Inner Basin Trail
The Lockett Meadow Inner Basin is one of the top hikes near Flagstaff. The Inner Basin Trail leads you through a stunning aspen forest to a basin in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness. The basin is tucked underneath some of Arizona’s tallest mountains–Humphreys Peak, Aubineau Peak, and Rees Peak. This route leads you through a meadow that’s accessible from the Lockett Meadow Campground, making it a perfect trip for campers. Take note that this approach is an out-and-back, and is shorter and more direct than the Lockett Meadow Inner Basin Loop, which you can take if you want a longer hike with a different return trip.
This route is moderate, but it’s definitely on the easier end of moderate. Most skill levels and ages will be able to complete this route without difficulty. This is a very popular hike in the fall when the aspens at the beginning of the hike are in their full fall colors. The drive to the trailhead might be the most intimidating part of the whole trip; buses, trailers, and RVs are not recommended up here.
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Route Description for Inner Basin Trail
The Lockett Meadow Inner Basin is renowned for its gorgeous views, and the Inner Basin Trail is the route you’ll use to explore this beautiful area. The basin is underneath the tallest mountains in the state, and the path to it takes you through a beautiful aspen forest. In the fall when the aspens turn color, this is an even more popular route.
Note that this is a shorter out-and-back approach to the basin. You can take a longer loop if you’d like, which we also offer a route guide for.
This hike takes you through beautifully varied terrain, leading from the campsite through the pine trees and aspens and up to the foothills, where the mountain views are great. We recommend this hike either when the wildflowers are in bloom, which tends to be early-mid summer, or when the fall colors are at their best, which is normally late September through late October.
The route itself is easy-moderate, and there are no major challenges to tackle. Hikers of most ages and skill levels will be able to complete this trail, as the elevation gain required is gradual.
Since this route starts from the Lockett Meadow Campground, it’s a perfect pick for a half-day adventure for campers, but there’s designated day-use parking also. Note that the road to the trailhead is precarious, with steep, winding curves and narrow lanes. We do not recommend the drive for trailers, RVs, or large vehicles. The road is closed in the winter.
The trailhead for the Inner Basin Trail is at the very back of the day-use parking area. You’ll start by hiking through a mature pine forest. Since most of the elevation gain on this hike occurs near the midpoint, you can enjoy a fairly relaxed beginning.
The pine trees give way to aspens, and the contrast of the white bark against green grass is a treat to see. There are occasionally people and families taking photos in these trees. It’s a very popular spot!
Begin a set of switchbacks towards the inner basin. This part of the hike follows a dirt road, and you’ll soon turn right onto a service road that leads you into the basin. At the signed fork, continue along the basin trail.
In the basin, your views of the mountains are fabulous. As you stroll through the meadow, you will have views of Rees Peak and Aubineau Peak towering right overhead, as well as Humphreys Peak, which can be seen just past them. There are a couple of wooden shelters in the basin if you want to sit in the shade and take in the view for a while.
To leave the basin and start your return trip, simply retrace your steps on the same route.
Hiking Route Highlights
San Francisco Peaks
The San Francisco Peaks are a volcanic mountain range in the San Francisco volcanic field north of Flagstaff, Arizona. These peaks are a remnant of former San Francisco Mountain. The range is anchored by Humphreys Peak, the highest mountain in the state, and complemented by Aubineau Peak, Rees Peak, and more. The mountain range is a very popular destination for hikers, campers, and skiers from Northern Arizona and beyond.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Lockett Meadow a hard hike?
No, this hike is easy-moderate.
Is Lockett Meadow open?
The access road to the meadow is normally open from spring to mid-October.
When is the best time to see fall leaves in Flagstaff?
Fall foliage usually starts to turn colors in mid-September and continues to change until the leaves drop around late October.
Insider Hints for Inner Basin Trail
- Day-use parking is free. Take care not to accidentally park in overnight spaces, which are not free.
- Arizona’s summer monsoons can hit hard and fast. If there is any rain in the forecast, consider postponing your hike until it passes.
Getting to the Inner Basin Trail Trailhead
The trailhead for the Inner Basin Trail is in the Lockett Meadow Campground.
Inner Basin Trail Elevation Graph
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Inner Basin Trail Reviews
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