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Mt. Elden Loop Hike - Coconino National Forest

Summary: A loop hike through pine and oak forests around Mt. Elden in Flagstaff. You can use this description to perform the loop hike described or the more popular out and back climb to the top of Mt. Elden. Several other shorter loops are also possible, see the map for ideas.
Directions: From Phoenix, take I-17 north then highway 40 east to exit 201 for Page and the Grand Canyon. Turn left off the exit ramp, drive over the bridge then take the first right onto Highway 89. Drive 0.5 miles to the parking area for Mt. Elden which is on the left (west) side of the road.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car, paved all the way
Navigation: Easy
Length: 13.6 miles
Date Hiked: August 2004
Weather Conditions: Mix of clouds and sun
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the parking lot (0 miles 6900 ft), pick up the wide trail as it heads along a gentle grade towards the mountain. Follow the signs to the Mt. Elden Lookout at any trail junctions. The path soon begins to ascend more steeply as it begins climbing up the foothills of the mountain. The predominant plant life in the area includes oak, juniper, pine and yucca. After passing the turn off for the Fatmans Loop Trail the path begins climbing more steeply up the main body of the mountain along a series of switchbacks. Higher up the hill aspens become more prevalent as you hike through an area that was heavily burned in a 1977 fire. The trail eventually reaches a shoulder with good views back down the way you came of eastern Flagstaff and beyond. The path to the lookout is 0.3 miles on a left branching spur trail. Our path continues straight towards the Brookbank and Schultz Creek Trails, however, you might want to take a quick detour to see the top of the mountain since you've come so far already. Unfortunately the top of Mt. Elden (3 miles, 9295 ft) features a road and antenna array and is not terribly exciting (though there is a public pit toilet in case you need it). Detour completed, we head north along the slope below Elden Peak towards the Brookbank Trail (note: this section does not appear to have a name, but you can think of it as a continuation of the Sunset Trail). The path soon parallels the road that leads to the summit, then bends right and follows the ridgeline towards the San Francisco Peaks in the distance. The ridgeline is called the 'catwalk' and has some nice views down to the right of the ridgeline and area you will be walking later on this hike. The path descends at a pleasant grade through the pine forest and would be quite a nice walk if it weren't for the mountain bikes that also use the path. As you continue hiking, follow the signs to stay on the Sunset Trail at any junctions. After passing the junction for the Little Bear Trail, the path begins to ascends moderately, passing a junction with the Brookbank Trail and eventually topping out at a ridge before descending once again. You descend at a gentle grade eventually reaching a signed junction with the right branching Little Elden Trail (7 miles, 8000 ft). Turn right and follow this path past Schultz Tank and through the woods eastward, roughly paralleling Schultz Pass Road. The path is easy walking as it winds through the trees below Elden Mountain to the right. Stay straight on the Little Elden Trail at any junctions until you eventually reach a fence and Little Elden Spring. The spring is basically a circular cement pool with many branching paths in the vicinity. Stay to the right following the fence line until you pick up the brown plastic trail sign once again. Soon after passing the spring the path bends right (south) and becomes rougher and more eroded (due to horse travel) as it winds its way through juniper and oak scrub through some low hills at the base of the mountain. After passing the junction for the left branching Sandy Seep Trail (11.6 miles, 7200 ft) you'll soon begin hear traffic sounds from Highway 89. There are a few use trails in this section that branch left towards the road, stay right on the main path at these junctions. The trail eventually passes through some nice open grassy fields dotted with alligator juniper before entering the pine forest once more. Soon you'll reach a signed junction indicating that you are now on the last section of the Fatmans Loop stay left and walk the remaining 0.3 miles back to the parking area (13.6 miles, 6900 ft). 
Rating (1-5 stars):
A nice loop hike. I would have given it 3 stars if not for the mountain bikes and horses. The author completed the loop hike described solo at a quick pace in just over 5 hours.
Maps: Click here for a map of the area.
Books: Sections of this loop are contained in: The Favorite Hikes, Flagstaff & Sedona, Cosmic Ray
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
View climbing Mt. Elden. Antenna and the San
Francisco Peaks.
Aspen along the Little
Elden Trail.
Easy pleasant trail. Mt. Elden range.