Hiking the Aspen Forests of Inner Basin Trail — Flagstaff, AZ

A highlight of Flagstaff, AZ, the Inner Basin Trail wanders through an extremely photogenic grove of beautiful white aspens. This is one of Flagstaff's top trails since it is short, dog-friendly, and close to several great campgrounds.

Therefore you will most likely have to share your forest experience with several other groups of hikers, but it's a great chance to see a large stand of aspen trees.

Did you know the largest organism on Earth is a colony of Aspens all connected underground by a shared root system? I had no idea Aspen trees were colonial, and that all the trees in a colony are actually genetically the exact same! Mind blown.

 

Hike Info

Miles: 3.5 roundtrip
Elevation Change: 955 ft
Trail Type: Out and back
Trailhead: Google Maps
Cost: Free

 Trail elevation profile

Trail elevation profile

Inner Basin trail map

 

Getting There

Since the Inner Basin itself sits in a crater surrounded by the San Francisco Mountains, the drive up to the trailhead involves heading up a windy dirt road up the side of a mountain where two cars can just fit past each other. Take a car that you feel confident can handle some dirt roads, and be prepared for oncoming traffic turning around the narrow corners.

You'll pass Lockett Meadow and then the campground, but follow the signs past the day use area to the dirt lot for the trailhead.

 

The Hike

From the lot, the trail steadily gains elevation and starts off through shrubbery, ponderosa pines, and some baby aspen that might make you wonder if you're on the correct trail to the thick aspen forests.

You'll notice the aspens growing thicker and thicker around you, and once you start to spot the switchbacks up the hill about a mile in, you'll be in the part of the trail with the thickest trees.

I love how aspens photograph.

They grow so densely, and their white bark give the forest such a pure and almost angelic look. If you're lucky enough to also catch the sun peaking through, you really do feel like you're wandering through a magical forest.

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We saw several groups turn around before heading up the hill, but I recommend at least climbing up partway to get a different perspective of the forest.

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You have plenty of time to enjoy the aspens all the way up the hill before turning around and heading back down the switch backs back down to the valley floor.

We hiked in the summer, but I can only imagine how gorgeous this hike must be in the fall when the aspens turn bright yellow!

 

Favorite gear for this trip:

Other useful sites:
Hike Arizona
Hiking Project