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Elden Lookout Trail #4, AZ

Guide 412 Triplogs  3 Topics
  3.5 of 5 
no permit
1k 412 3
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,900 feet
Elevation Gain 2,409 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,422 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 17.51
Interest Peak
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3  2021-07-31 toddak
10  2021-07-14 azbackpackr
15  2021-06-19
Elden - Oldham - Sunset Loop
4  2021-06-19
Elden - Oldham - Sunset Loop
25  2021-06-05
Elden Loop via Sandy Seep
6  2021-05-19 JuanJaimeiii
6  2020-08-01
Mount Elden Loop
13  2020-08-01
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 13
Author desertgirl
author avatar Guides 20
Routes 5
Photos 3,098
Trips 440 map ( 3,112 miles )
Age Female Gender
Location Chandler, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Jun, Sep, Oct → Any
Seasons   Late Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  5:34am - 7:31pm
Official Route
13 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimeteracres
🔥 1977 Radio Fire4.8k

Heart Pumper
by desertgirl

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The lookout tower has been closed to the public since 2009. It is still a fabulous hike. See 2017 report.

What a trail - Short and strenuous ascending 2000ft in about 2-miles, Great views of the city of Flagstaff and surrounding Coconino plateau, a forest on the mend from a 1977 fire, and some exciting terrain described as "Corduroy cast in stone" and "Staircase of petrified lava" ( not sure about the correctness of "petrified"), make this a must-do.

Elden Lookout Trail #4 begins deceptively flat for the first ~mile as it winds its way through fragrant stands of juniper, pinyon pine, and ponderosa. You soon reach the sign for FatMan's Loop and Pipeline Trail. Upon reaching the base of the mountain, the trail begins to climb in earnest with several switchbacks. This steep & rocky trail has a lot of work into it - stone stairs, cribbing to support the trail as it hangs out over space, and a fair amount of stabilization to limit erosion. Sparse forest allows for great views to the north and east into East Flagstaff, Doney Park, Sunset Crater area, and the painted desert is on the horizon.

The impressive rock formations resulting from the cooling & shrinking of lava attest to the volcanic origins of Mt. Elden. Clinging onto the rocky terrain with shallow topsoil are stands of Alligator Juniper, Ponderosa Pine, Gambel Oak, Mountain Mahogany & Cliff-Rose. The steep climb puts you on the ridge top at 2.8-miles from the trailhead. Bleached skeletons of pine, blackened trees, and thickets of young aspen greet you. This is the result of the Radio Fire of 1977 that devastated much of the top and eastern slope of Elden. The young aspen are a sign of the land in recovery. These thickets will become tall trees and provide nurturing shade for the pine forests to take hold, which will eventually thin out the aspen and return the slopes of Elden to mixed conifer forest.

You will encounter a sign: 0.2-miles to the Lookout. Make this final ascent to the top through aspen thickets to great views all around - North: San Fransisco Peaks & city of Flagstaff, Southwest: Oak Creek Canyon & Mingus Mountain, South: heavily forested Mogollon Rim country and cinder cones to the east. There are several radio towers at the top as well as a lookout station atop Elden. Return the way you came - a lot more fun going down. Carry all the water you need. This is an early morning hike to avoid the heat and lightning from afternoon thunderstorms. You can take a detour through Fatman's loop on your return for added variety.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2002-11-12 desertgirl
  • 2020 Kachina Peaks Map
    area related
    2020 Kachina Peaks Map
  • book
    area related
  • 100 Classic Hikes - 2007
    area related
    100 Classic Hikes - 2007

Coconino FS Details
From its base, the southeastern slope of Mount Elden looks like corduroy cast in stone. This trail leads you up that staircase of petrified lava to the mountain's summit 2,300 feet above Flagstaff. The route starts as a gradual climb along the shorter and less steep Fatman's Loop but increases in gradient as the Lookout Trail strikes out on its own ascent to the mountain top. Along the way, you'll want to stop and catch your breath while you enjoy breathtaking views of the city and surrounding area as well as intimate views of the mountain's very visible geology.

The lower reaches of the trail pass through a mixed pinyon-juniper woodland and ponderosa pine forest changing to mixed conifers as you climb. You may be surprised to encounter a couple of different kinds of cactus in this high, cold environment where they seem to do very well.

Near the top of the climb you'll walk through an area devastated by a huge wildfire in 1977. Here, you'll see how much destruction can result when a simple campfire gets out of control. At the same time, you'll get a first hand look at how nature recovers from such a catastrophic event. Groves of aspen trees are springing up where pines once stood. They are the first step in a chain of events that will eventually result in the growth of another pine forest here. Before that happens, Flagstaff and its visitors will get to enjoy many years of fall colors visible from most of town.

The Elden Lookout Trail connects to the Oldham Trail at the top of the mountain making a long loop hike possible if you park a car at Buffalo Park or arrange a pickup there.


WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Permit $$

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
Follow Santa Fe Ave past the Flagstaff Mall and the Peaks Ranger District Office to the trailhead parking lot just off the north side of the street.

Go East on Highway 89. At 5.2 miles, just beyond Flagstaff Mall (MP 419.5), you will see a sign for "Mt Elden Trailhead" and a paved driveway to your left into a parking lot bounded by pole fence.

This is a popular trail, so parking may be limited. Go through 2 maze-type gates, and you will be headed right up to Mt.Elden
90+° 8am - 6pm kills
Avoid Heat Illness - stay cool
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