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Monday, July 15, 2013

A hike through deer territory


CHRISTMAS TREE TRAIL
Flagstaff
Mule deer on the trail

For the dancing herds of mule deer roaming the grasslands on the eastern slopes of Flagstaff's Mount Elden, cliff-rose is considered a browsing delicacy. When in bloom (April-September), the delicate white roses spill a tart-sweet perfume into the mountain breezes which churn the scent through pines boughs to form an airborne elixr---"eau de cerf".  This is indeed deer paradise---ample food, wide open spaces and woodlands replete with hiding places for foals.   Wildlife-loving hikers will almost certainly share the Christmas Tree trail with the elegant beasts who will usually pause to indulge their curiosity about approaching humans before galloping off into the brush. 
Although this easy footpath  is mostly used as a connector route for the dozens of more challenging trails around Mt. Elden, it makes for an excellent solo destination when hiking with kids (and I saw quite a few hitting the dirt this week) or as a deer-spotting expedition.

LENGTH:
From south: 4 miles roundtrip
From north: 6 miles roundtrip
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6900'- 7250'
GETTING THERE:
South access, Elden Mountain trailhead:
From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to the I40 interchange in Flagstaff.  Head east on I40 to exit 201 for US89 north.  Drive north on US89 to just past the Flagstaff mall and turn left into a parking area marked by a hiker sign.  This turn off is between mileposts 419 and 420.  To find Christmas Tree Trail, hike 0.2 mile on the main path to the signed junction for Fatmans Loop, turn right here and go 0.3 mile to the signed junction. From here, it's 1.5 mile to the Sandy Seep Trail junction.
North Access, Sandy Seep trailhead:
From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to the I40 interchange in Flagstaff.  Head east on I40 to exit 201 for US89 north.  Drive north on US89 to milepost 421 (0.5 mile north of  Townsend-Winona Road) and turn left onto FR 9139 and drive 0.1 mile to the trailhead. Follow Sandy Seep trail 1.5 mile to the Christmas Tree junction, turn left and hike 1.5 mile to the Fatmans Loop sign.
INFO:
Flagstaff Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-526-0866
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