Fatman’s Loop is one of the most popular trails near Flagstaff because of its easy access, varied terrain, and rewarding views. It meanders around the base of Mt. Elden, but climbs just high enough to gain vantage over the pine trees toward East Flagstaff and the Cinder Hills. It connects with Elden Lookout Trail, which is a strenuous climb to the top of the mountain. Stick to Fatman’s loop for a more casual hike or run that is still a great workout.
What Makes It Great
At barely 20 minutes’ drive from downtown, Fatman’s Loop and nearby trails are conveniently located at the foot of the iconic Mt. Elden. The trailhead has a parking lot with room for plenty of cars, so you may find the trails crowded on a nice day. However, there is plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the forest.
The trail is not a complete gimme, as it gains more than 500 feet of elevation. The path is generally smooth, though it wanders through numerous boulder fields and climbs short rock stairs in some sections. The volcanic formations around here are worth exploring. Lava bubbled and bulged as it cooled and left rounded boulders with bizarre cracks, pockets, and caves. There are also several gnarled old-growth trees along the way that have withstood centuries of wildfires and snow storms. It is worth it to take frequent breaks and enjoy these natural features while catching your breath. When you get to the trail’s highpoint, don’t miss out on the view. When the vegetation thins out and the city becomes visible below, scramble up a boulder to get a really good panorama.
Who is Going to Love It
Fatman’s Loop is a favorite of locals and visitors. Some Flagstaffians hike or run this trail on a regular basis to stay in shape. You will likely see parents, grandparents, kids, and dogs all sharing this family-friendly trail. If you are from out of town, keep in mind that you are over 7,000 elevation, so you may feel more winded than normal on this type of terrain. Super fit hikers and runners frequent this trail as well, and use it to link up with longer routes on Mt. Elden, so don’t be alarmed if someone comes flying up from behind and wants to pass.
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 bit hard to see and is marked only by a small hiking area sign. Turn around at Empire Avenue if you miss it.
This is the same parking area for Elden Lookout Trail, which starts on the same route as Fatman’s Loop, but is distinguished by trail signs at junctions.