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Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff, AZ

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Guide 88 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Flagstaff NE
4.1 of 5 by 25
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 5.14 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,000 feet
Elevation Gain 1,302 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,855 feet
Avg Time One Way 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11.32
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7  2019-07-02
Elden Lookout Trail #4
9  2018-09-29
Elden - Oldham - Sunset Loop
9  2018-09-29
Elden - Oldham - Sunset Loop
10  2018-09-15
Little Bear Loop
27  2018-08-25 DixieFlyer
4  2018-08-04 Nightstalker
7  2018-07-24
Brookbank Trail #2
5  2018-05-04 hikerdw
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Sep, Oct
Seasons   Late Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:09am - 6:34pm
Official Route
22 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby

Likely In-Season!
Views of the San Francisco Peaks, the volcanic fields east of Flagstaff, Sunset Crater and even the Painted Desert are yours to enjoy along this high country trail. The route starts near Schultz Tank, a rare body of water here in these mountains Spanish explorers called sin agua (without water). It then climbs gradually to a high ridge where you'll find good views of Arizona's tallest mountain before continuing on to the east edge of Mount Elden's summit plateau. From this high perspective you can look down on Sunset Crater and the huge Bonito Lava Flow that borders it.

As you hike along this trail, take time out to check for black bear tracks in the dust. A few of these shy animals live in this area but usually all you see of them are their tracks. You have a much better chance of seeing elk and mule deer which are more plentiful and much less shy.

Along its highest reaches, the Sunset Trail traverses an area devastated by a fierce wildfire in 1977. At one point there was concern that the city of Flagstaff might even be consumed by this campfire gone wild. Here, among the burned out hulks of a once thriving forest you can see how nature recovers from such an all-consuming disaster. Pioneer plants such as aspen and Gambel oaks are already well established in the burned-over area.

Sunset Trail provides a connecting route to Schultz Creek, Brookbank, Little Bear Trail, Upper Oldham, and Elden Lookout Trails.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2008-06-11 HAZ_Hikebot
  • 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 30 deeper Triplog Reviews
Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
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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.
Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
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Dry Lake Hills Loop
This typically easy for me hike was among my most difficult, in the end it was among the most rewarding.

2.9 mi on Rocky Ridge Trail #153
Appropriately named compared to other tails in the area. I'd imagine some mountain bikers enjoy the course as the rocks have a firm hold making it more fun than irritating.

left 0.25 mi on Oldham Trail #1

left 3.5 mi on Brookbank Trail #2
Immediately climbs up into the Dry Lake Hills. The only good ascent picking up 700 ft in 1.25 mi. Lots of courteous mountain bikers passed by announcing their presence and the number remaining in their group.

right 0.35 mi on Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
Pines thinned for this short 200 ft descent. Passed several runners throughout the day. Two chicks at the top of this trail got our attention minutes after passing. We realized how impressive their pace was considering they just topped out a 200 ft ascent.

left 3.55 mi for the entire Little Bear Trail #112
Dense pines returned. Then they thin before what looks like a monster descent. Views of NE Flagstaff are scenic, especially now with fields of yellow wildflowers.

I deemed this trail the "find" of the day 1.55 mi in, the next 3 miles slapped back hard. The monster descent joke was on us. This trail drops 1,118 feet in the subtle fashion. There was no quick drop. The grade is steady throughout. Most will enjoy, the dragged out switchbacks were just wearing on me.

Anyone that has hiked with me knows I can whine like no other. This slow down grade just wasn't pumping blood thus amplifying every ache along with lack of sleep. B & D absorbed more of my nonsense than any human should fall victim.

left 4.9 mi on Little Elden Trail #69
Bruce thought this would be a 500 ft ascent to Schultz Tank. It turned out to be a ridiculously subtle 350 ft. In all fairness these trails are designed for mountain bikers and ascending period was better than slow descending.

I mentioned earlier our friendly mountain bikers would give way to afternoon riders. Less announced their approach, none notified group number remaining and their speed was blazing at times. No issues, we're friendly aware hikers. Just pointing out morning nets better results in my experiences when hiking popular mountain bike areas.

continue 4.2 mi / -920 ft for the entire Schultz Creek Trail #152
This is a cool trail weaving next to the dry creek and nearby road. Pines provide shade throughout.

Bruce knew I needed an easy course. As much as it dragged out and amplified various pains the net result was monumental. After the hike my left fist which had been clenching for months is now sometimes at ease. I can move my fingers outward for the first time. Albeit ever so slow, this new hope is a lot to take in. Huge thanks to B & D for putting up with the world's biggest baby. They monitor me, the footing, among other tasks helping me sit, stand and the constant struggle with my pack.

One improvement on hydration was a success. I have an idea that should put pack stress to rest and we believe a little change in nutrition will make it easier too.

Substantial in areas with an excellent variety. Extreme fields of yellow looking down at NE Flagstaff.
Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
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Dry Lake Hills Loop
Up to the High country to enjoy the Temps.
53 degrees to start, mid 70's most of the day, hitting the low 80's in the exposed sections

Along the Rocky Ridge #153 trail there has been a lot of thinning going on. This trail roller coasters up to the Lower Oldham Trail, that we were on for just a stones throw.

Brookbank #2 climbs to the NW, affording good views of Mt Elden. Once you get up around peak 8747, the views open up to "The Peaks". On the Sunset #23 Trail for a snippet of time, we made our way over to the Little Bear #112.

This was my first time on Little Bear #112 and it had some big pluses and minuses. It goes through the old burn area, so you loose the trees. For me at the top, this was actually a plus. The views are huge as the trail follows on the side of the mountain. There of signs of reforestation, with scads of cone protected, 18" tall pine saplings planted everywhere. This trail drops almost 900', taking more than 3.5 miles, through exhausting switchbacks. I say exhausting, because the JBM was in full force once again.

The Little Elden Trail #69 / AZT, is a pleasant trail making its way up to Schultz Tank and the Sunset TH. We passed Thelma and Louise on Horseback.

The Schultz Creek #152 Trail is a gentle downward grade, in the pines, taking us back to the truck. We saw 5+ elk on the way down.

I couldn't count the number of mountain bikers we saw on this hike. They were out in full Fource...

The phrase that pays, two weeks in a row.
"What I meant to say was, Thanks"

Did we have a good time,
There's no Talon.

Substantial in pockets. there was a cornucopia of color.
Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
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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.
Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
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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.

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!
Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
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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!

Perfect weather ruled.

the top of Elden is brilliant aspen yellow
Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
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Schultz Tank - Dry Lake Hills Loop
SATURDAY: Helped out a bit at the Arizona Trail Days in Flagstaff on Saturday. It's really a very nice event with vendors and hikers and horseback riders and Jasmine the donkey of course. I was very impressed with Jack Welch who received special recognition. He has contributed a lot to the outdoor life around Flagstaff: ... html.
I happened to be in the right place at the right time so ended up volunteering to being the cashier in the beer garden where Wanderlust Brewing was serving up three lovely craft beers including Arizona Trail Ale. They were very gracious and also donated all proceeds and tips to the Arizona Trail. I found their coffee stout very good and they tell me there is a fine wheat beer they serve at the brewery. I like their theme as it matches up with my signature, "Beers for the Journey".

SUNDAY: Back to the hike. Wendy was ill so couldn't join me. I drove on Elden Springs Road which is in very good shape to Schultz Tank TH where I started. I've parked at this TH a few times but had never gone to see the Tank. There are even some ducks in there. I headed west toward the Sunset TH on an unnamed trail. There were a few cars at the TH and at the Trail gate there was a sign about a "bears" spotting. Well how 'bout that! The Little Gnarly Trail is actually part of the Schultz Loop trail and is a pretty nice road. Eventually you work your way up and up and up on this road encountering some aspen along the way.

The forest service has been active in here as well as on other parts of this route as there is a lot of road work going on as you make your way to the Dry Hills lakes. There is lots of drainages and tree trunks with orange markings. I topped out at the lake, it was pretty full. I took some photos and worked my way around to the right and over to the signs about Brookbank Meadow (mostly for my youtube viewers).
From there I continued on the road/trail and decided at the fork to go left but not before taking pictures of quite a mixture of wildflowers. I also noticed this big batch of white something on the top of a tall fir tree... it was all pine cones so I zoomed in for some pics. I encountered two other hikers who said there was a nice viewpoint at the end and to climb up on the rocks... and so I did. I was hoping the trail would continue west from here to hook up with Lost Burrito but it dead ends. I dubbed this Little Gnarly Pointe.

I headed back and went down the Jedi which is in pretty rough shape from all the rain. I hope the bike riders will be careful as some of their bridges and such are not serving their purpose anymore. I stopped and admired the aspen grove/meadow; sure is pretty :) . I did encounter a trail runner coming up the trail. It does have a couple tight switchback sections that one needs to be a bit careful on. Then I hooked up with a connector trail that takes you up to Sunset or down to Schultz Creek so I headed down Schultz Creek Trail as I decided to take that back to the TH as I hadn't been on it before. It is close to the road in parts so I hoped the traffic noise wouldn't be too bad and it wasn't. There was even a tad of water in the creek.

At the Sunset TH I talked to a couple motorcyclists and was commenting about the the orange striped forest. He said he had talked to a forest service person who said they were working on trying to restore the region to the way it was before we came along. Personally I don't think it's "we" that caused the change but the cyclical climate change. Anyway, there were many orange marked trees thruout my hike so it looks like they plan to be pretty aggressive about it.

I continued on the Sunset Trail to the other side of Schultz Tank and then down to the TH via Schultz Tank. It is a pretty site with the SF Peaks in the distance.

A note, the aspen were starting to turn in some areas already. I could see at the top of Elden quite a bit of yellow. Interestingly, the aspen were turning at different elevations on my hike which was odd. You would think only at the top but even around Schultz Tank there was some aspen turning.

It was a perfect day for a hike though a bit windy at times. I changed my pants and shoes, sent a couple pics on FB and headed to Subway for a sandwich to eat on the way home. Today I took the time to stop at the rest stop where you can see the landmarks of Sedona in the far distance. I haven't stopped here in a couple decades I bet. I remember stopping here with my mother for the first time and how amAZed we were.

Videos are in production, altho 2 are done.

Video 1 Schultz Tank to Dry Lake Hills lake - ... oYHc
Video 2 to Little Gnarly Point - ... scAo
Video 3 to and on the Jedi - ... t-Vo
Video 4 finishing the Jedi - ... dMoA
Video 5 Schultz Creek to Tank and I-17, Sedona Vista - ... vdb4
Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
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Well this was a option I took. As I had planned to do Secret Trail which was closed when I got to the trailhead.
Sunset Trail was a nice option as they both share the same parking lot.
First it was 76 when I arrived and 74 when I finished.
The views from the top were great except the smoke from the Cowboy and Mormon fires.
Not planning this hike made it more enjoyable as I did not know what to expect. It was my first time here and I didn't have a map I just stayed on the trails that seemed the most used. I did not see anybody until I was about 2 miles from my car.
The only real disappointing thing was I really didn't see any wildlife. Maybe next time.
Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
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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.
Sunset Trail #23 - Flagstaff
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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.

Permit $$

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To Schultz Trailhead
Location: 7 miles north of Flagstaff on graveled Forest Roads.

Access: Drive north out of Flagstaff on US 180 to FR 420 (Schultz Pass Road). Drive 6 miles east on FR 420 to the trailhead at a parking lot on the south side of the road.

Road Condition: FR 420 is graveled and suitable for passenger cars except during winter when it is closed because of snowpack.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 158 mi - about 2 hours 35 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 263 mi - about 4 hours 5 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 10.1 mi - about 24 mins
$17 3L Hydration Bladder
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