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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.

Christmas Tree Trail #160, AZ

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14 36 0
Guide 36 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Flagstaff NE
Rated
2.2
2.2 of 5 by 13
 
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Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 1.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,052 feet
Elevation Gain 245 feet
Accumulated Gain 341 feet
Avg Time One Way 0.5 - 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 2.64
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5  2018-05-04
Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
hikerdw
8  2015-10-03
Elden Super Loop
chumley
12  2015-10-03
Elden Super Loop
The_Eagle
2  2015-10-03
Elden Super Loop
joebartels
15  2014-06-14
Elden Loop Explore
ddgrunning
3  2014-05-28
Family Camp-out at Mt Eldon
topohiker
58  2013-08-10
Elden Loop
tibber
4  2012-09-29
Elden Super Loop
joebartels
Page 1,  2
Author hippiepunkpirate
author avatar Guides 25
Routes 36
Photos 2,877
Trips 657 map ( 2,276 miles )
Age 33 Male Gender
Location Peoria, AZ
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Preferred   May, Oct, Sep, Apr
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:10am - 6:31pm
Official Route
 
6 Alternative
 
Water
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Not only green when summer's here...
by hippiepunkpirate

Likely In-Season!
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.

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2011-02-01 hippiepunkpirate
  • Kachina Peaks Map
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One-Way Notice
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.
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 14 deeper Triplog Reviews
Christmas Tree Trail #160
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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.
Christmas Tree Trail #160
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Mount Elden Loop
Been too long since a good AZ hike! So, when the opportunity to stay with a few friends at a cabin just south of Flagstaff came up, J & I jumped on it. We had been thinking of doing Humphrey's, but with lots of snow visible, and no recent triplogs, we decided to stick to lower elevations and break in a new pair of boots for J. We eventually figured out a loop possibility that would give us a mid-length hike for the day: hang near ground level around Elden, take Heart trail to the ridge to avoid some of the crowds, then take the steep + quick Lookout Trail back to the parking lot. All of these were new trails for us.

Before the hike, we tried to track down a map to take with us in case plans varied en route. After a quick stop in Flag, we were back to the trailhead for Fatman's Loop and ready to ascend. We packed a fair bit of cold weather gear (a couple of coats, hats, and lots of layers), which would ultimately prove unnecessary.

The initial hike out the eastern branch of Fatman's was quite straightforward, without too much of a climb to worry about at all. In fact, the full stretch to the base of Heart Trail went quite quickly, with a short snack break before we started that ascent.

Heart Trail was great. It was a nice, steady climb up to the top, never feeling steep or slow, and offering great views out to the east. Mid way up we spotted some relatively recent scat and prints suggesting that a bear may have enjoyed the trail too! The breeziest part of the hike was right at the top of Heart, where we layered up a little before snacking on some bagels and peanut butter.

From there, the ridge progressed quickly... wish this part was longer, because it offered great views, a lovely trail, and good breaks between forested shelter and open meadows. We met up with the summit trail, where we chatted with another HikeAZer about European and US hiking options. The two of them decided to reverse our route on their downward return. We made the summit and had another snack and rest break.

Given we wanted to do a few other things with the afternoon, we turned down the Lookout Trail towards the parking lot. The Lookout Trail was steep but predictable, and quite a bit busier than any of the other trails we had visited during the day. Fatman's Loop felt long back to the parking lot. We took a quick trip to show J Walnut Canyon, then headed up towards the inner basin to scope out future hiking and camping options.

All told, this was a really excellent loop that we'd highly recommend to others. It was about 9 miles all told, with likely a bit above 2,500 VF cumulative elevation gain. Lovely 5 hours out at a relaxing pace (about an hour of rest breaks along the way).

Foliage
Most of the leaves have already fallen, but a pretty hike nonetheless.
Christmas Tree Trail #160
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Elden Super Loop
Bruce and I did "the" Elden Super Loop three years ago and really enjoyed it. Today we did a "sorta super" loop with CHUMS and Dave. Left out was the filet portion of Fatmans Loop Trail #25. Which any Elden Super Loop fanatic knows as the icing on this cake.

Check out my 2012 triplog for individual trail segment reviews.

Heading up Elden we found ourselves constantly passed by an Aravaipa Running event. For a good mile our attention was devoted to keeping an eye on approaching runners. They were all friendly and Bruce needed the mini breaks on the steep incline so it all worked out.

This hike was very nice simply due to the weather and company.

Carried 4 quarts, consumed about 1.7

Foliage
Timing is prime. It's just that we have seen it more spectacular in the past. We didn't receive a hard freeze that I know of so it's more likely dependant on the moisture pattern this year. The leaves have the pitted burnt look for reference.
Christmas Tree Trail #160
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Elden Super Loop
Perfect weather for this one.

We hit the normal light flow of hikers while leaving the TH, but once we hit the intersection with Fat Mat's Loop, traffic got real heavy. Little did we know we'd timed our trip to Mount Elden, with Arrivipa Running groups "Sky Race" that features a 39K and 55K Race.

As we were hiking up the Mt Elden Trail, we were passed by HikeArizona's own Frick Naley, who was running the 39K race. :app:

The besterest of the yellow Aspens we saw were on the short climb from the Sunset Trail intersection to the Fire Tower.

A road walk from the tower to regain the Sunset trail and we made our way over to Schultz tank. The water here looked pretty darn good.

Up Little Gnarly, past the Dry Lakes Hill Tank, we made our way downhill to hit the Oldham Trail. This one has a steady climb back up to the Sunset Trail.

From here it was mainly downhill back to the truck.

This is a great sampler hike for what the City of Flagstaff has to offer in Hiking and outdoor activities!

A great day in the cool weather of Flagstaff, finished off with Pizza at NiMarco's. :DANCE:
Christmas Tree Trail #160
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Elden Super Loop
I'd never hiked up Elden before so I thought that this would be a great opportunity to grab a new peak while enjoying the perfect autumn weather in Flagstaff. The airport temperature was 29 as we passed through Munds Park, but I don't think the car thermometer ever dropped below 44.

The aspens are yellow but have some green remaining, and a lot of leaves already fallen. It looks a little dull actually.

We tested the new live updating water reports via Route Scout at Schultz Tank, took lunch near the Brookbank junction and cruised on the way down.

Had to fight the crowds as today featured a running race, but that only lasted for the first two hours. I think I saw a doctor from Tucson. The guy was fast though and I never saw him again.

Dave was having none of the extra Fatmans Loop so we skipped that and saw 6 deer instead. Good hike. Good peeps. :)
Christmas Tree Trail #160
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Family Camp-out at Mt Eldon
We did a family campout on the west side of MT Elden. As we drove into Flagstaff, the sky was dark with smoke from the Slide Rock fire. The smoke did clear out that night. We did a couple of hikes that included parts of Christmas Tree, Fatman’s loop, Mt. Eldon trail , Pipeline and meanderings along fence lines.
Nate originally wanted to hike to the lookout tower, but he changed his mind once we got to the Pipeline trail. We saw about 4 deer’s.
Christmas Tree Trail #160
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Elden Loop
for my HAZfest hike I had planned on being on my own to do Elden #4 but when Ambika said she'd join me for a hike, I found something longer and hopefully more fun but just as hard. I had been reading the Elden #4 trip reports and stumbled across johnr1's report that looked interesting. So in about an hour or so, I did a bunch of preliminary Rx mostly to confirm I could do the Loop :) and it wasn't going to be THAT hard. Another hiker that thot about joining us caused me to have a backup plan as she isn't that strong a hiker, it would have been an up and down on Sunset Trail.

From HAZ camp I drove over to the Sandy Seep TH to meet Ambika. I think we got started a little after 9:15. My legs definitely weren't feeling it the first two miles :cry: but fortunately, that situation would change and I would get a nice rhythm going. The SANDY SEEP TRAIL is a nice trail as it starts out. Once it narrows, it has ruts in spots so you have to maneuver around them. You do get views of the mountains around you :) so that is kind of nice.

You gradually go up 350 feet or so to the junctions with the second junction being the Heart Trail. Thru this area, you can really see the damage from the rain. The HEART TRAIL climbs ever so slightly at first and because of the recent rains, once again you have to work around some of the ruts. Part way up I was having a toe issue which I was able to repair at about the 1/2 way up point. From there, the switchbacks began in earnest which was fine with me. There were a couple steep ones but for the most part, "very doable" especially as the views changed :DANCE: . The only thing I wish for when going straight up is for a less rocky trail tho I guess it really wasn't that bad.

Always in the back of my head is only 1400 feet in two miles. It was fun to guess where the trail was going to take you. There were a couple hikers ahead of us so sometimes we got hints. Basically you switchback one mountain only to find yourself on another and then up to the Sunset Trail. The weather had been somewhat threatening at this point. We were armed with umbrellas and ponchos, it would be only the lightning :scared: that would make us nervous. At the junction with Sunset and Heart, we took a break in the shelter of the boulders and the forest.

I did encounter a biker who said the trail had become quite slippery after the rain and in fact, we would see another biker's bike slip off the trail as we made our way up. This part of the SUNSET TRAIL is rather fun as you are somewhat on a ridgeline that you cross over from the east side. Soon you can see Agassiz and part of that mountain range off to the north. And even better, once you get to the now mostly treeless top of the ridgeline, it seems the whole world opens up for you to see :y: . We also got to enjoy the flora of the season and the dancing of the clouds in various directions. It was hard to leave this area that was also quite windy.

We headed off toward the tower and discussed whether to go up the hill or not as the Sunset Trail wraps around the north side of the tower hill. We decided to head up the tower hill and around to the other side where there is the other trail junction to Elden #4. Ambika decided we would take a break at the Elden Saddle which was not too far away. However, getting there involved rather large step downs and certainly hardly a level piece of trail. I knew right away this ELDEN TRAIL #4 was going to be evil :x . We were about half-way through our hike.

It was windy and a little nippy as we finally got down to the saddle where we had our lunch. We would run into several hikers coming and going at this point and for the rest of the trail down to Xmas Tree. Reluctantly, we prepared to head on down the trail. This trail gives you little breathing time where you can hike on a level turf. You really have to pay attention : rambo : cuz it also gets slippery in certain sections. It's not the best trail to stop and take pics either as you end up with the city and/or Flagstaff Mall in the background. Plus, it seems like we'll never get to the next trail at this pace if you could call it a pace.

Finally we hit the junction with FATMANS LOOP TRAIL and almost immediately, you feel like you're walking on air in an upright position able to breathe normally once again. :A1: Oh this is a fun little trail with plenty of entertainment; especially with all the boulders and such. It's definitely a trail I won't mind doing again. We were only doing about 3/4 of a mile to reach our junction.

We had one last snack and sit down before finishing off the last 3 miles. The CHRISTMAS TREE TRAIL starts a little close to the road for awhile but soon veers away and you get to enjoy the solitude of your environment. It was a pleasant enough 1 1/2 miles but it seems when there is at least another 1/2 to go, you really stretch your eyes looking for the junction with Seeping Sandy. There were a few interesting things along the way but I was pretty much in "Tibber back to the barn" mode :wlift: .

Once you reach the junction with SANDY SEEP TRAIL it's a bit of a relief as there is only 1 mile and 1/2 to go. You walk and cross the messed up drainage before getting on the decent trail that had some ruts from time to time. Along the way, I did spot a couple deer in the soft glowing grass. They spotted me too quickly though and seemed jittery so I didn't grab my camera. Instead I waited for Ambika to catch up to me hoping she would get a chance to at least see them but just barely before they headed into the forest.

Before you know it, you're on the nice wide trail enjoying the sun setting on the grassy floor. It seemed the TH came up much faster than I anticipated but that is not a bad thing. I took my gear off and drove Tonto over to where Ambika was. We shared some watermelon Kat (Snakemarks) had given me that morning. Watermelon always seems to hit the spot :) . Ambika and I parted ways and once again, I was stuck eating at McDonalds as it was late but I did make it back to Camp Chumley just before dark.

Two videos from the hike:
1 Seeping Sandy and Heart and Sunset - http://youtu.be/zOEisAM4HHM
2 Elden #4 and Fatmans Loop - http://youtu.be/oZ_6Kt6wBS8

Wildflowers
Vetch, Lupine
Christmas Tree Trail #160
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Elden Super 8 Loop
I've tried to get Joe to do this one before, but there was no interest.

This week I gave him 2 choices, one I knew he was not ready to do, and this one.
Good thing he said no in the past. This is a real nice hike most of the year, but when you hit the colors the way we did..... BAM!

I was not expecting a lot from this loop, thinking the burned area, would be expansive and ugly. The old burned area actually gave the hike some interesting expansive views and was not as large as expected. Lots-o-Pines, Oaks and Golden Aspens throughout.

On the Sunset Trail squirrels and birds were busy reading themselves for winter. We also saw 2 rafters of Turkeys, 14 total Turkeys. The weather was perfect on this day starting in the high 40's at the TH and never getting over 75ish. The majority of the hike was in cloud cover and scattered sprinkles.

The trails at the lower elevations seem to et quite a bit of traffic, especially Fatmans Loop Trail. I can actually see why it is so popular. Not that long, a bit of elevation, nice layout and pretty views.

Expected JBF, based on comments first thing out of his truck, were expected to be off the chart. Ended up being not that bad...
Christmas Tree Trail #160
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Elden Super Loop
Elden Lookout Trail #4
Hands down the highlight of the day for myself. I'd hike this often if I lived in the area. The grade is fair until the upper end when it digs in more. We must have hit this in prime as Autumn was awesome!

Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
Enjoyed all of this one though nothing to write home about. The upper portion felt like we were in an elevated park setting. Took me a while to convince Bruce that this was popular with mountain bikers... until it turned into a mtn bike freeway.

Little Gnarly
Totally dude. Really more pleasant than anything. We missed a turn and spent a little more time in the area under light sprinkles.

Brookbank Trail #2
The portion we hiked was descending Elden. Spectacular tree filtered views make this one pretty nice. We lunched two thirds of the way down. Not much in the flat ground department but it was 1pm and BWF(Bruce whine factor) historically peaks when his tummy rumbles.

Oldham Trail #1
We started on the segment (3.25mi from Buffalo Park) that hugs FS#577. I enjoyed the forest away from the road. There are a couple wicked mountain bike ramps that rival the Pinals. A half mile later it turns right into a nice pleasant ascent through dense forest.

Heart Trail #103
Imagine I'd hit this up as a late afternoon hike in the summer if I lived in the area. Pretty sweet views. You are on your own if you seek any shade.

Christmas Tree Trail
Probably wouldn't hit this up on any regular basis. Yet fair if you lived in the adjoining neighborhoods.

Fatmans Loop Trail #25
Bruce was a little weary about tagging this one on. Glad we did as I enjoyed it. This was the busiest trail with a variety of groups from all walks of life. Yet no where near Squaw Peak busy.

Synopsis
I've avoided these trails with a passion. Boy was I missing out. I anticipated freezing and it was never cold. The weather all day was very nice with a dark cloud hovering overhead, sprinkling on occasion. The old fire probably made the views on top better than anything else so scratch that off any concern lists. Yesterday I felt feverish and almost canceled. Today I felt great. Sweatless 5k loop, Bruce tied together another winner.

Wildflowers
Spotty throughout and fair in areas. The drive up from the valley was spectacular from the Verde Valley up to Flag.

Autumn Observation
Get your pumpkin out here if you love foliage. The top at the lookout tower is hitting right now! It will probably peak within the next week. It tappers off the lower you go. There is lingering green in the upper too. By the time they turn I think the existing yellows will die off so Substantial seems appropriate. Way more oaks than I anticipated.
Christmas Tree Trail #160
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This loop is longer than I had heard. Started at Sandy Seep TH. Hiked Sandy Seep to Christmas Tree, to first Fat Mans turnoff, to Elden turnoff, to Elden Lookout, then back to Sunset, along Sunset (the ridge) to Heart, down Heart to Sandy Seep. It was hot today and it beat me up pretty good, seeing as I mostly have been river rafting the past 3 weeks.

Glad I did it, though. I especially liked the Lilliputian aspen forest in the old burn after turning onto the Sunset Trail. It was brimming with lupines.

Permit $$
None


Directions
Map Drive
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Road
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
This trail is accessed most easily from Fatmans Loop. From downtown Flagstaff go east on Route 66 toward the mall. Route 66 turns into Highway 89 just before the mall. Keep going straight on Highway 89 past the mall. The Elden Lookout/Fatmans Loop trailhead is a paved parking lot on the left side of the highway just past the Peaks Ranger Station.
page created by hippiepunkpirate on Feb 01 2011 6:07 pm
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