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“This passage begins at Hwy 40, heading northwest up around the base of Elden Mountain.”
— Adopt These Trails!
From Highway 89, at what is known as the Sandy Seep Trailhead, the Arizona Trail climbs toward the apocalyptically burned east face of Mount Elden (torched by the 1977 Radio Fire). The trail itself passes through grasslands with unburned pine, oak and juniper as it steadily gains altitude. This stretch receives sun nearly all day and can be torturously hot with minimal shade.
After about 1.5 miles, the trail reaches a small valley tucked between a low range of hills and Mount Elden itself. This valley was formed when the igneous rock from Mount Elden pushed up layers of sedimentary rock that form the low hills - it's unusual and makes for pretty scenery. This area, known as "Sandy Seep" is an important wintering area for mule deer, which might be seen any time of year.
The trail eventually presses close to the slopes of Mount Elden. Look for a round water retention basin (which will likely be empty) - immediately uphill from this basin a quick side-trip leads to the reliable pools of Little Elden Spring. In addition, Elden Spring Road is just northeast of the trail here, with ample parking at a well-signed trailhead. Beyond the spring, the trail enters pretty aspen and mixed conifer forest and climbs smoothly toward Schultz Pass. A few stretches of trail pass through areas burned in the 2010 Schultz Fire, but these are short enough to be more interesting than unpleasant.