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Heart Trail #103, AZ

no permit
190 40 1
Guide 40 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Flagstaff NE
3.8 of 5 by 17
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Multi-Loop 2.32 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,313 feet
Elevation Gain 1,480 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,500 feet
Avg Time One Way 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 7.32
Backpack No
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
4  2019-09-02
Sandy Seep Trail #129
24  2017-09-23
Little Eden Loop
15  2016-08-01 azbackpackr
8  2015-10-03
Elden Super Loop
12  2015-10-03
Elden Super Loop
2  2015-10-03
Elden Super Loop
15  2014-06-14
Elden Loop Explore
58  2013-08-10
Elden Loop
Page 1,  2
Author Jim_H
author avatar Guides 55
Routes 44
Photos 7,651
Trips 1,615 map ( 9,681 miles )
Age 40 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Sep, Oct, Jun → Any
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:14am - 6:23pm
Official Route
7 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Flagstaff's Most Geologically Diverse Hike!
by Jim_H

Likely In-Season!
The Heart Trail #103 is not hiked all that often when compared to the Elden Lookout Trail #4. The area it goes through was severely burned in the 1977 Radio Fire, and it is slowly recovering. However, in the same way that the Radio Fire was good for revealing the view of Flagstaff and the surrounding area from the summit of Mount Elden, so too was that fire good for exposing the geology of the Heart Trail and the east face of Mount Elden.

Mount Elden is a massive Dacite lava dome. Most people who are familiar with the Elden Lookout Trail #4, or the Fat Man's Loop Trail #25, know about Elden's Dacite. They have probably hiked the trails while looking up at the massive flows of rock that came pouring down from some lava vent thousands of feet above the base of the 9,300' mountain that marks the eastern skyline of Flagstaff. What they may not know is that in order for this lava to come to the surface it had to come up through many thousands of feet of sedimentary rock that composes the Colorado Plateau. Think of the view at the Grand Canyon, or in Sedona, and you'll know what the lava came up through. Now, I'm no geology expert, but I did take a 100 level geology course in the fall of 2000 and I have stayed in enough Holiday Inn Expresses to know that when this lava pushed up through the crust it forced some of the sedimentary rock up as it moved through the layers. These layers are present on the east face of Mount Elden as discontinuous sedimentary layers which are exposed and available for your viewing pleasure.

The Heart Trail begins at a junction with the Sandy Seep Trail, and the easiest way to reach the Heart Trail is via the Sandy Seep Trail. On the east side of the Sandy Seep/ Heart Trail junction there is a small juniper and oak covered hill that appears to be just another lava dome or cinder cone which are so common in the area east of Flagstaff. However, this is a hill of white Coconino Sandstone which has been pushed up and had its limestone cap eroded away. When you first set out on the Heart Trail you'll be on the typical weathered Dacite gravels, sands, and silts that surround Mount Elden. This gives way to red sandstone much as you would see in Sedona. In some places the sandstone is intact and exposed well enough at the surface to see the sedimentary layers. You will alternate with red sandstone and weathered Dacite soils for a while before you begin to climb up switchbacks.

Now a note on the vegetation. As you hike the trail uphill you'll lose the few ponderosa pines that have managed to regenerate in this area following the Radio fire. The lower area is coming back in almost pure gambel oak. These trees are still rather small, but in the future there may be a closed canopy of oaks over parts of the trail. Far in the future. Further up the trail you pick up aspens, douglas firs and white pines. It will be some time here as well, but recovery is proceeding along the Heart Trail. Compared to the wind swept summit of Elden the area along the Heart Trail actually looks rather good. This area benefits from being close to the seed sources on top of Little Elden and the area near Sunset Park.

Climbing the switchbacks you can get a view of the volcanic cliffs that are the south face of Little Elden, the white rock underneath of them, and the deep red rock under the white layer. The lower 1/3 to 1/2 of the trail continues on in the red sandstone layer. At some point in the middle of the hike you will encounter layers of white rock mingling in with the red rock. Most of the white rock is limestone. Some of it is Coconino Sandstone; the same sandstone that we saw at the start of the trail. You will have to go slowly to watch for the Coconino Sandstone up here. You can tell it by its white color, it's gritty sandy texture and the noticeable lack of marine fossils. If you discover the Coconino Sandstone that I saw you will pass through more red sandstone before getting to the layers of white limestone. Usually Coconino Sandstone is above the red sandstone, not mixed with it as it occurs on Elden.

You then hike through more red sandstone before reaching limestone. You can see fossils within the lower layers of the white Kaibab Limestone that is on the east face of Elden. Towards the top, the limestone looks more like a volcanic rock or metamorphic dolomite. It appears to have no fossils in it. It may be Dolomite, but I doubt that the white rock near the top is volcanic. It contrast sharply with the rest of the volcanic rock on Elden and it has no noticeable point of origin, unlike the rest of Elden's flows. Passing above the limestone you emerge onto the Dacite that is Mount Elden and the upper terminus of the Heart Trail. You can connect to various other trails to do a loop, or descend the way you came.

I have also hiked the nearby Little Bear Trail, and unless you want to go to the summit of Elden it may be worth doing a Heart-Little Bear-Little Elden Trail Loop. I recommend this because on the Little Bear Trail you can also find some broken limestone pieces on the trail. This area may be reasonably similar to how the Heart Trail looked before June of 1977. So, thanks to the miracle of escaped campfires on windy June Days we have the pleasure of observing the exposed sediments without the burden of thick vegetation.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2008-11-02 Jim_H
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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 18 deeper Triplog Reviews
Heart Trail #103
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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.
Heart Trail #103
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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.
Heart Trail #103
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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).

Most of the leaves have already fallen, but a pretty hike nonetheless.
Heart Trail #103
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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

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.
Heart Trail #103
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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:
Heart Trail #103
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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. :)
Heart Trail #103
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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 -
2 Elden #4 and Fatmans Loop -

Vetch, Lupine
Heart Trail #103
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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...
Heart Trail #103
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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.

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.

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.
Heart Trail #103
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I parked at the Sandy Seep TH and took the Sandy Seep to the Heart trail then to Sunset trail. The views were great on the Sunset trail. I headed north towards Schultz tank. By the Little Bear intersection there were a bunch of forest crews cleaning up their chainsaws. It looked they were getting ready to do some trail maintenance. There was on a sign on the Little Bear trail post saying that it was closed until 8/31 for trail cleanup.

I got down to the Schulz's Pass TH and took the new AZT section. This section of the AZT is more or less flat without any rocks, trees or roots. It's very popular with the mountain bikers. It started to rain. It was a slow rain that felt good. The trail never got sticky or slick. After 7.5 miles from Schultz's TH, the AZT crosses Snow Bowl road. Now the AZT starts to climb up and up. There's a quarter mile section here that's been flagged, but not cut. After I got past that, there was a post stating that the trail was under construction and it was a dead end! I made it to the Aspen Loop and headed toward the Kachina trail and took lunch. I'm not a fan of the Kachina trail with all the rocks and roots and especially with it being wet. I saw hiker driving out and had an idea. I asked him for a ride down Snow bowl road to where the AZT crosses it. The AZT trail is a bit longer than the Kachina, but it's pretty flat and open and I knew I could sustain a faster pace on it. Now the rain stopped and the sun came out.

I subtracted the 5.1 miles from my trip log. I zipped back to Schultz's pass and then to the Sandy Seep TH. On the way back the wind started to blow and the temps dropped.

Permit $$

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To Sandy Seep Trailhead
From Flagstaff drive north on US Hwy 89. Pass by the Mall on the south side of 89, and then the Elden Pueblo Ruins on the north side of 89. About 2000 feet past the Townsend/Winona Road there will be an intersection with a Forest Road (FR 9139) which turns north off of 89 to trailhead. Hike the Sandy Seep Trail to its end and its junction with the Heart Trail.
page created by Jim_H on Nov 01 2008 10:13 pm
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