The trail is approximately 38 miles from Fountain Hills. The easiest route is through Rio Verde.
Travel 8-miles on N Fountain Hills Blvd, turns into McDowell Mountain Road
Turn left onto Forest Road for 2-miles
Turn left onto Rio Verde Drive for 8-miles
Continue through the traffic circle onto E Dynamite Blvd for 3-miles
Turn right and drive 5-miles on N Pima Rd
Turn left and drive 4-miles on N Cave Creek Rd
Turn left and drive 4-miles on N Spur Cross Rd
Park in the large parking area, and walk down to the trailhead.
About the hike
Elephant Mountain Trail is a 7-mile moderately strenuous hike. The trail has an elevation gain of 1,335 feet offering beautiful views of the surrounding areas. Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be kept on leash. There is a park admission fee of $3.00.
I started hiking on an early brisk November morning. The sun was slowly starting to peek above the horizon.
In the wash, these beautiful agaves lined the pathway. After blooming, the agaves die away; but they provide brilliant color to the desert landscape even as they fade away.
The sun rose above the horizon, glistening the saguaro in a halo of gold. The glistening white spines protect the tender skin of the saguaro from sunburn by reflecting away the hot sun.
The trail narrowed and grew rockier the further I walked.
I looked over the rocky hillside, catching another glimpse of the suns ray's showering light across the desert landscape.
Following the rocky trail, I meandered down into the wash. I paused to turn three-hundred and sixty degrees to admire the mountains dotted with saguaros. The saguaros stood guard vigilantly, protecting all those exploring along the desert floor. The energy projected from the saguaros reassured me I was safe as I hiked along the trail.
I climbed up the steep rocky hillside to the plateau. My frustration from this rocky trail grew because I was hiking this trail in preparation for the Elephant run in February. I thought this was the trail we would run. Luckily I was wrong. The run was on a completely different route.
I paused, looking back from the top of the route to capture another picture of the sun rising above the mountain ridgeline.
The path split off into two separate trails at the top of the plateau. I hooked a right onto the Elephant Mountain Trail. The trail widened but didn't offer too much excitement as I hiked along the path. Finally, I came to a fantastic stairwell built down the side of the mountain toward the dry creek bed below.
I paused at the top of the stairwell to admire the view. Elephant Mountain was in the backdrop, but it's hard to make out the elephant's head and trunk from this angle.
The bottom of the stairwell exited into the dry creek bed.
You'll spend time trekking through the sandy creek bed. It would be a good idea if you planned on stopping to dump some of the sand out of your shoes. I certainly had to. At this point the trail got tricky to navigate. I followed along the bluff outlining the creek bed until I came back to the stairwell.
During the winter months, I rely on the sun to splash reflections across the meadows drawing out the plant's beautiful yellows and oranges laying dormant.
In February, the earth warms, bringing plants back to life to paint the desert with splashes of color.
Over the horizon, I glimpsed the parking lot off in the distance, alerting me I was nearing the end of my hike.
I rounded out my hike with one last view of Elephant Mountain. The frequency of hikers I passed increased as the day shifted into mid-morning.