San Francisco Peaks

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San Francisco Peaks
Dookʼoʼoosłííd(in Navajo)
Nuvatukya’ovi (in Hopi)
Wi:munakwa (Yavapai)
San Francisco Peaks.jpg
The San Francisco Peaks viewed from atop nearby 9,000 ft Mount Elden
Highest point
Peak Humphreys Peak
Elevation 12,633 ft (3,851 m)
Coordinates 35°20′47″N111°40′40″W / 35.34639°N 111.67778°W / 35.34639; -111.67778 Coordinates: 35°20′47″N111°40′40″W / 35.34639°N 111.67778°W / 35.34639; -111.67778
San francisco peaks geo.jpg
Map of San Francisco Peaks and surrounding volcanic field
CountryUnited States
Type of rock Igneous

The San Francisco Peaks (Spanish : Sierra de San Francisco) are a volcanic mountain range in north central Arizona, just north of Flagstaff and a remnant of the former San Francisco Mountain. The highest summit in the range, Humphreys Peak, is the highest point in the state of Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,851 m) in elevation. The San Francisco Peaks are the remains of an eroded stratovolcano. [1] An aquifer within the caldera supplies much of Flagstaff's water while the mountain itself is in the Coconino National Forest, a popular recreation site. The Arizona Snowbowl ski area is on the western slopes of Humphreys Peak, and has been the subject of major controversy involving several tribes and environmental groups. [2] [3]

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian, is a Western Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Mountain range A geographic area containing several geologically related mountains

A mountain range or hill range is a series of mountains or hills ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt is a group of mountain ranges with similarity in form, structure, and alignment that have arisen from the same cause, usually an orogeny. Mountain ranges are formed by a variety of geological processes, but most of the significant ones on Earth are the result of plate tectonics. Mountain ranges are also found on many planetary mass objects in the Solar System and are likely a feature of most terrestrial planets.

Arizona state of the United States of America

Arizona is a state in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western and the Mountain states. It is the sixth largest and the 14th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona, one of the Four Corners states, is bordered by New Mexico to the east, Utah to the north, Nevada and California to the west, and Mexico to the south, as well as the southwestern corner of Colorado. Arizona's border with Mexico is 389 miles (626 km) long, on the northern border of the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California.



The San Francisco Peaks, Spring 2015 Humphreys Peak AZ.jpg
The San Francisco Peaks, Spring 2015
The San Francisco Peaks (with Agassiz center), Fall 2007. SanFranciscoPeaks2007.jpg
The San Francisco Peaks (with Agassiz center), Fall 2007.
The San Francisco Peaks as seen from Bellemont, Arizona, Winter 2014. Bellemont Arizona View.jpg
The San Francisco Peaks as seen from Bellemont, Arizona, Winter 2014.

The six highest individual peaks in Arizona are contained in the range:

Humphreys Peak Highest mountain in Arizona

Humphreys Peak is the highest natural point in the U.S. state of Arizona, with an elevation of 12,637 feet (3,852 m) and is located within the Kachina Peaks Wilderness in the Coconino National Forest, about 11 miles (17.7 km) north of Flagstaff, Arizona. Humphreys Peak is the highest of a group of dormant volcanic peaks known as the San Francisco Peaks.

Agassiz Peak mountain

Agassiz Peak is the second-highest mountain in the U.S. state of Arizona at 12,360 feet (3,767 m). It is located north of Flagstaff, Arizona in the San Francisco Peaks. It is in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness on the Coconino National Forest. The peak was named for Louis Agassiz, the celebrated naturalist.

Fremont Peak (Arizona)

Fremont Peak is in the San Francisco Peaks of northern Arizona. It is the third highest point in the state of Arizona. The peak, named in honor John C. Frémont (1813-1890), is in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness on the Coconino National Forest.

The mountain provides a number of recreational opportunities, including wintertime snow skiing and hiking the rest of the year. Hart Prairie is a popular hiking area and Nature Conservancy preserve located below the mountain's ski resort, Arizona Snowbowl.

Skiing Recreational activity and sport using skis

Skiing can be a means of transport, a recreational activity or a competitive winter sport in which the participant uses skis to glide on snow. Many types of competitive skiing events are recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Ski Federation (FIS).

Hiking walking as a hobby, sport, or leisure activity

Hiking is the preferred term, in Canada and the United States, for a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails (footpaths), in the countryside, while the word walking is used for shorter, particularly urban walks. On the other hand, in the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, the word "walking" is acceptable to describe all forms of walking, whether it is a walk in the park or backpacking in the Alps. The word hiking is also often used in the UK, along with rambling, hillwalking, and fell walking. The term bushwalking is endemic to Australia, having been adopted by the Sydney Bush Walkers club in 1927. In New Zealand a long, vigorous walk or hike is called tramping. It is a popular activity with numerous hiking organizations worldwide, and studies suggest that all forms of walking have health benefits.

Arizona Snowbowl an alpine ski resort located on the San Francisco Peaks

Arizona Snowbowl is an alpine ski resort in the southwest United States, located on the San Francisco Peaks of northern Arizona, seven miles (11 km) north of Flagstaff. The Snowbowl ski area covers approximately one percent of the San Francisco Peaks, and its slopes face west and northwest.

Humphreys Peak (latitude 35°20'47" N) and Agassiz Peak (latitude 35°19'33" N) are the two farthest south-lying mountain peaks in the contiguous United States which rise to a height of more than 12,000 feet above sea level.

Prior to its collapse due to a lateral eruption to the northeast (around 200,000 years ago) and subsequent glacial erosion, the San Francisco Peaks fully matured elevation is estimated to have been around 16,000 feet. [4]

A lateral eruption, also called a flank eruption or lateral blast if explosive, is a volcanic eruption that takes place on the flanks of a volcano instead of at the summit. Lateral eruptions are typical at rift zones where a volcano is breaking apart. Since it is easier for molten rock to flow laterally out the sides of weak flanks, the flank gives way before magma is pushed up through a conduit that feeds magma to the summit. These features are commonly found at shield volcanoes and produce basaltic lava flows and cinder cones.


In 1629, 147 years before San Francisco, California, received that name, Spanish friars founded a mission at a Hopi Indian village in honor of St. Francis, 65 miles from the peaks. Seventeenth century Franciscans at Oraibi village gave the name San Francisco to the peaks to honor St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of their order. [5] The mountain man Antoine Leroux visited the San Francisco Peaks in the mid-1850s, and guided several American expeditions exploring and surveying northern Arizona. Leroux guided them to the only reliable spring, one on the western side of the peaks, which was later named Leroux Springs.

Hopi ethnic group

The Hopi are a Native American tribe, often recognized for populating the North American continent and in particular, Arizona. As of the 2010 census, there are 19,338 Hopi in the United States. The Hopi language is one of 30 in the Uto-Aztecan language family. The majority of Hopi people are enrolled in the Hopi Tribe of Arizona but some are enrolled in the Colorado River Indian Tribes. The Hopi Reservation covers a land area of 2,531.773 sq mi (6,557.26 km2).

Francis of Assisi Catholic saint and founder of the Franciscan Order

Saint Francis of Assisi, born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, informally named as Francesco, was an Italian Catholic friar, deacon and preacher. He founded the men's Order of Friars Minor, the women's Order of Saint Clare, the Third Order of Saint Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.

Mountain man

A mountain man is an explorer who lives in the wilderness. Mountain men were most common in the North American Rocky Mountains from about 1810 through to the 1880s. They were instrumental in opening up the various Emigrant Trails allowing Americans in the east to settle the new territories of the far west by organized wagon trains traveling over roads explored and in many cases, physically improved by the mountain men and the big fur companies originally to serve the mule train based inland fur trade.

Around 1877, John Willard Young, a son of the Mormon leader Brigham Young, claimed the area around Leroux Springs, and he built Fort Moroni, a log stockade, to house railroad tie-cutters for the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, which was then being built across northern Arizona. [6]

John Willard Young Member of the Council of Fifty

John Willard Young was a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is one of the few individuals to have been an apostle of the LDS Church and a member of the First Presidency without ever having been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Brigham Young 19th-century Latter Day Saint religious leader

Brigham Young was an American religious leader, politician, and settler. He was the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his death in 1877. He founded Salt Lake City and he served as the first governor of the Utah Territory. Young also led the foundings of the precursors to the University of Utah and Brigham Young University.

Stockade enclosure of palisades and tall walls made of logs placed side by side vertically

A stockade is an enclosure of palisades and tall walls made of logs placed side by side vertically with the tops sharpened as a defensive wall.

In 1898, U.S. President William McKinley established the San Francisco Mountain Forest Reserve, at the request of Gifford Pinchot, the head of the U.S. Division of Forestry. The local reaction was hostile—citizens of Williams, Arizona, protested and the Williams News editorialized that the reserve "virtually destroys Coconino County." [6] In 1908, the San Francisco Mountain Forest Reserve became a part of the new Coconino National Forest.

In 2002, Arizona Snowbowl, the ski resort on the peaks, proposed a plan to expand and begin snowmaking using reclaimed water made of treated sewage effluent. A coalition of Indian tribes and environmental groups sued the Coconino National Forest, which leases the land to the ski resort, in an attempt to stop the proposed expansion, citing serious impacts to traditional culture, public health, and the environment. [3] In 2011, construction began on a wastewater pipeline to the peaks. In response, there has been an ongoing series of protest actions including demonstrations and lockdowns in which protesters have chained themselves to construction equipment. [7] Notable protesters include Navajo musician Klee Benally, singer/guitarist for the punk rock band Blackfire, who has been arrested for disorderly conduct during his ten years of protests. [8] In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Arizona Snowbowl, and wastewater to snow conversion began in the 2012-2013 ski season. [8]


The biologist Clinton Hart Merriam studied these mountains and surrounding areas in 1889, describing a set of six life zones found from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the summit of the mountains, based on elevation, latitude, and average precipitation. He designated their characteristic flora, as follows:

Composite image of the Peaks and the San Francisco volcanic field, looking SW towards Flagstaff. NASA image from satellite imagery projected onto a digital elevation model. SanFranciscoPeaks.ASTER,20031021.jpg
Composite image of the Peaks and the San Francisco volcanic field, looking SW towards Flagstaff. NASA image from satellite imagery projected onto a digital elevation model.

Merriam considered that these life zones could be extended to cover all the world's vegetation types with the addition of only one more zone, the tropical zone.

The San Francisco Peaks themselves contain four of the six life zones. The four life zones which are found along the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks are listed below along with their approximate elevation ranges, dominant tree species found within each of the four life zones, and average annual precipitation of each life zone: [9]

In native culture

The San Francisco Peaks have considerable religious significance to thirteen local American Indian tribes (including the Havasupai, Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni.) In particular, the peaks form the Navajo sacred mountain of the west, called Dook'o'oosłííd. The peaks are associated with the color yellow, and they are said to contain abalone inside, to be secured to the ground with a sunbeam, and to be covered with yellow clouds and evening twilight. They are gendered female. [16]

For the Hopi people, the San Francisco Peaks are associated with the intercardinal direction southwest. They constitute ritually pure sacred spaces, and are used as sources for ceremonial objects. [17] :553-556 The alignment of the sunset from the peaks to Hopi villages on Black Mesa is used to calculate the winter solstice, signifying "the beginning of a new year, with a new planting season and new life." [17] The peaks are seen as the home of the katsinam or kachina spirits, ancestors who have become clouds following their death. [17] Katsinam are invited to Hopi villages to serve as ethical and spiritual guides to the Hopi community from midwinter to midsummer. Aaloosaktukwi or Humphrey's Peak holds particular religious significance and is associated with the deity Aaloosaka, a symbol of the Two-Horn Society, a religious group among the Hopi dating to the occupation of the Awat’ovi village on Antelope Mesa. [17] Depiction of the peaks in association with calendar-keeping is attested in a kiva at the Hisatsinom settlement of Homol'ovi, which was occupied from 1250 to 1425; [17] katsinam imagery dates to the 13th century as well. [17] :556 Other Native American peoples also relate kachina spirits to heavy snowfalls on the peaks.

Lockett Meadow, 1996 Lockett Meadow, 1996.jpg
Lockett Meadow, 1996

There are several names for the San Francisco Peaks in local languages: [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

The life zone concept was developed by C. Hart Merriam in 1889 as a means of describing areas with similar plant and animal communities. Merriam observed that the changes in these communities with an increase in latitude at a constant elevation are similar to the changes seen with an increase in elevation at a constant latitude.

Northern Arizona

Northern Arizona is an unofficial, colloquially-defined region of the U.S. state of Arizona. Generally consisting of Coconino County, Yavapai County, Navajo County, and Apache County, it is geographically dominated by the Colorado Plateau, the southern border of which in Arizona is called the Mogollon Rim. Mohave County, located in the northwest of the state, may or may not be considered part of Northern Arizona, depending on local opinions.

Trinity Alps

The Trinity Alps are a mountain range in Siskiyou County and Trinity County, in Northern California. They are a subrange of the Klamath Mountains and located to the north of Weaverville.

Coconino National Forest protected area in Arizona, USA

The Coconino National Forest is a 1.856-million acre United States National Forest located in northern Arizona in the vicinity of Flagstaff. Originally established in 1898 as the "San Francisco Mountains National Forest Reserve", the area was designated a U.S. National Forest in 1908 when the San Francisco Mountains National Forest Reserve was merged with lands from other surrounding forest reserves to create the Coconino National Forest. Today, the Coconino National Forest contains diverse landscapes, including deserts, ponderosa pine forests, flatlands, mesas, alpine tundra, and ancient volcanic peaks. The forest surrounds the towns of Sedona and Flagstaff and borders four other national forests; the Kaibab National Forest to the west and northwest, the Prescott National Forest to the southwest, the Tonto National Forest to the south, and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest to the southeast. The forest contains all or parts of ten designated wilderness areas, including the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, which includes the summit of the San Francisco Peaks. The headquarters are in Flagstaff. There are local ranger district offices in Flagstaff, Happy Jack, and Sedona.

Eldorado National Forest

Eldorado National Forest is a U.S. National Forest located in the central Sierra Nevada mountain range, in eastern California.

The Coconino Plateau is found south of the Grand Canyon and north-northwest of Flagstaff, in northern Arizona of the Southwestern United States.

Kendrick Peak mountain in Arizona

Kendrick Peak or Kendrick Mountain is one of the highest peaks in the San Francisco volcanic field north of the city of Flagstaff in the U.S. State of Arizona and is located on the Coconino Plateau in Coconino County.

Mount Elden mountain in United States of America

Mount Elden or Elden Mountain is located in central Coconino County northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona. It takes its name from one of the region's earliest Anglo settlers, John Elden, who, along with his family, established a homestead on the mountain’s lower slopes and grazed sheep on the open grasslands below during the late 19th century.

Kachina Peaks Wilderness

Kachina Peaks Wilderness is a 18,616-acre (75 km2) wilderness area about 6 miles (10 km) north of Flagstaff within the Coconino National Forest in the U.S. state of Arizona.

Geography of Arizona

Arizona is a landlocked state situated in the southwestern region of the United States of America. It has a vast and diverse geography famous for its deep canyons, high- and low-elevation deserts, numerous natural rock formations, and volcanic mountain ranges. Arizona shares land borders with Utah to the north, the Mexican state of Sonora to the south, New Mexico to the east, and Nevada to the northwest, as well as water borders with California and the Mexican state of Baja California to the southwest along the Colorado River. Arizona is also one of the Four Corners states and is diagonally adjacent to Colorado.

Klamath Mountains (ecoregion) Ecoregion (WWF)

The Klamath Mountains ecoregion of Oregon and California lies inland and north of the Coast Range ecoregion, extending from the Umpqua River in the north to the Sacramento Valley in the south. It encompasses the highly dissected ridges, foothills, and valleys of the Klamath and Siskiyou Mountains. It corresponds to the Level III ecoregion designated by the Environmental Protection Agency and to the Klamath-Siskiyou forests ecoregion designated by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

California montane chaparral and woodlands

The California montane chaparral and woodlands is an ecoregion defined by the World Wildlife Fund, spanning 7,900 square miles (20,000 km2) of mountains in the Transverse Ranges, Peninsular Ranges, and Coast Ranges of southern and central California. The ecoregion is part of the larger California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion, and belongs to the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome.

Wasatch and Uinta montane forests

The Wasatch and Uinta montane forest is a temperate coniferous forest ecoregion in the Wasatch Range and Uinta Mountains of the western Rocky Mountains system, in the Western United States.

Great Basin montane forests

The Great Basin montane forests is an ecoregion of the Temperate coniferous forests biome, as designated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

<i>Packera franciscana</i> species of plant

Packera franciscana is a rare species of flowering plant in the aster family known by the common name San Francisco Peaks groundsel, or San Francisco Peaks ragwort. It is endemic to Arizona in the United States, where it is known only from the San Francisco Peaks in Coconino County. It is threatened by recreational activities in its habitat. It is a federally listed threatened species of the United States.

Mixed coniferous forest is a vegetation type dominated by a mixture of broadleaf trees and conifers. It is generally located in mountains, below the upper montane vegetation type.

The upper montane forest is a vegetation type generally found above the mixed coniferous forest and below the subalpine forest vegetation types.

Columbine-Hondo Wilderness is a 44,698-acre (18,089 ha) Wilderness area located within the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. The area was added to the National Wilderness Preservation System on December 19, 2014 by Public Law 113-291. Located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this area contains the headwaters to the Rio Hondo and Red River as well as three peaks which rise to or above timberline.


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  2. "San Francisco Peaks, AZ". NASA Earth Observatory. Archived from the original on 2006-09-30. Retrieved 2006-05-23.
  3. 1 2 Nasaw, Daniel (2011-10-19). "Indians oppose 'recycled' sewage for Arizona skiing". BBC News Magazine. BBC.
  4. Hardy, James A. "The History of the San Francisco Peaks" (PDF). Flagstaff Visitor Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-07-17.
  5. Cline, Platt (1976). They Came to the Mountain. Flagstaff: Northern Arizona University with Old Town Press.
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  7. MacMillan, Leslie (August 19, 2013). "Diné activist protests wastewater-to-snow scheme". High Country News.
  8. 1 2 MacMillan, Leslie (September 26, 2012). "Resort's Snow Won't Be Pure This Year; It'll Be Sewage". New York Times.
  9. "Biotic Communities of the Colorado Plateau". Northern Arizona University and United States Geological Survey. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2012.
  10. "Alpine Tundra" (PDF). Coconino National Forest Plan Revision. United States Forest Service. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
  11. "Species Biology And Population Trend" (PDF). Arizona Game and Fish Department. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-08-23. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
  12. "Alpine Tundra Biome". Northern Arizona University. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
  13. Epple, Anne Orth; Epple, Lewis E. (1995). A Field Guide to the Plants of Arizona. Falcon Publishing.
  14. "Alpine Tundra". Arizona Game and Fish Department. Retrieved 2006-09-09.[ permanent dead link ]
  15. "Kachina Peaks Wilderness". GORP. Archived from the original on 2010-05-13.
  16. Robert S. McPherson, Sacred Land, Sacred View: Navajo perceptions of the Four Corners Region, Brigham Young University, ISBN   1-56085-008-6.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Glowacka, Maria; Dorothy Washburn; Justin Richland (2009). "Nuvatukya'ovi, San Francisco Peaks". Current Anthropology. 50 (4): 547. doi:10.1086/599069. ISSN   0011-3204.
  18. Munro, P et al. A Mojave Dictionary Los Angeles: UCLA, 1992

Further reading