Short, easy and scenic, the Sandy Seep Trail offers quick access to a network of routes on the east flanks of Mount Elden in northeast Flagstaff. While the 1.5-mile path makes for a sweet standalone hike, it also serves as an on-ramp for the 42-mile, city-circling Flagstaff Loop Trail and the 800-plus-mile, state-traversing Arizona National Scenic Trail.
In addition, the route can be used to access two heart-pumping trails — Little Bear and Heart — that climb steep slopes to the ridgelines of Elden Mountain.
Located just a few clicks north of downtown Flagstaff off U.S. 89, the old standard Sandy Seep Trail has been a pillar of the Mount Elden/Dry Lakes Hills trail system in Coconino National Forest.
Having survived several devastating wildfires, including the 1977 Radio Fire and the 2010 Schultz Fire, the trail is also within the scope of proposed changes that will improve forest health and enhance user experience in the popular recreation hub. You can weigh in on how the changes might roll out.
Coconino National Forest is asking for public input regarding proposed improvements to nonmotorized trails in the Mount Elden/Dry Lake Hills area. Popular hiking, biking and equestrian trails in the heavily used area have been deteriorating and a maze of unauthorized paths has resulted in environmental damage, trail-user confusion and safety concerns.
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The proposed project includes plans for sustainable new trail construction, reroutes of existing trails, trailhead improvements and closure of some wildcat paths.
The public may comment online or at scheduled in-person events through July 1.
In the meantime, hit the Sandy Seep Trail to gain an appreciation for this beautiful region and see for yourself what a reboot will do for the area.
From the trailhead, the path is wide and easy to follow. You’ll pass the first Arizona Trail/Flagstaff Loop junction at the 0.1-mile point before the path veers right through spotty pines and oak glens. Views of 9,299-foot Mount Elden and 9,018-foot Little Elden Mountain bolster the trail’s western edge.
Sandy Seep Trail ends at the “sign vortex” at the 1.5-mile point. Interestingly, the seep is not on the eponymous trail, but a few yards ahead on the Little Elden Trail.
To get there, follow the Little Elden/Arizona Trail another 0.2 miles to where an Arizona Trail sign steers hikers to the right. Within a few yards, the trail rises above a sunken basin ringed with reeds and wildflowers. Sometimes soggy but mostly dry, the seep is a favorite hangout for wildlife like deer, squirrels and rabbits.
For an easy stroll, make the seep your turnaround point. Another good day hike out-and-back option is to continue another 2.7 miles to the Little Elden Springs trailhead.
Length: 3 miles round trip for Sandy Seep or 8.4 miles round trip to the Little Elden Spring trailhead.
Rating: Easy for Sandy Seep; moderate for Little Elden Spring.
Elevation: 6,885-7,270 feet for Sandy Seep; 6,885-7,320 feet for Little Elden Spring.
Getting there: Sandy Seep Trailhead option. In Flagstaff, take U.S. 89 north toward Page. One half mile beyond the Townsend/Winona Road intersection, turn left onto Forest Road 9139 and continue a few yards to the trailhead. Little Elden Spring Trailhead option: Drive 5 miles northeast of In Flagstaff go 5 miles north on US 89 to Elden Spring Road (Forest Road 556), turn left and continue 3.5 miles to the Little Elden Springs trailhead on the right.
Read more of Mare Czinar’s hikes at http://arizonahiking.blogspot.com.
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