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Mount Elden Loop
September 26, 2020
by Tom Simonick
  GPS Map 
Trailblazers at Schultz Tank Trailhead. [photo by Quy]
front:  Quy, Carol, Li, Randall, Tom
back: Michael, Kevin, Ken, Tamar, David

Fall arrived in Flagstaff and ten Trailblazers were there to enjoy the colors. Starting from the Schultz Tank Trailhead, we connected to the Sunset Trail and started an easy uphill climb heading east towards Mt. Elden.

We’re on the way! [photo by Quy]
Hikers pause briefly. [photo by Li]
Trooping the Sunset Trail. [photo by Quy]

Three miles later found us in an open area at the junction of the Little Bear Trail.

Let’s take a break. [photo by Tom]
It’s only 3½ miles. [photo by Tom]

We took a short break there, and then continued south on the Sunset Trail. Now we were entering a burned area, destroyed by the 2019 Museum fire.

They’ve had a forest fire. [photo by Quy]
Continuing our climb, we reached the Heart Trail junction. [photo by Quy]

At that point, we could look across to Mt. Elden and saw that the aspens had started their color change to yellow-gold. We entered the first aspen trees enjoying the colors as the trail climbed higher on the west side of a ridge.

Li, Ken, and the aspens. [photo by Tom]
Atop Mt. Elden. [photo by Li]

When we out of the trees, the breeze we had been enjoying turned into a strong crosswind making the final climb to the Elden summit more difficult. We left the trail and took the road the last half mile. Reaching the windy summit, we took pictures at the elevation sign on the fire tower, and found the USGS survey marker.

Don’t think I’ll climb the tower today. [photo by Quy]

We got out of the wind on the leeward side of the summit to have our lunch.

Ken and Tamar have a fine lunch. [photo by Tom]
Michael has a fine lunch. [photo by Li]
Carol and Randall have a fine lunch. [photo by Li]

Even though the summit is a popular destination and it was a beautiful day, there were only a few other hikers while we were there.

We left the summit on the Elden Lookout trail, descending until we met the Sunset Trail junction.

We start down on the Elden Lookout Trail. [photo by Quy]

If we had not gone in this direction, we would have missed to the opportunity to walk through the aspen forest. The aspens here are not tall, but they had plenty of color.

Trailblazers amid the aspens. [photo by Tom]
Li looks like she belongs here. [photo by Tom]
A blaze of glory! [photo by Kevin]

Next time I do this hike I’ll stay on the Sunset Trail and not take the road shortcut to the summit. We retraced our way, arriving back at the Little Bear Trail junction. At that point, three hikers continued on the Sunset and the rest of us started down the Little Bear. From the junction, you don’t hike very far until you find yourself going down the mountain.

It’s down, down, down. [photo by Quy]
A’ down we go. [photo by Quy]

The upper part of the trail is very pretty with good views, but as you leave the trees, the mountainside is bare. However, this is a good trail for ascending or descending Little Elden Mountain, in contrast to the Heart trail which is much steeper. Four miles later, we reached the Little Elden Springs Trail junction. At that point, we turned and hiked two miles back to the Schultz Tank Trailhead.

Let’s enjoy a fine meal. [photo by Tom]

I had estimated a 13 mile hike, but my final GPS track showed about 15 miles in 7 hours, 40 minutes. After the hike, five of us went to Pita Jungle and ate on their nice patio.

→   More pictures, by Li
→   More pictures, by Quy
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated October 2, 2020