VERDE VALLEY - I have lived in the Verde Valley for just over four months, and one of the many things my mom told me before moving out here was you have to go to Sedona, that it's absolutely gorgeous. That is what sparked my interest in hiking, and it is one of the most enjoyable things I have experienced since moving out here.
All you need is your own two feet, some bottles of water, and if you are like me, some sunscreen.
I have had the pleasure of hiking a couple trails since I have been here. And I plan to continue that in the future.
Out of the 200 or more (probably more) trails that are located in Sedona, I have only been able to hike two...so far. My college roommate Kyle and I have been able to conquer the oh-so-popular Devil's Bridge and were able to hike to the highest point in the Sedona area at the end of the Wilson Mountain Trail.
To get to either of these trails from Camp Verde, you can drive to Cottonwood on SR 260 then take 89A to Sedona. Or you can take I-17 to SR 179. From Cottonwood, you can just take 89A into town.
From what I hear, Kyle and I were able to catch this trail on a slow day, but it was still pretty busy. So my advice is if you plan to hike this trail, get there early in the day. The parking lot for the trail is located off FR-152, which is a dirt road. But you can park at the Dry Creek Vista parking lot and start your hike from there. It is about a three-mile hike round trip from the parking lot to the arch.
If you decide to walk from the parking lot, the first half mile or so of the hike is sandy and rocky and you will see countless amounts of the well-known Sedona Pink Jeeps and other tours driving up and down the road, so be careful and stay to the side.
Once you get to the trailhead it is about a three-fourths of a mile hike to the arch. Some parts of the trail are flat and in other parts you have to climb pretty steep rocky steps.
The first lookout gives you a great view of the Red Rock Mountains - and it provides for great photo opportunities. The hike gets steeper from here and at a point after the first lookout the trail will split into two. One trail leads to the arch the other leads underneath it.
You want to head to the right to reach top of the arch. On a slow day we didn't run into too many people on the trail hiking to the arch but if there is there are a couple of spots along the trail where you can avoid the hiking traffic and take more photos.
As you climb, the last steep steps up to the arch you will see the trail open up and you have arrived at the bridge. Like I said, we were there on a slow day, so on a busy day, I would be careful when you reach the top of the steps. As you walk the path to the right of the arch, there is a well-defined path that leads onto the bridge and provides great photo opportunities with the Red Rock Mountains in the back and the drop off in front of you.
"Yes, it may be kind of scary at first, but once you get out onto the bridge its completely worth the great photo opportunity and the experience of enjoying something as rare as a natural arch like Devil's Bridge." Kyle said.
When you hike back down the trail, there are a couple of different ways that you can take back to the parking lot. Kyle and I were looking for a little longer of a hike, so as we came down from the arch and stepped back on to FR-152, there is a trailhead on the right hand side of the trail.
This trail leads back around to the parking lot, just make sure you follow the signs correctly, Kyle and I almost got lost at this point.
Our hike ended up being around five miles, and it was a great first experience in the Red Rock Mountains. This hike is definitely worth the views and the picture opportunities, but if you are looking for a nice relaxing hike with not too many people, I would suggest another trail.
Wilson Mountain Trail
This hike, by far, has been my favorite trail to hike since I have moved to the Verde Valley, with Fossil Creek coming in a close second. There are two trails that lead up to the highest point in Sedona.
Wilson Mountain South Trail and Wilson Mountain North Trail. The south trail starts at Midgley Bridge and climbs up a rocky 2.4-mile trail with a 1,600 foot elevation change and leads to the first plateau. This is where the south and north trails meet.
The north trail begins at Encinoso picnic area parking lot. As you enter the parking lot, the trailhead is to the right of the entrance. You can see a map of the mountain, the trail is just beyond that.
The trail runs along the bottom of the mountain through a forest until it climbs up the backside of the mountain using a number of switchbacks until you reach the first plateau. This is where the north and south trails meet.
I have not hiked the south trail yet, but I do believe the north is longer to this point. As the two trails meet up, you start to climb towards the top.
The trail winds through a forest of shrubbery on both sides of the trail, so I would recommend pants or tights for the hike. You are in these shrubs for about a half a mile until the trail opens up into another forest and winds up the mountain.
After about a half a mile or so, you will encounter a sign and the trail splits into two, the Sedona Overlook to the left, the Boynton Canyon Overlook to the right.
We chose to check out the Sedona Overlook. After the sign, it was a little less than a mile to the overlook and the trail washes out at that point, but it leaves you at a great spot for a view of Sedona and the Red Rock Mountains.
"Throughout your hike, it is going to seem like it never ends there is a variety of different types of hiking, open ground, switchbacks, being enclosed by bushes," Kyle said. "Once you reach the top of
the hike though it's breathtaking, the view from the top is astonishing and can only be fully taken in when you truck up a mountain that never seems to end."
We decided to adventure a little further into the forest to see if there was anything else interesting, but we didn't go too far.
There was another viewpoint a little further into the forest but the Sedona Overlook provides a much better view.
If you are looking for a longer trail to hike, I definitely recommend this one. It is a mixture of both steep inclines and flat parts for rest. I would definitely bring a good amount of water and a hat.
Unlike Devil's Bridge, we barely saw anyone while hiking this trail other than a few couples on the way down. One person we passed suggested hiking Brins Mesa trail, as he said it was similar to the Wilson Mountain trail.
This is just the first installment of the many hikes I plan to conquer in the Verde Valley. So if you are looking for new trails, stay tuned for upcoming articles.
-- Follow Greg Macafee on Twitter @greg_macafee