Take a hike up Mount Elden and perch yourself atop Flagstaff. This route starts out on the Fatman’s Loop, then splits off to climb all the way to Elden Lookout standing at over 9,000 ft. From the top you are rewarded with sweeping views of O’Leary and the San Francisco Peaks.
Getting to the Mount Elden Trailhead
From downtown Flagstaff, head east on Route 66. About 4 miles from the center of town, continue straight onto US 89. Go just another mile and make a left into the parking lot for the Fatman’s Loop and Mt. Elden Lookout Trail. There’s no sign for the turn, but it’s your first left turn after the McDonalds and Safeway.
The trailhead has a good size parking lot, but it can get crowded. There is no running water or toilet at the trailhead, so plan accordingly.
Hiking Mount Elden with Fatman’s Loop
The trailhead is at the northwest corner of the parking lot. There is an information kiosk with a map of all the trails, some interesting history on the area, and a hiking register where it’s a good idea to sign in. The trail starts with an easy uphill grade, and after just a quarter mile you will get to your first intersection. Stay left, following the arrow for Elden Lookout. This gets you going clockwise on the Fatman’s Loop.
In another quarter mile you reach your second intersection, this time with the Pipeline Trail. Go straight through this three-way intersection, continuing to follow the arrow for Elden Lookout.
This stretch of trail is where you’re reminded you aren’t quite out of the desert. There are yucca and prickly pear mixed in with the typical pine trees of Flagstaff. The path becomes a little steeper around the 0.5 mile mark, and at the 0.8 mile mark you come to your next intersection. This is the turnoff from the Fatman’s Loop onto the trail that takes you up to the top. Turn left here, and prepare for the real climbing to begin!
The next half mile or so of trail makes six relatively long switchbacks, tightens up for a quicker back and forth, then stops messing about altogether and goes straight up the ridge. Fortunately this is also where the views begin to open up, so any huff-puff breaks are made exponentially more pleasant.
As you continue to climb the tighter switchbacks return, and around the 1.5 mile mark you encounter the steepest stretch of trail. After a quarter mile or so, the incline eases off a bit and the path traverses right until you gain a ridge around the 2 mile mark and at 8,700’ elevation. Just 600’ more to climb!
Continue following the trail as it switchbacks across the ridge, then traverses left to reach the saddle around the 2.3 mile mark. Here is where the trail intersects with the Sunset Trail, and climbs the final ridge to the peak.
Turn left at the intersection and continue following the trail up the ridge to the Elden Lookout. Through here you can really appreciate how devastating the 1977 Radio Fire was to the area. But between all the old tree carcasses, the beautiful aspens are taking over.
There is quite a bit of antenna and tower action going on at the summit, but the views are still amazing! You have Flagstaff below you to the southwest, O’Leary Peak to the northeast, and the impressive San Francisco Peaks to the north!
Once you’ve collected your spectacular photos in every direction, return down to the Fatman’s Loop intersection. Here you must decide if you’ve had enough for the day, or if you think you can handle a bonus half mile and some fresh scenery. To cut it slightly shorter, go right and follow the path you took up from the parking lot.
To make the hike a little longer, go left and continue following signs for the Fatman’s Loop until you return to where you joined the loop on your way up. Just after the trail for the KOA, you will turn left to get back to the parking lot.
Mount Elden Trail Map & Elevation Profile
Mount Elden Resources
- Forest Service page for the Elden Lookout Trail #4
- Forest Service page for Fatman’s Loop Trail #25
Arizona Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge – Summer Edition
This hike is part of the Arizona Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge – Summer Edition. This self-paced hiking challenge includes six hikes all easily reached from the Flagstaff/Sedona area. They are a great way to explore the area, train for bigger adventures, and you’ll be doing good, with a portion of the net proceeds going to support Big City Mountaineers.
Registration for the summer challenge runs between April 1 and September 15. Be sure to check out the winter challenge, too!
James Lantz says
Looks like a beautiful hike. I’m not too familiar with the area but with the elevation do you have to worry about storms rolling in during the summer months?
Richard Oppelaar says
Yes, in summer you should watch the forecast and the sky, and start earlier so you’re down before the usual afternoon thunderstorm.
James Lantz says
Dates of hikes
Survival techie says
These trails look amazing and natural, this is something I can appreciate and hope to trek one day.