The hike up Kendrick Peak provides a great workout and a quieter alternative to Humphreys Peak, capped with a fire lookout tower that’s often occupied in the summer months.
Kendrick Trail Guide
MAP: 50 Favorite Hikes
DESIGNATION: Kendrick Mountain Wilderness, Kaibab National Forest
BEST SEASONS: June through October
DISTANCE: 9.2 miles round trip
ELEVATION: trailhead 7,740 – summit 10,418 – (difference 2,778)
ACCESS: dirt roads to the trailhead, passenger vehicles are okay when dry
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: From Flagstaff, take Highway 180 north about 13 miles to mile marker 230 (180 begins in downtown from Route 66 as Humphreys Street – turn left on W Columbus Avenue from Humphreys Street to follow 180). Turn left off of Highway 180 onto Forest Road 245. After 3 miles, turn right on FR 171. After 3 more miles, turn right on FR 190 (Kendrick Mountain Road) and continue half a mile to the trailhead. Kendrick Mountain Trailhead registers on Google Maps.
ROUTE: well maintained trail
GUIDEBOOK: 50 Favorite Hikes
The route begins through scarred Ponderosa forest, burned in 2000’s Pumpkin Fire. The trail is a gentle grade at first, but soon develops into switchbacks.
After 4 miles you’ll come to a saddle – the site of a historic cabin. A fire ring is located nearby, suggesting a likely campsite. The Kendrick Trail meets the Bull Basin Trail here.
You’ll ascend a final 300 feet over the course of a half mile to the summit, with its active fire lookout tower.
Kendrick Mountain Map
Here’s a generic map from the US Forest Service that shows the Kendrick Wilderness area as it corresponds with the surrounding area. This old USGS Topo is a nice paper map of the area, but unfortunately fails to show the trails.
The best and most-accessible map of the area is found, as usual, on CalTopo.com. If you insist on a paper map, the best ones available seem to be general schematics, like the one found in the guidebook Flagstaff & Sedona: 50 Favorite Hikes.
Additionally, here’s the schematic map as seen at the trailhead, though the Kendrick Trail isn’t very discernible in this image:
Kendrick Mountain Overview
Kendrick is one the most prominent and highest mountains in northern Arizona. With a summit elevation of 10,418 feet, it may be considered the 10th highest mountain in the state. Its elevation lends to the presence of pine, spruce, and fir forest, aspen stands, and mountain meadows.
A fire lookout tower was established here early in the 20th century, and remains in operation to this day. In summer there’s usually someone on duty, often eager to invite hikers inside the tower and chat. An old cabin sits below the summit, built in the 1900s as the historic residence of the lookout operator.
In May and June of the year 2000, the lightning-caused Pumpkin Fire burned 15,000 acres of the area, and more than half of the designated Wilderness.
More recently, in June of 2017, the Boundary Fire burned over 8,000 acres on the northeast flank of the mountain, partially over the area of the original Pumpkin Fire.
Since the most devastating original fire occurred nearly 2 decades ago, it’s interesting to see how the landscape has developed and recovered.
Kendrick Mountain Wilderness
The mountain has its own wilderness area, established in 1984 and compromised of 6,664 acres. The majority of this is managed by the Kaibab National Forest, but the mountain basically sits on the border with this and the Coconino National Forest.
The Kendrick Trail (detailed here) is the most popular of three trails that go up the mountain. The Bull Basin Trail (9 miles) goes up the north slopes, whereas the Pumpkin Trail (9.6 miles) approaches from west side.
Backpacking and Camping
It’s possible to connect the listed trails for a pleasant backpacking trip, through it’s best to have a second vehicle to accomplish this. Loop hikes are possible, but they would involve walking the forest service roads to connect the trails.
Camping is allowed anywhere within the Wilderness and/or National Forest, so long as it’s not otherwise posted as prohibited. For example, camping is not allowed at the main Kendrick Trailhead, or along the half-mile road (FR 190) that approaches it (There are signs).
There’s no water along these trails, so carry plenty! When choosing your campsite, be wary of the potential for falling dead, burned trees (aka widow-makers), which are abundant in the area.
Dogs are allowed, but should be leashed.
Volcanic in origin, the peak is a lava dome. It sits on the same fault line that gave rise to the nearby Sitgreaves and Bill Williams Mountains, which are also lava domes. Much of the rock underfoot will be basaltic cinders, and soil originating from pumice.
Henry Lane Kendrick
Kendrick was a US Army Colonel with extensive involvement on the 1800s frontier, most notably serving as commander of Fort Defiance on the Arizona / New Mexico border.
The mountain was named by one of his students from West Point, Amiel Whipple.
My Trip Notes and Photos
I day hiked the Kendrick Trail on July 3rd, 2013. The tower was occupied, and watchman was happy to invite us in and hang out for a spell.
We spotted this horned lizard within the first mile. Mule Deer and Rocky Mountain Elk are also abundant in the area.
The old cabin is a protected landmark, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Inside you’ll find a logbook for hikers to sign, if you wish.
Views from the lookout tower:
monsoon season 🙂
People like to say you can see the Grand Canyon from up here, but it’s basically only the Canyon’s North Rim you see, as the horizon to the north.