This intermediate loop from Buffalo Park has enough climbing to make it a decent workout, and some fun flowing downhill. Close up looks at the ancient lava flows of Mount Elden make for interesting scenery. It can easily be extended for longer rides.
Starting from Buffalo park, this ride climbs via the Lower Oldham Trail
to Elden Lookout Road
and then descends a portion of the Rocky Ridge
and Arizona Trails to make a rewarding loop.
From the parking area at Buffalo Park, ride straight across the park (watch for kids, joggers, strollers, unicyclers, etc.) taking in the fine views as you go. At the far side you'll see a utility building and signs marking the entrance to Coconino National Forest. Follow the trail downhill from here - this short stretch is one of the rockiest sections of the entire ride.
At the bottom of the hill is an unmarked intersection that serves as the end of the loop described by this ride (at the end of the ride you'll be coming in from the left, on the "Easy Oldham" trail). For now, proceed straight (uphill) on the Lower Oldham trail toward the intersection with the Pipeline Trail
(which provides access to the neighborhoods of East Flagstaff). Just past Pipeline, look for an unmarked intersection and bear left (following the vast majority of bike tracks). Going straight will get you to the same place, but with a lot more work (following the hiker-friendly route of the Lower Oldham Trail
This section of Lower Oldham is smooth and fun, ending after a mile or so at a grassy intersection where several major trails converge (you'll be back at this spot again, so spend a minute taking it in). Stay right, hugging the slope of Mt. Elden, where you'll quickly hit a well-signed intersection at which you'll bear left, continuing on Lower Oldham toward the Rocky Ridge
Trail. This section climbs alongside the ancient lava flows of Mt. Elden. It's aesthetic, but steep, and at least one obstacle will prove thought-provoking. After a fairly stout climb, the trail tops out at Elden Lookout Road
and the parking area for one of the local climbing crags.
From the parking area there are numerous possible descent routes, or you can continue up toward Mount Elden or the Dry Lake Hills. The descent described here flows well, and is my favorite way to get down.
Cross Elden Lookout Road
and get on the signed Rocky Ridge
Trail. A very brief uphill is followed by 3/4 of a mile of swooping downhill leading to a signed intersection with the Arizona Trail. Turn left, following signs for Buffalo Park. If you miss this turn, the Rocky Ridge
Trail heads west, leading you away from your car...
The AZ Trail quickly crosses over Elden Lookout Road
and heads smoothly down to the same grassy intersection you visited on the way up - turn right on the unsigned "Easy Oldham" trail to continue the loop back down to Buffalo Park. Enjoy the rolls downhill straight past the Pipeline Trail
and back to the intersection that closes the loop on this route. Turn right, and navigate the brief uphill climb back to Buffalo park.