San Francisco Mountain, Flagstaff, Arizona | Camping

San Francisco Mountain, Arizona

Welcome to the top of Arizona! San Francisco Mountain is the tallest mountain in the state. It soars above Flagstaff, in northern Arizona, and can be seen from many miles away. Humphreys Peak Trail (accessed from the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Area) takes you to the 12,633 foot peak where you can see it all, including the Grand Canyon.

There are several more superb hiking trails in the area and some are great fun for mountain biking. In addition, dozens of forest roads provide a closer look at this majestic mountain. There are literally hundreds of campsites here in the national forest, which make it easy to enjoy one of the most beautiful mountains in America.

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Where in The World?

There are 2 main highways that access San Francisco Mountain: Highway 180, west of the mountain, and Highway 89, east of the mountain. Each highway travels north from Flagstaff, Arizona to reach the mountain.

Dozens of national forest roads branch from these highways and this is prime camping territory. Here on public land in the Coconino National Forest, dispersed camping is free. The camping limit is 14 days in a 30-day period. You can learn more by visiting the Coconino National Forest webpage on dispersed camping.

Camping Elevation: 7,000 to 8,000 feet

San Francisco Mountain Area Map

San Francisco Mountain RV Camping Journal

August 2, 2011

I’m camped west of San Francisco Mountain off FR 164C.

Weather: August is here and the weather has been nice overall. I’ve had highs in the 70s and lows around 50. At almost 8,000 feet, this is a higher elevation than I camped at last summer, and it is a bit cooler. It’s monsoon season and storms usually roll in after 11 am. I haven’t had a whole lot of rain though; there were just a couple days where it rained most of the afternoon. Otherwise, I’ve had just a shower here and there.

It’s been very calm most of the time. The wind usually only picks up when the sun is shining. Since it’s been mostly cloudy, especially in the afternoons, the wind is down and I’ve been able to fly my micro RC plane about any time I want (and it pretty much has to be dead calm to fly a 1 ounce airplane!). It is much calmer here in the forest than it usually is in the desert.

Wildlife: I see many squirrels at my campsite; golden-mantled squirrels are very common and I also see tassel-eared squirrels (Abert’s squirrel) which are grey and have long tassels on their ears. I usually see these squirrels at a distance and hear them climbing trees. I see and hear many birds: robins, mourning doves, woodpeckers, turkey vultures, and many others. There are deer and elk too. I saw a huge bull elk with a very large rack. I haven’t seen any lizards. I heard coyotes yipping a couple times.

Cows: I didn’t see any cows when I arrived; however, about a week ago several appeared.

Cell Signal: Cell phone reception is excellent. Verizon mobile broadband internet has been fast, and very fast with my external antenna.

July 26, 2012

I’m camped off FR 418 on the northeast side of San Francisco Mountain.

This is a wonderful campsite along a ridge in the foothills of San Francisco Mountain. From the site I can practically see all the way to the Grand Canyon. Not quite sure though if it’s the Grand Canyon or perhaps the Little Colorado River Canyon. I see juniper forest down below me and then the Painted Desert beyond. I really get the feeling I’m camping on a mountain here, which is hard to do in Arizona, unless you strap on a backpack…not so easy with an RV. Further down the road I’m on (to the east) the views get even better.

Recreation: This is a hiking and biking paradise. There are many forest service roads to mountain bike, including the scenic ride along FR 418 that goes around the north end of San Francisco Mountain. Watch out for the nasty sections of washboard road though. There are many lesser roads north of the mountain to explore as well.

Most of San Francisco Mountain lies within the Kachina Peaks Wilderness and there are several hiking opportunities. It’s best to stick to trails as hiking cross-country on the mountain can be extremely difficult. Once you ascend in elevation the forest grows very thick with many fallen logs. It can be very steep in places too.

The Inner Basin Trailhead is to the southwest and the Abineau/Bear Jaw Trailhead is west along FR 418.

Weather: It’s late July and the weather has been very pleasant almost everyday. A bit of rain did create some large rain puddles, but they quickly dried. Surprisingly, the wind hasn’t been bad at all. Highs had been in the 70s, hovering around 80. Lows in the 50s. I did have some thunderstorms in the afternoons, but overall it was mostly sunny.

Wildlife: Never saw any big game at my campsite, and didn’t catch any with my trail camera. I did see deer and possibly elk while hiking. Many birds including hummingbirds, ravens, robins, wild turkeys, mourning doves, and several others. I saw cottontail rabbits, grey squirrels, and several butterflies too.

Insects: No problem with insects. I didn’t even see mosquitoes, not even when backpacking overnight on the mountain.

Peacefulness: The campsite is right next to a minor forest service road. The road doesn’t see much traffic, maybe two cars per day – a few more on the weekends. I could sometimes hear vehicles traveling along FR 418, as this road is close. Traffic was light though, and most of the time it was quiet. That may change some when the road to Locket Meadow re-opens (it was closed at the time). I could see trucks on this road, which goes up the side of the mountain above me.

Cell Signal: My Verizon cell phone signal was great. Verizon Mobile Broadband Internet was fairly fast here, even though I was only getting National Access much of the time. It takes a while for videos to load, but otherwise no problems.

RV Campsite Rating: 9 out of 10. This is among the best campsites I’ve found. It’s gorgeous up here on the mountain and the expansive views down to the desert below are awesome. There’s plenty to do and hiking and biking opportunities abound.

San Francisco Mountain Video Slideshow

San Francisco Mountain, Arizona

Humphreys Trail Video Slideshow

San Francisco Peaks from Humphreys Trail

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