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post #1 of (permalink) Old 12-07-2017, 12:04 AM Thread Starter
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Default Hiking in Sedona

This thread will aggregate multitude of hiking trails of various difficulty in and around Sedona, Arizona. By the time it is finished it will hopefully provide fairly extensive resource for future trip planning of CT members. I will also provide links to variety of online resources as well as GPS tracks as I go along.

Good place for initial orientation is Visitor Center on Hwy 179 few kms south of Oak Creek Village in west Sedona. They will talk to you as long as you want, give you free maps, and provide trail recommendation. Note -- most of these trails require passes. They can be purchased on trailheads from machines (1 day or 1 week) or annual pass at Visitor Center. However as it still under federal jurisdiction, inter-agency US National Park pass is valid.

Fairly good website with tons of trails, photos and maps is here: http://www.sedonahikingtrails.com/index.html


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Last edited by zeljkok; 01-14-2022 at 12:21 AM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 12-07-2017, 12:20 AM Thread Starter
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Trail #1 : Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock is Sedona's most photographed landmark and also one of most photographed in entire Southwest. Usual access and classic view of West face is in Red Rock Crossing -- Crescent Moon park. Trail leads to Oak creek and famous "Buddha beach" -- where Yogis can be often found meditating. In summer it is great swim hole as well.

For hikers, far better option is access from the east. I took Hwy 179 about 4 miles south from "Y" intersection in downtown Sedona, then turned right into "Back-O-Beyond" road on right side. Follow for about 1km to Cathedral Rock trailhead; there are 2 parking lots. From here there are variety of options -- it would be hard to describe them all. I was interested in loop around the Cathedral, so I did counter-clockwise loop. Up initially on Cathedral Rock trail to junction with Templeton. Cathedral Rock continues straight and up -- I came down this way, and it is a scramble, great fun either way. Templeton circles around on north side, drops to Buddha beach then comes to signed junction with Baldwin -- turn left, then at next junction take Highline trail. Watch for cyclists. Highline is pure joy! Super scenic:

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From photography perspective late afternoon is when you want to be here:

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Highline climbs fairly high and is scrambly at spots. Then comes important bit -- I didn't take GPS, but as you crest the saddle on east side instead of dropping down towards Bell Rock, take unsigned faint trail that heads towards base of Cathedral on east side. This is the highlight -- narrow, slick and very beautiful. These granite blocks are super impressive & I might return in the morning for some photography. I believe this side is also used by rock climbers. Ultimately you intercept top of "Cathedral Rock" trail which is marked with signature "cairns" I see on Sedona trails --- cubes of rock guarded by chicken wire. Then the fun starts -- scramble, class 3 down slick rock but so grippy that is pure joy. It was already dark so I don't have photos, but here is good description so you can see if it fits your skill level & interest:

http://www.sedonahikingtrails.com/ca...rock-trail.htm

Ultimately you descend to Templeton and then down to parking. Whole loop takes about 2 hours. I don't have stats, but I estimate ~6km and probably 300-350 vertical. Great fun, and I fully recommend it to scramblers and photographers.

Last edited by zeljkok; 12-07-2017 at 12:39 AM.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 12-07-2017, 01:45 AM
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Nice place to be! Looking forward to more trip reports of the area. Passed through in February last year and did the Devil's Bridge Trail (from Mescal Trailhead). Hope to make it back there for a longer stay - this thread will come in handy - thanks.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 12-07-2017, 10:12 PM
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Miss that place, such excellent hiking and off road country. Hope to get back in January or february.

Are you going up Fay Canyon? If so turn right at the fork a few km up the trail and head all the way to the back of the valley for a very cool, small centuries old Sinagua indian ruin that few ever see.

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post #5 of (permalink) Old 12-08-2017, 01:58 AM Thread Starter
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Trail #2 : Sterling Pass -- Vultee Arch

Return Distance: 8.5km
Return Time: 3 - 3.5 hrs
Elevation: ~650m

GPS Track

Map:
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This was recommended by Park Ranger at Visitor Center. It is not an easy trail & not for beginners. It climbs steeply on fairly rough terrain to narrow saddle between two immense granite blocks, then drops on the other side towards "Vultee Arch" and memorial plaque on site of old accident. Crux is finding the trailhead. Drive north on 89A from Sedona through Oak Creek Canyon for about 5 miles till you see Marker 380. Now be on alert. Soon you will see Manzanita campground on the right side. Park on the pullout on the right side of the road just before the campground. If you miss this and see Slide Rock Park, you have gone too far. From the parking simply walk for couple of minutes north on the road and watch for trail heading up on the left side. This is Sterling Pass trail, and trailhead is marked with small plate.

In winter trails starting in Oak Creek Canyon will be mostly in shade during the day as sun is low on the horizon. The climb to the pass is fairly strenuous as you clamber over rocks, but trail is always well defined. Takes about an hour & 350 vertical to the pass. Terrain on the other side is nicer; trail switchbacks through some interesting forest and then ravines till marked junction that points you to the right towards the Arch. Memorial is right there on the slick rock. Rough trail continues and climbs to the arch; you can reach both the base and walk over it. Caution: This is prime rattlesnake terrain for spring/summer/fall trips. Couple of photos:

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Trail descending through interesting forest on other side of Sterling Pass

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Vultee Memorial Plaque

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Vultee Arch

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Slickrock plateau and end of trail from Vultee Arch

External link I used for beta: http://www.azutopia.com/difficult-hi...l-vultee-arch/
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 12-08-2017, 12:48 PM
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Nice, looks like some interesting forest and terrain along the trail. I'll be following along for your other reports.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 12-08-2017, 11:52 PM Thread Starter
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Trail #3 : Airport Loop

If you have just couple of hours and want panoramic view of entire Sedona valley and its Rock Mesas, this is the one to do. Drive south on 89A from 179 junction for few kilometers till you see "Airport Road" junction (traffic light) and go left. Trailhead is little saddle between airport plateau and adjoining "Sedona Hill". There is small parking -about 10 vehicles- but good luck getting a spot, specially near sunset. Continuing on the road leads to airport plateau where they charge you 3 bucks just to get out of car and take photo (nowere to hike). This is recurring theme, even off season in Sedona: There are tons of places to go, but parking is huge problem. So I simply did a U turn then found spot off street in residential area, then walked back. Walking on that airport road is not simple as there is no curb or shoulder, just road. They even warn you "Don't walk on Airport Road". So do as you wish. Anyways, back on trailhead there are several marked trails. "Summit Trail" spits you up on little hill 3 minutes up -- commendable views. Airport loop circles around vast airport plateau and this is place to go. It is shared with cyclists. You can go either direction for the loop. Entire way is open with fantastic panoramic views and all junctions are marked. About 5.5 km so plan maybe 2 hours as you'll be stopping often for photos! Here are a few:

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View west across south Sedona towards Chimney Rock and Thunder Mountain

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Panoramic view east down Hwy 179 towards Oak Creek Village. You can see Courthouse Mesa and Bell Rock far right

External link with maps and tons of photos: http://www.sedonahikingtrails.com/ai...loop-trail.htm
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 12-09-2017, 12:40 AM
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Awesome pic. We did that airport loop last winter and really enjoyed it. Excellent views from all around the loop. Hope we can get back to Sedona in 2018.

Are you camping down there? what are the temperatures like in day time?

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post #9 of (permalink) Old 12-09-2017, 12:49 AM Thread Starter
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what are the temperatures like in day time?
T shirt and shorts daytime, bluebird entire week. Drops close to freezing overnight though
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 12-09-2017, 11:09 PM
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T shirt and shorts daytime, bluebird entire week. Drops close to freezing overnight though
and dry as bone I bet? ... Gawd, I love it there. Appreciate your TR's, inspiring us to return

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post #11 of (permalink) Old 12-10-2017, 12:17 AM
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Wonderful trails indeed, how many days do you plan on this?

If you want to find some gears like backpacking solar charger, 10 person tent... or get better preparations before any outdoor adventures, visit my blog to find out!
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 12-10-2017, 03:14 PM
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Beautiful pictures and interesting reports. Looking forward to more
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 12-11-2017, 12:10 AM Thread Starter
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Wonderful trails indeed, how many days do you plan on this?
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Beautiful pictures and interesting reports. Looking forward to more
There is much more to come as I am here for awhile. Nice to have receptive audience, thanks very much
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 12-11-2017, 12:42 AM Thread Starter
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Trail #4 "Chapel Loop"

By a margin favorite hike so far and superbly scenic! First, there is no such trail as "Chapel Loop"; instead it was self-designed loop hike that utilizes segments of several trails behind Twin Buttes that are in the backdrop of famous "Chapel of the Holy Cross" on 179 south. Looking at following map:

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I did counter-clockwise loop by starting with Chapel trail, continuing to Chicken point via Little Horse then Broken Arrow to Submarine Rock and back via Twin Buttes / Hog Heaven / Hog Wash / Mystic for total distance of ~10km and ~300 vertical. You can trace this route on map above. Vertical profile:

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And aerial map view of gps track:
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Backside of Twin Buttes is vast wilderness area in front of Munds Mountain, and it has been criss-crossed with 4WD dirt roads. Famous "Pink Jeep" tours in Sedona bring tourists here to couple of slickrock viewpoints and I had lots of fun observing these. It is so funny, they fork out over 100 USD to have their kidneys shaken and stirred, eyes filled with dust while they could simply hike an hour or so and had it all for as long as they wanted. And then they will go back to town, get drunk and when they get home boast about wilderness desert adventure. However, this tour is extremely popular as jeeps I observed were all full; Europeans mostly. Photo story in chronological order:

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[Along Chapel trail before Little Horse Junction with great view of Nuns]

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[Chicken Point at dusk. This is f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c viewpoint and come here around dusk; jeeps will be gone, you can watch sunset and enjoy what desert is all about]

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[Pink Jeep doing its antics near Broken Arrow trail segment]

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[Pano from Submarine Rock. Classic Sedona backdrop]

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[Dusk pano from "High on the Hog". This is great trail, slick rock that calls for use of hands with superb views throughout!]

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[Cathedral Rock, Sedona most famous landmark, at night with sky full of stars]

Finally, word about "Chapel of the Holy Cross". Regardless of your religious affiliation, it is well worth visiting. It blends beautifully with desert and affords phenomenal views from the rocky terrace it is built on. There are 3 parking lots, but they all fill specially on weekend. There is also note that parking is for Chapel only, and not for hiking; there is gate too I believe gets closed after 5 pm. So best is to leave car at Mystic Trailhead as I did along Chapel road. Couple of Chapel photos:

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[Classic View of Chapel of Holy Cross from 1st parking lot]

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[Angel statue in garden in front of Chapel entrance]

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[Chapel Interior]

Last edited by zeljkok; 12-11-2017 at 12:48 AM.
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 12-12-2017, 02:35 AM Thread Starter
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Trail #5 Bell Rock / Courthouse Butte

This is wonderful afternoon walk on developed set of trails that loop around 2 distinct rock features along Hwy 179 South between Sedona and Oak Creek Village. Once again, there are several variations -- consult maps at trailhead. I did counter-clockwise loop around Courthouse Butte, diverged and scrambled "Baby Bell" then returned on Bell Rock Pathway to parking. It is also possible to scramble Bell Rock; I might go back to do it, but it is presumably fairly difficult. I recommend this for photography late in the afternoon when setting sun lights up red rock of Courthouse Butte. ~2 hours and minimal elevation. Couple of photos:

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Courthouse Butte from Bell Rock

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Very impressive spire from far side of Courthouse Butte

I also looked at possible scramble route up Courthouse. Think I could trace 2/3rd of the possible way up, but it appeared unpenetrable after. Would be loads of fun to explore; I'm sure it has been done. Btw Baby Bell is great elevated vista for night photography & I might return with tripod one starry night while I'm still here. Recommended
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Last edited by zeljkok; 12-12-2017 at 03:43 AM.
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