Red Mountain, Arizona seems like a place that should get more traffic than it does but I stumbled upon this destination on my recent road trip. After hiking Woodchute Mountain near Jerome, the temperature dropped considerably and some of the mountains I wanted to climb were inaccessible. I stumbled upon this gem while perusing my copy of 100 Classic Hikes AZ, 4th edition (I love the book and receive no royalties from promoting it!). The scenery reminded me of Bryce Canyon.
Getting to Red Mountain (Arizona) Trailhead
Of the many Red Mountains in the world, Arizona's Red Mountain refers to this cinder cone just North of Flagstaff. Red Mountain is part of Arizona's larger San Francisco Volcanic Field and the tallest summits of the state; I climbed the more famous Humphery's Peak about 9 years ago. Red Mountain is tucked away among many smaller summits but its huge draw is the amphitheater pictured above.
From Downtown Flagstaff, take Humphrey's Stree/Highway 180 North out of town. The trail head is approximately 30 miles North on this road outside of town. Follow signs for Arizona Snowbowl initially and then pass the turnoff after about 6.5 miles. Again, 30 miles outside of town, there's a turnoff on the right for Red Mountain Trailhead. You can see the mountain and trailhead from the road but its not marked. In poor condition and with low clearance vehicles, consider parking at the clearing just off the highway. Otherwise, follow the dirt/muddy forest road (known as FS Rd 9023V on maps) 0.3 miles to the main trailhead.
Alternatively, just plug in these coordinates to your phone for directions. Here's a map of my hike:
Hiking to the Amphitheater
From the parking area, there's a single trail headed directly towards the Red Mountain amphitheater. It's 1.3 miles with 270' of altitude gain to the beginning of the amphitheater. The altitude gain is imperceptible except at the end. Note that there's little shade and no water on this short hike. Finally, note that the altitude of the trail is 6,800' so take necessary precautions regarding water, sunscreen and exposure.
On the day I hiked, it was winter and a bitterly cold day; temp was about 15-20 degrees at dawn. I had no trouble on the road in my Subaru Outback but it looked like it could get very muddy in warmer weather.
I hiked the trail quickly, trying to catch the canyon right at sunrise. Unfortunately clouds moved in and ruined my plan- oh well. The canyon is oriented in a Northeasterly direction so I'm sure sunrise lights the canyon better.
Once inside, I found a wonderland of slots, hoodoos and pinnacles. It was downright magical-
Once inside the canyon, there were several herd paths and small trails worth exploring. From what I could tell, there was no restrictions other than common sense ones- don't climb pinnacles or hoodoos, don't try and scale the cliffs ect.
In the winter, the canyon was cold and snowy; microspikes were sufficient for traction. I spent about 2 hours going up and down each small side canyon. Truely wonderful!
Again, Red Mountain, Arizona is a fantastic, short hike which is only a small detour while on the way to the Grand Canyon. If you're in the area, put it on your list!