Though it’s a pleasant enough forest stroll in the summer, the Aspen Nature Loop really pops in fall when the aspen trees turn brilliant shades of gold. Even if you’re not much of a hiker, it should be easy enough for just about anyone to get to the main grove of aspen. Beyond that, it’s mostly a ponderosa forest with some sweeping views of the San Francisco Peaks and the valley below.
First, the facts. If you’re going during peak leaf season, you won’t be hiking this trail alone. The trail’s easy rating and popularity with families and photographers means things can get pretty crowded, especially on weekends. For us, the awe-inspiring feeling of being surrounded by these majestic giants glittering in the sunlight was worth sharing the trail with dozens of other hikers.
Humphreys Trail #151
From the parking lot, take the obvious trail, which is the same one you take to hike Humphreys Peak. You’ll start by crossing an open meadow, where you will immediately see the main grove of aspen to your left. Look at those beauties!
Look for a fork to the left that will take you down into the grove.
Aspen Nature Loop Trail #73
See? You’re already there! This trail soon drops into the grove where you’ll be immediately surrounded by hundreds of aspen. If you timed it right, they will be all aglow in their autumn glory! And if you’re a shutterbug, you’ll be clicking away. It’s nonstop beauty in every direction. This one was my favorite:
Okay, I’m going to have to hold back because I took soooooo many photos. The puffy clouds were constantly shifting the light, making every second a new delight.
But. . . everyone, and I mean everyone, has to get this shot before they leave. It’s the trend.
The trail winds its way through the grove, giving you ample opportunities to soak it all in, snapping some photos of the family along the way. If the autumn splendor is what you came here for, then you’ve already seen the best of it and can choose whether to continue or not. Beyond this point, the crowds thin out considerably.
Eventually, the trail leaves the grove and enters an open area with views of the San Francisco Peaks behind you and the valley below in front of you.
Up ahead, you’ll enter a smaller grove with younger, smaller trees. When we went, these trees were not quite as yellow, so they may take a little longer to peak. Still beautiful, but not quite as impressive.
Soon you’ll see a sign marking the loop where you can choose to go clockwise or counterclockwise. No matter which way you choose, the trail will leave the aspen and start winding through a mostly ponderosa forest. Since we see these trees year round, it didn’t seem quite as stunning. Meh.
Not to worry! The good news is this is a lollipop loop, so you’ll come back into the smaller grove at the end of the loop. Then you’ll cross the meadow again, getting different views of the mountains than before, and then retrace your steps through the glorious main grove.
It never, ever gets old.
Map & Directions
Location Kachina Peaks Wilderness, Flagstaff, Arizona
From Flagstaff, take Highway 180 (Fort Valley Road) north toward Snow Bowl. Turn right on Snow Bowl Road and follow it to a parking lot on the left for Humphrey’s Peak Trailhead, just before you enter the ski resort.
Trailhead Facilities Porta potties
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