Most trails on the San Francisco Peaks head right for the top of this extinct volcano, the tallest mountain in the state of Arizona. The Kachina Trail breaks this pattern by setting an easy course across some of the mountain's more moderate topography. Don't let that discourage you if you think maximum altitude provides maximum enjoyment. This friendly pathway provides access to a healthy portion of the mountain's most beautiful scenery. Its gently rolling course winds along the mountain's middle slopes almost entirely within the boundaries of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area. It follows a moderate gradient through stands of whitebarked aspen and groves of tall mixed conifers separated by broad, wildflower carpeted meadows. Hikers who choose to follow it have an excellent chance of seeing some of the area's more spectacular wildlife residents, including hat-rack antlered elk and mule deer, as well as smaller but easier to see gray squirrels, Clark's nutcrackers, and Steller's jays.
At a number of points, the trail breaks free of the trees to offer good views both of the rocky upper slopes of the mountain and of the forests surrounding its base. Portions of the city of Flagstaff and its suburbs are visible as well. This hike can be especially rewarding in the fall when the scenery rings with the bugling of bull elk gathering harems for the breeding season, and when the mountain slopes glow with the gold of changing leaves. You'll want to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy while you take in all this scenery and don't forget your camera and your binoculars. Bring along a jacket, too. It gets cool up here.