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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Elden Lookout Trail #4, AZ

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915 396 2
Guide 396 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Flagstaff NE
Rated
3.4
3.4 of 5 by 52
 
12
Statistics
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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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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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7  2019-07-02 Jim_H
9  2018-09-29
Elden - Oldham - Sunset Loop
The_Eagle
9  2018-09-29
Elden - Oldham - Sunset Loop
joebartels
2  2018-08-14 azbackpackr
4  2018-08-04
Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
Nightstalker
6  2018-07-30 azbackpackr
5  2018-05-04
Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
hikerdw
8  2018-04-11 Daytripper
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 11
Author desertgirl
author avatar Guides 20
Routes 1
Photos 3,098
Trips 428 map ( 3,024 miles )
Age Female Gender
Location Chandler, AZ
Historical Weather
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Preferred   May, Jun, Sep, Oct → Any
Seasons   Late Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:09am - 6:34pm
Official Route
 
13 Alternative
 
Water
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
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Heart Pumper
by desertgirl

Likely In-Season!
Note
The lookout tower has been closed to the public since 2009. It is still a fabulous hike. See 2017 report.


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

Hike
Trail beings deceptively flat for the first - mile as it winds it way through fragrant stands of juniper, pinyon pine and ponderosa. You soon reach the sign for FatMan's Loop and Pipeline Trail. 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 fair amount of stabilization to limit erosion. Sparse forest allow 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 interesting rock formations resulting from the cooling & shrinking of lava attest to the volcanic origins of Mt. Elden. Clinging onto the rock 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 a 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 Mountains, South: heavily forested Mogollon Rim country and cinder cones to the east. There are a number of 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
  • Kachina Peaks Map
    area related
    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.

Most recent of 158 deeper Triplog Reviews
Elden Lookout Trail #4
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Conditions were not looking good for the Peaks, which was fine, and so it was a charming hike up Elden. Stormy and cloudy all around, but actually very pleasant and very nice for hiking on Elden. Elden lookout Trail number 4 remains open despite the closure from the Museum Fire.

Flagstaff has been dry this summer, but it still looks pretty green on Elden, and it should probably be pretty nice for hiking for the next month or so if anybody else is considering doing this trail. It doesn't seem to be popular this summer. Perhaps fall will get some logs, because September and October are about the nicest months of the year in which to do Mount Elden.
Elden Lookout Trail #4
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Nice hike, but I was pretty slow. I'm not acclimated yet! Saw a Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake, got a couple of photos. Weather warmish, not as much wind as forecast (thankfully!) There are a lot of prescribed burns way off in the distance. Air quality isn't very good.

I talked to one of the contractors working on the fire tower. He told me they had completely replaced the building on top of it. Nice that the USFS is planning to keep using it, rather than decommissioning it as they have done to so many of them.

@gummo for kingsnake

Elden Lookout Trail #4
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Elden and Little Elden. It was a warm, calm, golden day on the mountain, and it looks like winter already. Any plans I had to hike all the way down the Little Bear dissolved when I realize how long that would take, so I went over to Little Mount Elden, found that underwhelming, and foolishly descended the back side of that down to Little Bear, through a thicket and over rotting, falling over, and all over the ground white fir mixed with nice trees. Sort of a shame the Schultz or Radio Fir didn't burn the back side of Little Mount Elden, but not completely.

Basically no one out, except for late day hikers and a biker, and some prissy construction workers on the tower. Lots of solitude and quiet when the mountain slope blocks the road and city noise, with the quiet broken almost exclusively by the sounds of small flocks of winter birds. Super smokey views from prescribed fires, but the air was clean. The FS has much of the upper slopes of the Sunset marked for thinning operations. This is something which is at least a decade, but more like 2 or 3 decades over due. Hopefully, it gets done before another decade.
Elden Lookout Trail #4
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Elden Hart Loop
I had this loop on my list for a long time. Pulled my A team hike buddies to join me and head out of hot Phoenix for a not quite as hot hike in Flagstaff. We met up at 5AM and made it to the nearly full parking area just after 7AM. The first leg of the hike, the 3 mile jaunt from the Elden Lookout trailhead to the tower was a double Squaw peak ascent of 2400'. Fortunately, trees along the trail gave us some much appreciated relief from the blazing morning sun. We had a great chat with the super friendly Ranger in the lookout and headed north on Sunset Trail. We ran into a number of Rangers and volunteers doing some much needed trail maintenance on Sunset. Going down Hart offered some spectacular views of the valley and of Elden Lookout and was much easier than I would expect going down Elden. Once at the bottom, it's an easy 2 mile hike on Christmas Tree trail back to the parking area.
Elden Lookout Trail #4
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A leg stretcher on my way to Zion, which is where I plan to be for a few days provided smoke from the new
Brian Head Fire in Utah doesn't send me away. Ironic. A pretty nice hike on Elden, no substitute for Heliograph Peak, but still pretty nice.

A new lookout operator is in the tower and the lookout is now open to the public depending on the weather. It was my first time up there since 2008, I think.
Elden Lookout Trail #4
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Mount Elden - Dry Lake Hills Loop
This is one of our go to hikes now for color.
This seems to be the correct week for this one based on our previous 2 trips here.

We hit the Elden Lookout Trail #4 at about 8am and started the more than 2400' climb to the Lookout. Once you hit the saddle where the Sunset Trail ends, the Aspens were all aglow. There are nice tunnels of Aspens leading you up to the Lookout. This is the first time the Lookout was open while I was up there and I took legal advantage of going up into the tower. The gentleman manning the tower said he would pack it up Tuesday the 27th for the season.

A short road walk on the Lookout Road and we rejoined the Sunset Trail #23. Golden views back to Elden Mountain to the SE and other Aspen stands to the West are.... Nice... This is an enjoyable trail that takes you through Sunset Park, stands of Aspen and then lower to old growth conifer and some grassy areas.

We had never done the the upper portion of the Brookbank Trail #2 before. It will be in the rotation, as it was quite enjoyable. Mostly tall Ponderosa and smooth trail.

Once out to the Little Gnarly Trail, we headed westish across another new section for us, Dry Lake Hills. We took this to it's drop to the Rocky Ridge Trail #153.

The Rocky Ridge Trail #153, is a pleasant roller coaster through mixed conifer and deciduous.

The 1600' climb back to the top, starts in earnest on the Oldham Trail #1 and then Upper Oldham Trail. A steady climb at first and then gets steeper by the switchbacks approaching Oldham Park.

It was nice to be at the top again on the Sunset Trail, albeit a tad cold. We changed plans on our return to the truck to attempt get a good sun setting on the Aspen section of the Sunset trail. We missed prime light by 20 minutes or so. But, were able to catch a bit of golden light on the Eastern end.

All in all a nice new version of this loop.

Foliage
On the upper portions of the Elden Lookout Trail, above the Sunset Trail the Aspens were almost completely prime yellow. The Sunset Trail also was popping yellow!
Elden Lookout Trail #4
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Mount Elden - Dry Lake Hills Loop
Based on a couple subtle observations it felt like Autumn might be a week early. We rolled the dice and lucked out.

Elden Lookout Trail #4
It wasn't cold enough to warrant long sleeves, simply perfect weather. The nearby dog food plant really stunk up the place for our first hour. My feathered naysayer companion held firm until we were surrounded in a lightbox of yellow atop Elden. On the same token he was kind enough to patiently wait while I took a crash course in insta media relations.

Sunset Trail #23
We religiously take a wrong turn off the summit and this year was par for course. Should we happen to get it right in the future an honorary fudge is in order. The views over to Humphreys never get old. Did I mention the weather? Phenomenal Autumn breeze, sweet yet slightly tangy. Away from Lookout #4 we only encountered a few hikers, such a shame. It got chilly enough to put on long sleeves for a half hour before Brookbank.

Brookbank Trail #2
We've hiked the lower portion of this trail many times. We changed the loop and got to explore the upper. Wow, what a great stretch of forest.

Flats & Gnarly Descent
Near the flats of Dry Lake Hills Bruce took a page out of a previous Tibber-Gecko hike. After working across the flats we lunched on the edge of a descent with nice distant views. The descent was semi ferocious. Albeit a trail it appeared blocked off when we bottomed out with Rocky Ridge #153

Rocky Ridge Trail #153
Neither bad nor exceptional... I barely recall our ~2 miles.

Oldham Trail #1
I've always enjoyed this one. We even have our break spots down to a science.

Lasso's Rock
On 2 previous loops we've returned on the Heart and Christmas Tree trails. We mutually agreed the only thing cool about the Christmas Tree trail is the name. In addition we'd never hiked the upper most half mile of Sunset #23. Considering it was a sea of yellow aspen the decision to change the loop to a lasso loop was easy.

Unfortunately we missed the fading sun by ten to fifteen minutes. Half of the stretch was still in full glory and it was great to mark off the trail as complete.

Elden Lookout Trail #4
The descent was shaded all the way down. We finished right at 6pm when Bruce told Debbie we'd finish. This was my first time descending and it reminded me Camelback... not a fan. Exactly like Camelback I love the ascent!

Synopsis
Perfect weather ruled.

Foliage
the top of Elden is brilliant aspen yellow
Elden Lookout Trail #4
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Up the Heart Trail and across the ridge to Elden, then down the Elden Lookout Trail. It was great to have a second vehicle so we didn't have to do the Christmas Tree Trail connector. It was a super nice day for a hike, especially when we had expected rain. It was sunny most of the day, and the views were pretty darned good.

Although I've been to Elden summit quite a few times it was the first time I'd been up into the fire tower. The tower lookout person, Rod, was very friendly. He said his boss is encouraging the public to visit the towers to see what the lookout people do.

Didn't see any wildlife, except for the butterfly, but the flowers were nice.
Elden Lookout Trail #4
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So I went up to Elden solo... :y:

The first mile I sort of had that Phx to Flag, wow this air is thin feeling but quickly acclimated. This is a good urban mountain/hike. I really never got tired but it's just hard enough to be meaningful. It was probably gusting 30-50 mph at the summit. Thought about hiking over to TV Hill but as its not a Lists of John summit, I passed.

Capped off the trip with a visit to Peace Surplus and Beaver St. Brewery for a burger and a Flagstaff IPA.

About to have a Four Peaks Peach Ale.

Also, if I offended anyone last night it wasn't my intent. I'd had a terrible day and just went off the rails... Better today! Trail time and a big mountain.
Elden Lookout Trail #4
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Pretty windy! Chilly at the start at 10 AM, and hot near the bottom by 1:30. It seems it has been windy enough up there this year, that a steel power pole was bent over from it. Flagstaff is lovely in Spring! Nice hike, still love being on it, even when powder dusty and dry. Not as many birds heard and I blame the wind. Good thing I did Humphrey yesterday!

Permit $$
None


Directions
Map Drive
or
Road
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 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 upto Mt.Elden
2+ mi range whistle
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