Not only green when summer's here...
Overview: Don't get your hopes up, The Christmas Tree Trail on the eastern base of Mount Elden may not be quite deserving of it's name. Yes, it winds through a forest dominated by ponderosa pines, but none of which would you want to use as decoration in your home during the holidays. I believe the trail gets its name from the nearby neighborhood bearing the same name, likely chosen by the developers to sound like a nice place to live.
Hike: The Christmas Tree Trail runs between Fat Man's Loop on the south and a junction with the Sandy Seep and Little Elden Trails on the north. If hiking from Fat Man's Loop, it is slightly uphill, but rolling through the drainages coming off Elden's west side. A couple moderately steep slopes are encountered as the trail ascends up the sides of these drainages, but these two sections are incredibly short (20-30 yards). As stated above, the trail stays within a forest pre-dominantly of ponderosa pine. Some nice old growth are encountered, but younger "dog-hair" type growth is more common. Gamble Oak are also sprinkled in, along with some tall junipers that enjoy Elden's rain shadow. Dacite boulders evident of Elden's volcanic past also add a little interest here and there. Views of Elden's gnarled west face are fleeting, except for one large open area on the western edge of the trail where the City of Flagstaff has cleared an area and built a water tank just below the surface. Summer is undoubtly the most beautiful time in this area when the grass is green, the weather warm, wildflowers budding from the monsoons, and leaves decorate the oaks.
It's not a bad little trail, but if you're looking for an enjoyable 2.5 - 5 mile hike in this area, go with either Fat Man's Loop or the Elden Lookout Trail over what would be a less-exciting walk on the Christmas Tree Trail. To be honest, most usage of this trail is from nearby residents walking their dogs or looking for some quick after work exercise.
Suggested Usage: Despite being an unlikely destination for out of town hikers, the Christmas Tree Trail does serve a purpose for those seeking a good hike. This purpose is as a connector trail. Many loops of varying lengths can be put together using the Mount Elden system of trails. There are quite a few loop options that can utilize Christmas Tree, especially if you decide to climb on a mountain bike (or horse, perhaps). With a long list of possibilities involving Christmas Tree, the one I would recommend is the Elden Lookout - Sunset - Heart - Christmas Tree Loop, with a length in the vicinity of 8 miles and AEG in the vicinity of 2,700 feet. I like it in that clockwise direction, getting all the major elevation done in a short steep fashion on the Elden Lookout Trail, allowing the hiker to enjoy the open views of the Sunset and Heart Trails in a nice moderately down-hill fashion. If you like a gradual ascent, so be it, but I think counterclockwise on this said loop is less enjoyable.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.