Tue, July 16

Red Rock Secret Canyon: A secret worth knowing

Red Rock Secret Mountain

Red Rock Secret Mountain

If not for a high voltage power line, Red Rock Secret Mountain wilderness would likely have been married to Sycamore Canyon when it was created in 1984.

If that had happened, the two would have formed a single wilderness area encompassing more than 100,000 acres of the valley's northern skyline. As it is, they still manage to do it, although separately.

Overlooking the city of Sedona, Red Rock Secret Mountain is anything but a secret. It is in fact among the most visited wilderness areas in the state. One trail within its boundary, the West Fork or Oak Creek, is said to be the state's busiest.

Comprising 47,000 acres it gets its name from the 6,600-foot peak in its northwest corner that lies obscured by heads of Loy Canyon and Secret Canyon.

Well over a dozen trailheads puncture the wilderness area boundary, most from the south side facing Sedona and the east side facing Oak Creek.

Some of the trails were built in the 1800s to move cattle from winter pastures in the Verde Valley to summer grass on the Mogollon rim. Among them were Loy Canyon Trail, A.B. Young Trail (aka East Pocket Trail) and Mooney Trail.

The A.B. Young Trail, which comes up from Oak Creek, was supposedly built by C.S. "Bear" Howard, the man who planted the first apple orchard in Oak Creek Canyon, but got its name from the supervisor of a Civilian Conservation Corps crew that improved the trail in the 1930s.

Vaultee Arch Trail leads to a sandstone arch named for California aircraft designer Gerald Vaultee, who, along with his wife Sylvia, died when his plane hit the mountain about a mile north of the arch. The trail also leads to the East Pocket Lookout, one of Arizona's few remaining fire towers made of wood.

Like Sycamore Canyon, Red Rock Secret Mountain has its fair share of Indian ruins and at least one fabled cabin.

Near the summit of Secret Mountain are the remains of an old cabin said to have been an outlaw hideout and/or a remote compound of Mormon polygamists.

And like its sister wilderness, Red Rock Secret Mountain is a gallery of sandstone and limestone laid down over the last 400 million years. However, as the name implies, red is the predominant shade.

Deposited during the Permian and Pennsylvanian geologic periods (250 to 325 million years ago), the red color of the Supai, Hermit and Schnebly Hill formations are the result of iron deposited by water seeping through the porous sandstone.

Along with being the state's busiest wilderness area, Red Rock Secret Mountain is the only one with an admission fee. The fees apply to all the trailheads within the Red Rock Ranger District and require a Red Rock Pass.

The only trailhead that doesn't have a fee is the upper end of the Loy Canyon Trial, accessible only from the top of the rim.

In formation on Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness Area, as well as its trails, is available on the Internet at several Web sites or by contacting the Coconino National Forest, Red Rock Ranger District at (928) 282-4119.