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Monday, May 21, 2012

One trail--many loops

Coconino National Forest

Loop trails are the big thing in Flagstaff’s Elden Mountain-Dry Lakes Hills area.  Every trail connects with another making for myriad hiking options, especially on the west side which was spared from the 2010 Shultz Fire.  Oldham trail #1 is an easy-to-access route leading to some of the most scenic and heavily traveled loops—most notably, the Brookbank and Sunset trails.  Pine, fir and oak trees shade much of the area and several experimental forests and aspen regeneration projects add interest for kids and forest-loving adults alike.  With so many choices, selecting an Elden-area loop hike is a tough decision but, this day, we decided to connect with the Lower Oldham, Rocky Ridge and Easy Oldham trails.
Rocky Ridge Trail

Here’s what we did:  Begin at Buffalo Park and hike 0.5 mile straight thru to the Lower Oldham trailhead—which is also a portion of the Arizona Trail (AZT).  Hike 0.4 mile to the first junction, veer right (northeast) and hike another 0.4 mile to the second junction at Pipeline/Fatmans trail.  Continue hiking northeast (follow the AZT signs) for another mile to the third junction where a sign for Rocky Ridge Access indicates that the AZT turns west (left) here.  This will be the return part of the loop, so continue 0.8 mile north (stay straight) to the big Lower Oldham trailhead on FR557 (Elden Summit Road).  From here, cross the road, pick up Rocky Ridge trail and follow it 0.8 mile to the turnoff for Rocky Ridge Access/AZT---this will be a 3-way junction.  Your path is located slightly downhill near a giant boulder.  Heading east, hike 0.3 mile back to Lower Oldham, turn right (south) and retrace your steps back to Buffalo Park.
Mount Elden seen from Lower Oldham trail

LENGTH: 7.1-mile loop
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION:  7110’ – 7580’
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 146 miles one way
DOGS: dogs must be on leash in Buffalo Park
BEST SEASON: late April - November
From Flagstaff, travel north on Fort Valley Road (US180) to Forest Ave.  Turn left and continue to the stop light at Gemini Drive.  Turn left and follow the signs to the park.
INFO & MAP: Flagstaff Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-526-0866

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