3 Flagstaff summer hikes with mountain views and fields of flowers

Arizona Republic (August 20, 2020) by Mare Czinar

It feels like everyone is heading to Arizona’s high country this summer, and no wonder. With record-breaking heat in Phoenix and people curtailing their activities because of the new coronavirus pandemic, a change of scenery is more refreshing than ever.

Here are three Flagstaff hikes that are at their best in summer. The masses of colorful wildflowers and see-forever mountain views you’ll enjoy will have you feeling revitalized in no time.

If you head out of town, be considerate of the communities you visit. Observe mask requirements and keep your distance from fellow hikers. To monitor the traffic conditions on Interstate 17 and other state highways, follow the Arizona Department of Transportation on Twitter for real-time updates.

Little Elden Trail

Wildflower season is in full bloom in Flagstaff’s Dry Lake Hills. One perennially productive wildflower area is the Little Elden Trail to Schultz Tank. This multifaceted gem traces the north flanks of 9,018-foot Little Elden Mountain through a mix of mixed-conifer woodlands, aspen glens, sunny meadows and a variety of blooming plant communities.

From the trailhead, follow the 0.3-mile access path to the Little Elden Trail, which doubles as part of the Arizona Trail’s Passage 32.

The route heads right (west) at the sign and begins with a shady walk among pines and firs, with a smattering of aspens tucked into clearings. Where the trail crosses drainages, plots of rich green ferns swaying over the narrow footpath gently brush the shoulders of passing hikers.

Roughly 0.8 mile in, reminders of the 2010 Schultz Fire begin to appear in the form of charred logs and gangly snags.

Ten years removed from the fire, this section is now a sprawling meadow flush with wildflowers and brambles that have taken root among blackened, matchstick-like stumps.

The loss of the tree cover has revealed previously obscured views of O’Leary Peak and Sunset Crater to the northeast and the scorched edge of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness to the northwest.

The recovering meadows of hip-high grasses foster a botanical garden of blooming plants. Look for fruity raspberry shrubs, the frothy cream-colored blooms and dark fruits of blueberry elder tree that grow sporadically in bright fields.

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