The Kachina Trail is a 10 mile, moderate hiking route along the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff, Arizona.
This enchanting trail weaves in and out of dense forests of aspen and pine into meadows filled with wildflowers and then into a land of neon green ferns that climb up to your waist.
With every step you’ll want to pause and soak in these treasured moments because there simply is so much to see along this path. If you hike too fast you might miss the hidden gems along this trail, including the many opportunities to observe the nearby wildlife.
Stepping onto the trail, the scent of fresh pine fills the air setting an earthy and relaxing mood.
As you being the journey, the trail meanders through the tall, skinny ponderosa pine trees on the edge of the forest. Every so often the sound of unapologetic car tires can be heard rolling along the main road that follows this early portion of the trail, but don’t worry — you’ll leave them behind soon enough.
After about the 0.7 mile mark, you’ll enter the Kachina Wilderness and any leftover car noises will be left behind.
The further you travel, you’ll notice those thin ponderosa pines give way to more substantial, established pines and a mix of bright white aspen trees.
Deep within these trees, the history of this land begins to reveal itself. At about a mile in, along the left hand side you’ll notice an unusual rock wall pushing up against the land. This formation is what remains of a lava flow dated from over 600,000 years ago, which also created a small cave further down this area.
Today, bright green moss and other plant life has sprouted out of this hardened lava flow, making it a unique site to pass by.
The woods begins to thin out, offering glimpses of the surrounding mountains and city below. Eventually you’ll find yourself standing in a grassy meadow surrounded by bright purple and yellow wildflowers (in season). As you look out you now have a full view of the surrounding landscape with bees and hummingbirds fluttering about from flower to flower.
The dirt path continues to follow along until about 2.75 miles when a jungle of bright green ferns now emerge. The trail becomes narrower and pushes its way past these mighty ferns.
While no machete is necessary for this labyrinth there are parts (especially towards the end of this trail) where the ferns grow over 5 feet tall and you will be walking through them like a cornfield.
Once you pass these ferns, the trail takes you into the forest again, where this cycle of forest, meadow and ferns will repeat.
At around, 3.5 miles in, you’ll find yourself in another meadow, which exposes a breathtaking view of Agassiz Peak, standing 12,365 feet high. While it is commonly confused with Humphrey’s Peak , (12,634 feet) the Agassiz Peak is the second highest point along the San Francisco Mountain Range. The Agassiz Peak blocks Humphrey’s Peak from the road.
This route ends at about 5.5 miles in, where you’ll meet the Weatherford Trail at a junction.
One of the best things you can do on this trail is to find a comfy spot and relax. This location is well known for its wildlife viewing opportunities, and if you’re quiet and patient you have a pretty decent chance of spotting some of the nearby critters.
When you’re done, return to the trailhead the way you came in.