Slate Mountain

March 12, 2017


Flagstaff / SR 180 Corridor, AZ

Slate Mountain is not a mountaineering challenge by any mean and in fact, it’s often overlooked considering its proximity to Humphreys Peak – the state highpoint of Arizona. However, often it is those small peaks that offer better views and this isn’t an exception. The easy-to-access Slate Mountain Trail provides unobstructed vistas of the San Francisco Peaks, Kendrick Peak as well as other nearby volcanic features if weather cooperates. The hike is a mere stroll up a forestry road and only takes about 300 m elevation gain so suitable to anyone who can walk.

On the 4th day of my spring break vacation I happened to have about a few hours to kill and this seemed like just the right idea. The drive from Grand Canyon to Flagstaff only takes 2 hours and yet I had the entire afternoon ahead of schedule. I waited till 3 pm in the MacDonalds of Tusayan before making my drive over. First of all I wanted to avoid the afternoon heat and secondly I was kinda timing to watch sunset from the summit. The drive following SR 64 and then SR 180 due SE was quiet and fluent, but the final 2 miles on the dirt road was a different game. A few muddy sections provided challenges to my Toyota Corolla and not wanting to ruin my new car I opted to park half a mile short of the trail-head. This was still fine as the ascent wasn’t supposed to be long anyway.

Slate Mountain hiking route. GPX DL

The road has quite a few confusing branches and if not because of GPS technology I’m sure I’d have to waste more time searching around. In any case I walked the remaining section of this dirt road to the start of Slate Mountain Trail. The initial bits of this trail still felt like a trail but soon enough it merged onto a forestry service road which would eventually bring me to the summit. There were lots of switchbacks and some seemed totally unnecessary but at this point I wasn’t particularly keen on any bushwhacking so just followed it up.

From where I parked, looking back towards Humphreys Peak

This is the lowly Slate Mountain which will be my objective

This is the trail-head…

The initial stretch of this trail still felt more like a trail

But soon it’s clearly becoming a logging road

It’s as simple as it looks here…

The views were expansive throughout the hike and that’s especially true for the upper portion. Humphreys Peak and Kendrick Peak definitely stole the show. The summit was, however, largely wooded and more than half of the panorama was blocked. For that reason I abandoned the idea of watching sunset from the summit so after a long rest I started down earlier than what I had planned for.

Partway up, looking at Kendrick Peak

This is looking at Humphreys Peak

The upper portion of this road. Nothing really changes…

A lone tree near the summit

Looking north it’s the vast Coconino Plateau

The summit of Slate Mountain

Kendrick Peak

Humphreys Peak – highest peak in Arizona

Looking closely I could see Mesa Butte and part of the Coconino Rim

More desert views..

Sitgreaves Mountain

Me on the summit of Slate Mountain

Another picture of me on the summit of Slate Mountain

Going down was nice and easy and there’s literally nothing to note for. I did not go really fast though as the sky was gradually changing colours so numerous photo breaks were in the order. I got to watch some evening alpenglow from different parts of this trail and I have to say it’s well worth the effort.

Humphreys Peak and other San Francisco Peaks

Time to head down…

Started to see that evening horizon.

Another picture looking towards Humphreys Peak

A line of volcanic features north of San Francisco Peaks

One last look at Kendrick Peak

A closer look at Mesa Butte

Evening glow on Humphreys Peak – my objective for the next day

It’s sunset time!

And then, a full moon rising.

Back to the car I carefully negotiated those few muddy spots and got back onto SR 180 without any issue. There was still about half an hour’s drive to the city of Flagstaff and once there I randomly picked a burger place for dinner. And then after grabbing the following day’s food in Safeway I moved to a nearby MacDonalds to kill some time. At about 10 pm I went out, drove to a “dark spot” and slept in my car.