On a recent roadtrip to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff and Sedona, I made a stop at Arizona Snowbowl, just north of Flagstaff. It turned out to be a highlight of my day, second only to watching the sun rise over the Grand Canyon earlier that morning. On this road trip, I was accompanied by my husband and my college-aged son — a chance for us to reconnect with him during his summer internship in Arizona.
We didn’t go to Arizona Snowbowl to ski or snowboard. This was July after all. But we did go to ride the scenic chairlift ride, a lift that takes you to over 10,000 feet on the west slope of Humphreys Peak, the tallest point in Arizona. From the top, you can enjoy views from 70 miles away, including the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
Getting to Arizona Snowbowl
From the Grand Canyon, take the AZ-64 south to US-180 east and then turn left on N. Snow Bowl Road. If you’re coming from Flagstaff, take US-180 west and turn right at N. Snow Bowl Road. (Arizona Snowbowl is only 14 miles from the center of Flagstaff.)
While it’s only a short drive from the US-180 on N. Snow Bowl Road, it’s a very pretty drive. At first, you’ll see a few pines here and there. As the elevation rises, the forest becomes much more dense. The greens of the pines are beautiful, and the occasional mini grove of white aspens stands out in contrast. I even saw a few deer by the roadside as we meandered up the mountain.
At the Base of the Lift
At the end of N. Snow Bowl Road, you’ll find a large unpaved parking lot and a small ski lodge (Agassiz Lodge). That’s where you want to be! The lodge includes a sport shop where you can buy your tickets for the scenic chairlift ride. You can also purchase Arizona Snowbowl sweatshirts, hats and souvenirs at the shop.
You may want to buy one of those sweatshirts when you learn the temperatures plummet as you near the top of the lift! The lodge has restrooms, a restaurant, and a bar/beverage station where you can buy hot chocolate to sip as you ride the lift. In the patio area where you board the lift, there is also a firepit, chairs for lounging, games to play (like cornhole and connect four), and a large yurt for special events. (click on any photo to enlarge)
During the summer, Arizona Snowbowl hosts the Friday night Sunset Music Series. Every Friday night in August, from 2-5 pm, you can enjoy live music on the patio. The chairlift hours are extended for an hour to accommodate this event. What a great date night idea — a concert, snuggling with a loved one on a chairlift, and watching the sun set. I could go for that!
The Arizona Snowbowl Chairlift Ride
Once you’ve purchased your tickets, you can board the chairlift at any time, because the lift runs continuously. Here’s where I make a confession: I’m actually quite scared of riding chairlifts. I’ve always been nervous about having a moving seat close in on me from behind and the process of getting seated on it (without falling). I realize boarding a lift might be more difficult with skis attached to your feet. You’ll be happy to know I had no problems at all boarding the lift with my husband and son, even while holding a cup of hot chocolate in my hand! And should there be any problems, the staff can easily stop the lift to make boarding easier.
The ride to the top of the mountain takes 30 minutes. It is a very peaceful ride with views of beautiful pines, willowy aspens, and wildflowers. You can wave to those who are coming down the mountain on the lift as they pass you by. We enjoyed sipping our hot chocolate, taking photos, and visiting. It’s quiet except for an occasional gust of wind or the squeak of wheels on the lift. I could also hear the whirr of a chain saw cutting fallen branches in the forest. It all felt so “outdoorsy.” When I asked my son what he enjoyed best, he said, “The views…and how relaxing it was!” Plus, when was the last time you smelled clean air mixed with the heady scent of pine? Mmmm…yeah. It’s that good.
At the Top
When you arrive at the top of the lift, it is definitely cooler than at the base. And I was surprised to see there wasn’t much growing there. I had hoped to be able to get close to one of the beautiful columbines I saw growing on the slopes, but they don’t grow at the top. However, it’s really the view that you come for, and that certainly didn’t disappoint!
Also at the top is a forest service specialist with a table set up for you to visit if you’d like to learn more about the wildlife and nature on Humphreys Peak, as well as view a chart of what you can see below. The specialist can answer any questions you have about the climate, plants, geography, animal life, and more. I quizzed myself to see if I could identify which animals had left the tracks cast in plaster and actually got a few of them right!
The restroom at the top of the chairlift has earned the title of “Highest Toilet in Arizona”. (Great instagram photo op?)
Coming Down on the Chairlift
If I thought riding up on the lift was enjoyable, I hadn’t realized how much better it would be to ride down. Riding at tree-top level was certainly beautiful, but adding the views of the valley was just gorgeous! For some reason, it was windier going down. Although it was a bit chillier, I now noticed the beautiful, almost musical, rustling of the aspens..
I could see so far as I looked towards the horizon. Because there was some cloud cover on the day I went, it was not clear enough to see the north rim of the Grand Canyon. What I could see was a beautiful valley rimmed with mountains and forests, farmland, and rolling hills. As I looked down, I saw baby pine trees growing in little clumps and a sprinkling of yellow wildflowers here and there. The ski runs that will be piled with snow in a few months are now “seas” of green meadow. A ski resort is a different world in the summer!
I have to say I was a little sad when our ride was over. I loved taking the time to stop and enjoy nature. I’m going to savor the scenes, the scents, and the sensations of riding on a chairlift. I know you will, too. Here’s a few more photos to whet your appetite:
Tips for taking a scenic chairlift ride at Arizona Snowbowl:
- The scenic chairlift is open every day from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend May 27 – September 4, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. After Labor Day weekend, it’s open Friday, Saturday & Sunday through mid-October.
- Bring a jacket or sweatshirt! Even during our July visit, the temperatures dropped from 61 degrees F at the base of the lift, to 41 degrees F at the top. And while you’re riding on the chairlift, it can be quite breezy at times.
- If you want to take photos, use a camera with a neck or wrist strap. Be very careful if using your cell phone — we saw a few shattered cell phones on the slope below.
- You can purchase your tickets online or when you arrive. There are gift card bonuses for purchasing in advance.
- While you’re here, make a day of it and enjoy some frisbee golf too!
- If you have any questions, you can call Arizona Snowbowl at (928) 779-1951
I would like to thank Arizona Snowbowl for hosting our ride on the Scenic Chairlift. We had a wonderful visit, and I am happy to recommend it to you.
Have you ever ridden on a chairlift in the summer? What did you like best? Add your comments below, and be sure to share this article with others.