SUNSET TRAIL, MT ELDEN, FLAGSTAFF AZ
ROUND TRIP: 7 MI
ELEVATION GAIN: 1100 FT
Our first training hike together! And we couldn’t have picked a better day. The forecast called for rain, which made for really great cloud cover and cool conditions the entire hike. Not that one would necessarily need that, as a good part of the area along the trail consists of a dense alpine forest that does a pretty good job in itself of providing a nice overhead canopy and shelter from the sun.
In fact, the entire area is packed with an assortment of trees and other vegetation (you might even run into a cactus or two… but let’s hope not), not to mention a diverse population of wildlife (of which we saw neither hide nor hair, unless you count three little horny toads); making it one of the most popular and widely used areas in Flagstaff. And not just for hikers, but bikers and equestrians as well.
[As a side note: The trail on the opposite side of this mountain resembles something akin to high desert. A disparity that I always find curiously strange, although this type of oddity is really not so unusual in Arizona.]
The trail begins its gradual ascent practically from the start (elev. 8000 feet), and becomes increasingly more vertical over the next 4 miles, where it ultimately summits at the U.S. Forest Service Lookout Tower atop Mt Elden. At 2300 feet above Flagstaff (elev. 9287 feet), the view is breathtakingly beautiful. And when the tower is open to visitors you can freely venture up to get an even wider range of viewing above the treetops; you might even learn a few interesting tidbits about the area from the resident FS Ranger.
Note: For those of you thrill-seekers out there, if you’re lucky enough to be granted admission to the tower on a windy day, your appetite for adventure will quickly be satisfied when you experience the vertigo-inducing sway of the tower beneath your feet. The higher you go, the better it gets!
Overall, this trail makes for a great time and can be enjoyed by experienced hikers of any skill level. As for the rain, we managed to make it to the very end without a single drop. Then, once back inside our car, the skies opened up to deliver their liquid gold as promised. 🙂