Elephant Mountain Loop

HARD 168 reviews

Elephant Mountain Loop is a 7 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Cave Creek, Arizona that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round.

7.0 miles
1,335 feet



nature trips



wild flowers



no shade

no dogs

There is a $3 per person fee at the trailhead.

no shade
4 days ago

First time hiking this loop. Muddy in sections after recent rains. All easily passable. Excellent, beautiful hike. Personally, I would not call this hike primitive or difficult and I am just of average fitness. Trails are VERY used and well defined. We hiked counterclockwise, which climbs faster and gets you up to Elephant Mountain faster, with a nice gradual descent back to the parking lot. Most people seem to go up clockwise and return the same way. Note that the route up to the "summit" is posted "AREA CLOSED" but everyone goes up anyway. 360 degree views are awesome. Also note that this summit is NOT Elephant Mountain, which is the tall mountain peak just to the west. My GPS said 3342' and 7.6 miles from the parking lot. I'd definitely hike this again in the same direction, CCW... easier on the knees.

19 days ago

Beautiful area and views. Would say this was moderate, not hard and 8 miles vs 6.8.

21 days ago

Couple things to note:
1) it is $3 per person not per vehicle.
2) from the parking lot...start going LEFT on Spur Cross Trail. (There are two signs - enter the left one).
3) Then as other reviews mention...When you get to the fork, go RIGHT (counterclockwise) to head up to elephant mountain and that way you do the hard part first!
Such a pretty hike! Barely anyone out there on a Sunday. Really pretty views from the top and could see all the way to weavers needle, the McDowells etc. The summit is in an area that says closed, but you can def enter and summit! It was minimally technical for me; switchbacks were steep leading to the saddle, but moderate if you are in decent shape. No sign at the top of summit though. We clocked in ~10 miles due to mistake at the beginning.. it was a very pretty mistake though!

25 days ago

Gorgeous hike, has it all, nice workout, incredible desert landscape, beautiful topography.

26 days ago

great views. the trail leads to the top of the saddle but a "closed" trail continues to a summit. this route just inspired me to explore more of this beautiful area.

1 month ago

I did this hike on a Tuesday morning and only encountered two other small groups while I was out. A nice, quiet hike with incredible desert views and plentiful saguaro. As other reviewers have noted, going counterclockwise will get the hardest part of the hike done first and then a nice descent for the second half. There is a self pay fee at the trailhead where you are asked to put three dollars in an envelope and keep the receipt for proof of payment.

1 month ago

What makes a trail 5 stars for me is always the vistas. This one really has it all.

1 month ago

+1 for hiking it CCW, staying right at the fork to do the north section of the Elephant Mountain trail before the Spur Cross section. You will be facing the best views the whole time going this direction and you'll do the harder section earlier.

1 month ago

This was an exhilarating and challenging at the same time. I did this counter clockwise and so glad I did. Actually, I felt like I got the hard stuff out of the way first, and enjoyed my descent down after all the climbing I did. The views are incredible! Don't forget to stop every once in a while and turn around to see the sweeping desert views. Start early as this takes a while to do. Recommend this trail to get your heart pumping and your adrenaline keyed up!

1 month ago

GO COUNTERCLOCKWISE! The first 3 miles is a fairly gradual but steep incline to the saddle, everything from there is a breeze. Clocked in at 7.5 miles total, got off trail a few times but we think that’s mostly because we were admiring the scenery. So beautiful, watch out for jumping cactus around the saddle area... they line the trail for a good mile!

1 month ago

Great quiet trail with views. Sections are steep and loose. Do it counter clockwise and add Dragonfly trail at end for 8+ miles total and creek with big cottonwood trees to cool down.

2 months ago

Beautiful and hard hike. The AllTrails rating of ‘moderate’ is incorrect. The trailhead has it rated as ‘extremely difficult’ which is correct. Lots of steep climbs and it is fairly long 6.8 miles. But incredible views and happened upon a rattlesnake and a king snake. Bottomline, leave early, no dogs for sure due to terrain and difficulty, and be in shape!

6 months ago

Nice trail saguaros were great!!

7 months ago


7 months ago

Beautiful trail. Much 10% grade. I only did from parking to elephant mountain trailhead. I started around 7:30 and should have started earlier to make the whole route. Next time

8 months ago

Great views, no people, wildlife, and well maintained.

trail running
8 months ago

Beautiful hike/trail run. 6.8 by my watch. Agree moderate, not difficult. Counter-clockwise has more steep inclines at the beginning of the loop, then the other side is gradual and rolling ups and downs. Few people go beyond Tortuga so nice and quiet. Great views! Optional trails at the top to a lookout and then also to Elephant Mountain. Have seen rattlers, so watch your step. No water, and can be pretty sunny. One of my go-to's. Second parking area is closer to the trailhead. Small fee for parking, or get the Maricopa county yearly pass. Don't know if they check, but the $$ is for a good cause.

9 months ago

This is a beautiful hike. I wish the desert had enough rain this year as I can see it must be stunning when the desert is in full bloom. I think the rating on this one is wrong though and I would rate it as moderate not difficult.

10 months ago

I loved this trail! I took Tortuga, Elephant Mountain, and Spur Cross Trails. Made it all the way to the top! Great views up there and a worthy challenge! I will come back again that's for sure!

11 months ago

Nicely maintained trail that was easy to follow. Moderate difficulty even hiking it counterclockwise. Very enjoyable.

11 months ago

Moderate hike while in Spur Cross Trail but definitely turns difficult once on the Elephant Mountain section. Great combination of accent and decent with various terrain conditions. Great views from most of the trail.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Enjoyable trail. Hiked counter clockwise which definitely involves a steeper climb than hiking clockwise. Trail easy to follow even through the wash. Wish public was allowed to go up to the area with the ruins. Definitely need good hiking shoes for this hike. Even with mine still slipped on the loose rocks/sand a few times going up. Also trail is 7 miles from the parking lot.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Monday, November 20, 2017

A terrific trail, challenging, but not tricky. Wear hiking shoes (not running shoes) and bring lots of water.

There is some confusion about the restricted area. You can't go up to the Hohokum fort because of the danger, but you certainly can keep going on the descent part of the trail so you do the full loop as the map here shows.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Did this today. The Trail had much potential till I got to a point where it said area closed. It seemed like so should go up but instead I ventured past about a mile and felt like I was going the wrong way. I headed back and started to go back up the trail that said area closed and there were fresh footprints and a definite trail but my husband was worried about venturing further so I turned around and headed back out the way I came in. Does anyone know if that trail is closed off? Does it go up and then loop back down? Or should I have kept going on the mile past it? It just seemed like that trail was heading farther away from the return point. It looked like it went for miles

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Good early morning hike.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Nice hike great views all the way and need to see the ancient ruins of a fort at the top. Got an early start and only came across a few others toward the end including a few mountain bikers. No dogs

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Forgot to rate this when I went back in NovemberDecember of 2016. I went on a weekday and it was stormy (and even rained) so I never saw another person out on the trail. It was just me and my 9 year old Australian Shepherd. I love this trail for lots of reasons...

1) The views are GORGEOUS!!
2) The length was perfect
3) It's far enough away from the city that you really feel like you're in the deep wilderness.
4) It's not a heavily trafficked trail, and it's too treacherous for mountain bikes, so it's just hikers (no offense Mountain bikers )
5). You have to pay attention and be on the lookout for Carins to find your way out of the wash (so it is challenging).
6) It's a great workout!!

P.S...I guess I did rate this back in 2016, as I just found my rating. I forgot to mention...this trail is better navigated with hiking boots rather than running shoes. You'll need the traction and stability that boots offer.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Nice views. It's full of scenery. You get a lot of tuna's (Cactus Opuntia fruits) enway.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Straightforward and scenic trail. take plenty of water ( I took 3 litres) and some protein sources. watch out for Rattlers.

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