Wed, July 08

Popular Sedona trailheads now closed to hikers

A hiker from Massachusetts looks at the popular Cathedral Rock in Sedona from the Courthouse Vista Trailhead area. Both are closed to hikers now. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

A hiker from Massachusetts looks at the popular Cathedral Rock in Sedona from the Courthouse Vista Trailhead area. Both are closed to hikers now. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

SEDONA - The most popular hiking trails in the Sedona area are being closed in response to the large number of people hiking during the coronavirus crisis.

In continuing the effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Red Rock Ranger District of Coconino National Forest is in the process of closing its highest-use destinations and day-use sites in the Sedona area, the forest service explained Thursday.

In coordination with Verde Valley and Sedona civic leaders, the following trails and day-use sites will be closed this weekend, until further notice:

· Beaver Creek Day-Use Site

· Bell Rock Trailhead

· Cathedral Rock Trailhead and Trail

· Courthouse Vista Trailhead

· Crescent Moon Day-Use Site

· Devil’s Bridge Trail, including OHV access and surrounding associated trails:

· Dry Creek Trailhead

· Long Canyon Trailhead

· Mescal Trailhead

· West Fork Trailhead

Forest Service employees and law enforcement officers will patrol the areas closed, and citations will be given to those who ignore the closures, the forest service said.

Mayor Sandy Moriarty, Yavapai County Supervisor Randy Garrison, and Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff all supported the Forest Service taking action, the mayor said Tuesday.

The Sedona Chamber of Commerce Monday asked visitors not to come to Sedona during the coronavirus crisis.

“We are advising travelers to postpone any plans to visit Sedona for the time being,” explained Wesselhoff. “The advisory pertains to day trippers planning outdoor activities as well as anyone considering a more extended stay.

The Grand Canyon National Park was also closed to hikers Wednesday.

“We realize these popular destinations in Sedona are places people rejuvenate by getting outside and experiencing the beauty this area has to offer,” said Red Rock District Ranger Amy Tinderholt Thursday.

“However, the unfortunate reality at these locations during this pandemic has been continued high use, causing crowds to form and people lining up just to hike or get to the end of the trail. We will not keep trails and areas open that create environments for COVID-19 to spread easily, which negates the important practice of social distancing.”

Coconino NF continually evaluates popular areas across each district to determine if additional closures are necessary to help aid in following federal, state, and local health guidelines.

Even though these popular destinations are closing, Coconino National Forest includes nearly 2 million acres of dispersed recreational opportunities across three districts, explained the forest service release.

Sedona trails have been busy as tourists from all over Arizona have been seeking refuge in the Coconino National Forest as a way to get out of their homes during the coronavirus isolation. But local officials are also concerned such use may overwhelm local medical facilities.

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