The 22nd annual National Trails Day is Saturday, June 7. Established by the American Hiking Society to celebrate the nation's 200,000 miles of trails, the day brings appreciation for special places and the beauty of the wild.
Often called a trail Mecca, Sedona and the Verde Valley have more than 100 trails for hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers. Besides being a way of appreciating the great outdoors, trails are a great way to get the heart rate up and improve physical and mental health.
In many areas of the country, major events are planned on National Trails Day to improve local trails and put them to get use.
But it does not take an organized event to get the most out of National Trails Day.
Before You Head Out
Know where you are going and prepare for the conditions. There are excellent trail guidebooks available for Sedona and Verde Valley. Consult with local experts as well, such as ranger stations, chambers of commerce and local outfitters. They will have accurate, up-to-date information so you do not encounter unexpected changes and closures.
Check the weather report. Bring a charged cell phone. Bring water. Bring food. Wear appropriate clothing (including a wide-brim hat) and especially appropriate footwear. Take out what you bring in, and be aware of fire restrictions.
It is never a good idea to hike alone. Always tell someone your destination and intended time of return. A personal first aid kit is also a good precaution.
The national forests and state parks also discouraging hiking just after a rain before the trails have had a chance to dry. Shoe prints, hoof prints and tire prints on vulnerable pathways can cause serious damage.
Share the Trail
Some trails allow pedestrians, horses and mountain bikes, so it is important to know who has right of way and how to behave in an encounter. Typically, bicyclists yield to hikers and equestrians. Pedestrians yield to equestrians. If you are not certain how to yield to a horse in a given situation, ask the rider.
When overtaking other parties on the trail, let them know of their presence in a courteous manner. Courtesy at all times will make everyone's day.
Know Your Limits
Even on a short trail like Cathedral Rock, hikers can be surprised by unexpected strenuousness. Most of the trails in our area provide such beautiful scenery, it is easy to go farther than you are really prepared for. There is no shame in turning around before reaching a specified destination.
When it comes to terrain, heat, elevation or duration, know your limitations. Everyone's fitness level is different. A hike should be a pleasure, not a competition.
If you are a rookie on a trail bike, or your horse or companion dog is not yet accustomed to trail behavior, take it easy and keep everything under control.
Try a New Trail
With scores of trails all over Red Rock Country and through the Verde Valley, there is no need to stick to the same pathway with every hike. Venture out and explore to truly appreciate our growing trail system, which is what National Trails Day is all about.
Guidebooks and guides can direct you to the trails that fit your criteria and limitations. Some trails are more crowded with visitors than others. Some will offer you the greatest hiking challenge you have imagined.
From the moderate A.B. Young Trail to the challenging Hot Loop Trail to the laid-back Wilson Canyon Trail, there is something for everyone.
Back to Nature
A good trail is not just a personal escape from the rat race of life. It is a conduit to the best of nature in landscape and wildlife.
Learn how to deal with the various wild animals you will encounter and how they may try to deal with you. It will expand your appreciation of the world you have stepped into. It is also an educational experience to bring along one of the many books explaining the geology and geography of the area.
All of this is part of the original goal of National Trails Day, in increased appreciation for our surroundings and fellow creatures.
Get out there.Where: Sedona
Distance: 2.5 miles one way
Elevation change: 1,900 feet
Where: Cottonwood to Sedona
Distance: 15 miles one way
Elevation change: 350 feet