This is the main route to the top of Flagstaff's neighborhood mountain, and is one of the most popular trails in the area. Elden is the mountain most visible from town, with its slopes coming right down to the city's East Side. Its summit affords the best views to be had of Flagstaff, and the panorama extends to the San Francisco Peaks, Oak Creek Canyon, Mormon Mountain, Cinder Hills, and the Painted Desert. This strenuous hike is well worth the effort.
What Makes It Great
People hike Elden Lookout Trail nearly every day. It is by far the most-traveled route up the mountain, but that does not mean it is easy. In a mere 2.75 miles, the trail gains more than 2,000 feet of elevation, and it is rocky the whole way. However, the leg-burning climb rewards all along with ever-expanding views as you go up.
The south-facing slope that this trail ascends gets a lot of sun, which keeps it passable most of the year, but very hot in summer. Hik early or late in the day to avoid summer heat, and to get the added bonus of a spectacular sunrise or sunset from the mountain.
There is potential for an extended hike or run by continuing onto other trails. The first part of Elden Lookout Trail shares a route with the less strenuous Fat Man’s Loop, and both of these link with more trails at the base of Elden. Near the top of the mountain, Elden Lookout meets Sunset Trail, by which you can access Elden’s west side, as well as more mileage in the Dry Lake Hills and San Francisco Peaks.
Who is Going to Love It
Many folks in Flagstaff hike this trail regularly to stay in shape, whether going all the way to the top or just going part of the way. Elite trail runners use it to link up with longer mountainous routes. Because of its free and easy access from town, people of all ages and abilities enjoy this trail and the adjacent Fat Man’s Loop. Dogs and children will have fun here as well, but make sure they are prepared fro the steepness and the heat. This is a classic Flagstaff trail that is not to be missed, even if you are just passing through the area.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From downtown, follow US-180 E and continue onto US-89 N. At about 5 miles from downtown, you will pass the US Forest Service Flagstaff Ranger station on your left. Take the left turn shortly after this into a parking area. The turn is a little hard to see and is marked only by a small hiking area sign. Turn around at Empire Ave if you miss it.
This parking area accesses several trails that are open to hikers and bikers. Dogs are allowed if kept on a leash and cleaned up after.
Begin hiking on the wide main trail and follow signs for Elden Lookout all the way to the top.