure. Next you hike by Alfa Fia Tank [ photoset ] which Kathy and I had hiked to last summer. Once past the tank instead of going up to the road like Kathy and I did, you keep going straight on the AZT and continue through the forest of aspen and firs and lots of fallen trees to the sides of the trail. Some were rather large.

    The light kind of sucked for most of this hike as far as taking pictures and filming but I made my best effort anyway. It was from here that we started encountering bike riders; well actually they started encountering us because many of them wouldn't even let us know they were there. The first encounter was the worst and the guy was a jerk [-X as he didn't even apologize for almost rolling over us. These encounters continued most of the day but I am assuming most of these bikers aren't used to running over, I mean running into hikers and/or they don't know that technically THEY are supposed to yield to us. However, we always yielded to them.

    All of a sudden we were out of the aspen and just in a fir tree section. The forest floor was extremely clean. In one area, for a fleeting moment you could see Elden and then you were in the trees again. We did see a few marked trees in two different sections of the hike. They had signs on them regarding preservation; in this section it was a preservation for wildlife. In two other sections the bikers had built ramps over some rough areas using tree limbs.

    We had lunch not too far from where you cross the road at about the 6.25 mile area. Just before we got to the road, Tracy took a tumble :stretch: but fortunately just had a couple scrapes on her knee which we bandaged up. She was able to continue on and didn't even complain once the rest of the way. I'm sure it had to hurt. We still had 7 miles left per the sign on the other side of the road.

    We criss-crossed some MOTO Trails (Secret which goes quite a ways as we would cross it again and Rocky). We would also cross a few forest roads too. We were pretty much on the flat now and made decent time altho it was definitely a bit warmer at the 7600 foot level. We had descended about 1600 feet from where we started. While the trail was nice throughout, many times we would stumble as you couldn't make out the rocks sticking up thru the dust or shade.

    We did go through a couple low areas where there were lots of Rocky Mountain Iris, though waning. And of course the light was pretty awful so it was hard to get a decent picture. Anyway, you come in and out of thin forests and occasionally young ponderosa forests. Once again the forest floor was pretty clean. Thru a bouldery section Shawn pointed out that they had to move the bigger ones aside for the trail. He had not hiked this trail yet, just worked on it.

    We came to the crossroads (at about mile 11) with Flagstaff proper and had a quick discussion as Shawn was looking at the GPS to decide we needed to take the Horse Bypass to the left (NE). This walks you up a drainage and then back toward Schultz Road (though you can't see it or hear it) except for another drainage that you end up walking around. With about 2 miles left, we decided to have one more rest stop before that last push. Shawn says these types of hikes are about 10% too long and as usual, he was right. It's always hard to finish off that last little bit as you just want to get it done. My shins were starting to hurt and I could feel a blister starting on the left side of my left foot :-({|= . Today I'm still a little sore and my back was sore on Sunday, not sure why really.

    From here you could see remnants of the burn area and the back side of Elden off in a distance and an occasional glimpse of Agassiz. We weren't sure of the mileage but it ended up being about a mile further than we thot. The last part was shaded so that was nice.

    We finally made it back to Tonto Jr, enjoyed a beverage and then headed up to go get the AZT vehicle. We wanted to have Thai food but ended up messed up in traffic so just went to Beaver Street Brewery. I had a watermelon margarita (don't get this) and salmon cakes (don't get them either) but the sampler dessert was great.

    While driving back, I did finally get to see some live elk south of Flagstaff (though in low light). Thx gang for another great day on the AZT. Glad you opted for cooler temps.

    Here are 3 videos, I mostly like video 1. If you like walking in and out of thinned forests, you will also enjoy the other two:

    [ youtube video ] to Mile 3.7
    [ youtube video ] to about Mile 8
    [ youtube video ]

    lots of waning Rocky Mountain Iris throughout
    Aspen Nature Loop
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    Caroline led the way the whole hike even running in some sections. We last did this trail in the summer of 2010 when I was pregnant with George and miserable with nausea.
    The views are so nice and signs are easy to follow. There are two with AZT mileage to Mexico and Utah.
    Aspen leaves were mostly past peak in intensity. Some areas had bare trees with faded leaf litter, but other sections were lush and vibrant, bright yellow.
    After the hike we went up to the ski lift to run around, picnic, and then home for nap. Amazing how less than 300 feet elevation gain at 9000 feet can make you exhausted! I'll blame it on the kids.... not my age or skill level :D

    Patches of bare aspen and other full, lush, vibrant yellow sections.
    Aspen Nature Loop
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    Great hiking weekend with my wife - she normally does not go with me, too many bugs and snakes :scared: , but this was our get away weekend. I put my foot down and said "woman, your going hiking, weather you like it or not"! ;) kidding aside, it was a a perfect day! and she is looking forward to next time :-s

    I wanted to check out the Humphrey's trail (my son and I are hiking it next month) so, we headed up the first .50 mile or so and headed back. From here we hiked the Aspen loop, what a nice relaxing trail - the grass is high, lush and green.

    Side note - the snow making equipment is up and running! They are hoping for a Nov 29 open date :)
    Aspen Nature Loop
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    Was hoping to make it to HAZfest last weekend but the schedule didn't allow for it so we made our trip up to Flagstaff this past weekend.

    Arrived at the TH a little after 8 AM when Ryan realized he forgot his pack :o OK, no problem, at least he had his water and lunch, so, hand it over and I will stuff it into my pack; heck what's another 5-6 lbs, let's do this.

    We headed out on the Aspen Nature Loop and connected with the AZT, heading for an out and back to FR418. Took a side trip to check out Bismarck Lake which was nothing more than a small puddle. Beautiful area and we were fortunate enough to see 5 deer. Once we got to our destination we had lunch, chatted for a bit about where to have dinner (Salsa Brava) and which brewery to visit (Mother Road, the Mudslide was outstanding!!) and then made for the return hike. There was a little thunder and lighting but nothing more than a sprinkle.

    Great hike, but then again, even a not so good hike is a great hike, IMO.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To Humphries Trailhead
    From Flagstaff follow Highway 180 West 7 miles to FR516. Turn right onto FR516 (N. Snowbowl Dr) 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 Mountain Ginger on May 19 2009 6:01 pm
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