Mount Elden Trail
Climb over 2,000’ along F.R. 557 to near the top of the 9,301’ Mount Elden just outside of Flagstaff. Near the top, you’ll be treated to great views of Flagstaff 2,000 feet below you as well as a peak adorned with communications towers.
Where to go:
Like getting to Schultz Pass Trail, from downtown Flagstaff, head west on Historic Route 66. Follow Highway 180 north for 2.6 miles to Schultz Pass Road/F.R. 420. Continue half a mile down the paved road to a fork. Parking/staging is available at the fork where Schultz Pass Trail goes left and Mount Elden Trail goes right.
Stay right at the fork and head east from the parking area along Mount Elden Lookout Road/F.R. 557. The road remains paved as it passes through a residential area. Just after 1.3 miles, the road turns to gravel. The trail gradually climbs it curves and heads northeast up a small ravine. Be extra cautious for walkers, hikers, and bikers that also use this road. Mount Elden will be towering over you to the right at this point. The trail turns east and then reaches a switchback at 3.5 miles. Use caution as the trail quickly climbs the whole time. At 4.0 miles, you’ll come to a sharp right turn.
The trail straightens for a little while before turning south just after 4.5 miles. After the 4.7 mile mark, the trail continues to climb as the road twists in and out of several gullies. At around 5.4 miles, the road begins to level out as you approach the top. Off to the right at 5.5 is a small, scenic meadow. The trail then turns south again as it straddles the ridge. The road continues in the trees until you come to a clearing and a fork at 6.2 miles.
Top of Mount Elden: Continuing left at this fork will take you to the summit of Mount Elden. From the fork, continue 0.4 miles south along the ridge trail to a gate. Park before the gate and hike the rest of the way to get to the top. At the summit, you’ll be surrounded by communications towers but also have a tremendous view of Flagstaff 2,000 feet below you. There is also a lookout tower which may or may not be staffed depending on the time of year. Return to the gate and 0.4 miles back to the fork. Continuing right at the fork will take you along F.R. 557A as it descends for 0.7 miles to another cluster of communication towers and another view of Flagstaff. There are also numerous hiking trails that leave from the top of Mount Elden.
Notes & Trail Ratings:
This trail is only about 7 miles one way (14 round trip). Allow for 1-2 hours to complete the trail and spend a little time at the top. The road is rated a ‘3’ out of 10 because of its steep climb and occasional ruts and washboards. It is not recommended for passenger cars and will require a high clearance vehicle (2WD – okay). This trail is also opened to unlicensed vehicles on the gravel portion of the road which means it is great for OHV’s (off-highway vehicles). According to the Forest Service MVUM Map, this trail is open year ‘round, however because of the heavy snow in the winter, most vehicles should not attempt with snow on the ground. Overall, this trail is a fun and short scenic trip to a great overlook of Flagstaff.