Next time you find yourself driving through Flagstaff, be sure to check out one of the area’s beautiful hiking trails. Rather than just walk around the downtown and visit a few restaurants and shops, why not get out there and actually explore the picturesque natural scenery? There are many trails, of all skill levels, to be found in the Cococino National Forest. One scenic option, which is also conveniently located on the east end of town near the Flagstaff Mall, is the Fatman’s Loop Trail.
This moderately-easy 2.5 mile loop trail travels along the Eastern slope of Mt. Elden, a lava dome with an elevation of 9301 feet. The trail is mostly flat with a few steep sections in the first half. It’s enough of a workout to please regular hikers, yet easy enough for beginning hikers. After you reach the summit, it is pretty much all downhill. Be careful walking downhill as it can be a bit slippery. A hiking stick comes in handy to keep your balance. In my opinion, walking downhill is much harder than going up hill. Although it isn’t as much of a workout, it can be much more challenging to prevent yourself from sliding down.
The plant life along the trail is very unique and consists of a contrasting mix of upper elevation trees like fir ponderosa pine and lower elevation desert plants such as yucca, alligator juniper, and cliff rose. You aren’t likely to see any major wildlife here, however, a mule deer or grey fox sighting is common. It’s a very scenic green trail, with some shade along the way. The diversity in plant life between those found in the high vs. low elevation is quite pleasing to the eye.