Imagine a winter wonderland that is open all year round, providing months of fun long after the snow has melted. Picture a short, two hour drive from Phoenix in the heat of summer where you can escape blistering Arizona desert region temperatures and enjoy cool mountain breezes among lush and green alpine forests. Hard to believe? While its winter sounding name may fool you, the Arizona Snowbowl recreation area is all that and more, twelve months out of the year for your hiking, sight-seeing, and yes, even snow skiing pleasure.
Just fourteen miles north of Flagstaff, the Arizona Snowbowl is an all year long outdoor recreation area. Sitting atop one of the highest points on the San Francisco Peaks, the Arizona Snowbowl offers winter skiing, snowboarding, backcountry hiking and overnight lodging. During the summer months visitors can take the Scenic Skyride aboard the Agassiz chairlift to an elevation of 11,500 feet. Along the way they can take in the wondrous vistas surrounding the volcanic highlands and see clear to the Grand Canyon, some 70 miles to the north. But no matter what time of the year you visit the Snowbowl there is something fun for everyone.
Originally developed in the 1930's as a ski resort and lodge, the thrill of the downhill remains an enticing lure for winter visitors. With an average annual snowfall of 260 inches, traversed by four lifts and 32 trails, the Arizona Snowbowl is the premier ski destination along the Colorado Plateau. In addition to the trails, the Sunset Terrain Park offer both skiers and snowboarders the opportunity to test their freestyle skills, negotiating such obstacles as rails, spines, half-pipes and fun boxes. For those looking to improve their downhill expertise, ski lessons and group packages are available from the Snowbowl main lodge.
After the snow melts, the Scenic Skyride aboard the Agassiz lift remains open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, bringing visitors up the face of the mountain to an elevation of 11,500 feet. At the top, visitors enjoy hiking, a close up look at the volcano from which the Snowbowl was formed, and view the expansive natural backdrop that is perfect for photographers, artists or anyone who appreciates the clean, crisp air of a mountain meadow. There are also Forest Service naturalists available to give interpretation information about the plants and wildlife you will find along the way. A 25 minute ride each way, this unique trip to the top of the Snowbowl will take visitors through several climate zones so be prepared for cooler weather. Also be aware that at these elevations the weather can change rapidly and inclement weather is common even in the warmer summer months.
For those looking for more rugged outdoor adventure the Arizona Snowbowl offers two hiking trails that begin within the park and several other trails close by. Humphreys Trail is a strenuous 4.5 mile trek up Humphreys Peak, at 12,633 feet the highest point in Arizona. Although classified as difficult, the Humphreys Trail offers the committed hiker unparalleled views of the Coconino National Forest and the entire San Francisco Peaks. The trail crosses through ponderosa pine and aspen trees, making this trail most spectacular in autumn as the colors turn to fiery gold. The trailhead for Humphreys Trail is found on the north side of the Snowbowl lodge parking lot.
The Kachina Trail is five miles of moderate hiking that will delight visitors with its wildflower meadows and panoramic views of the Flagstaff skyline. Allow 2 1/2 hours for this hike which begins at the trailhead in the south end parking lot of the Snowbowl lodge.
Nearby trails include the Rocky Ridge Trail, with its meandering paths and views of Sycamore Canyon and Oak Creek. An easy 2.2 miles, this trail can be found a mile off US 180 along FR 420. Sunset Trail is also located off FR 420 and gives hikers a stunning view of Sunset Crater, the lava fields and the entire San Francisco Peaks.
Beware of Flying Saucers
Not up for a strenuous hike? Arizona Snowbowl disc golf is one of the more unique ways to see the area. A premier, 18-hole disc golf course begins at the base of Humphreys Peak at the Agassiz Lodge and is free and open to the public. The course winds it way through the ski area, taking advantage of the sloping terrain and natural obstacles such as pine trees and mountain ponds. Sights along the course include the stunning Hart Prairie and the Northstar Run lift area. Although the course is free keep in mind that the ski entrance gate closes at 5 PM. Should you plan on enjoying the course past this time make sure you park below the entrance gate and use caution when hiking the trails from hole to hole.
There are 25 cabins open year round at the Ski Lift Lodge & Cabins, providing close-in accommodations in a crisp, alpine setting. Each cabin has a front porch and many include a gas burning fireplace. All are equipped with the comforts of home with sheets, television, shampoo and soap. The Ski Lift Lodge & Cabins are located just seven miles from Flagstaff on US 180 at the base of the Arizona Snowbowl. Also see Flagstaff Hotels and Bed and Breakfast Inns.
Getting to the Arizona Snowbowl
From Flagstaff travel north on US 180 until you reach Snowbowl Road. Turn right and drive another seven miles to the Snowbowl entrance. From Phoenix, drive north on I-17 until it becomes Milton Road. Turn left at Humphreys Street and another left at US 180. Turn right on Snowbowl Road and continue seven miles to the Snowbowl entrance.
Arizona Snowbowl Website