Sun, Jan. 16

Take at Hike: Baldwin Trail

After only ten minutes or so of walking the trail will drop down approximately thirty feet from the red rock shelf to the river bottom.

After only ten minutes or so of walking the trail will drop down approximately thirty feet from the red rock shelf to the river bottom.

Baldwin Trail

The Baldwin Trail is relatively easy and connects to the Templeton Trail so it can be as long as one wishes to make it. Along the way you will stumble upon some of the most iconic photo ops Sedona has to offer. The trailhead is easy to find, follow Verde Valley School Road to the end after it turns to dirt (easily passable for all cars) and park in the big lot. The trail is relatively flat, especially at the beginning when it wanders across dirt hills and traverses the red rock. If one has difficulty following the trail merely observe the large red rock cairns, built like miniature pillars to guide the way.

After only ten minutes or so of walking the trail will drop down approximately thirty feet from the red rock shelf to the river bottom. Immediately you will discover yourself in the shade, standing beneath a thick grove of trees. I will never forget the time I was strolling along the Baldwin trail and stumbled upon an elderly married couple excitedly identifying plants. They were a pair of retired botany professors enjoying one of the lushest riparian zones in the entire state. The large trees and shade they provide, as well as easy river access make the Baldwin Trail a popular summer hike. The abundant tree life also makes the Baldwin Trail a beautiful place to be in the autumn. It is not too shabby during the spring wildflower season either.

The official Baldwin Trail hugs the red rock shelf before bending away from the river and towards another trail head along Verde Valley School Road. There are many well established unofficial social trails which give quick and easy access to the river. One of these spots is a wide red rock shelf, part of which is barely submerged and part of which is dry and warm. Cathedral Rock towers above Oak Creek here and this photograph is one of the most iconic in Sedona.

Along with all the trees, the Baldwin Trail is also an excellent spot for birdwatching. In the spring these trees fill with a variety of birds red cardinals, two types of tanagers, vermillion flycatchers, robins, jays, and the black headed grosbeak, which is very pretty bird despite the name. The distinctive kingfisher call is often heard as the quick and elusive birds dart up and down the river. This stretch of Oak Creek is also home to a resident pair of common black hawks. The strong fierce birds can sometimes be seen perching in thick groves of shade along the more secluded private parts of the creek.

As you follow the Baldwin Trail east, you will come to a sign proclaiming the intersection of the Baldwin and Templeton Trail. It is here that the Baldwin Trail turns away from the river and towards the road. I would highly recommend that you follow the Templeton Trail, which continues to follow the river and is not actually a turn at all. The Templeton Trail does lead to the water eventually. You are too close to Cathedral Rock to see the peak, but this stretch of current does feature some interesting creek side red rock formations and boulders which serve as islands in the stream. Some of Sedona’s most popular swimming holes are located here. At one point, across the river you will notice several small piles of stones, sometimes you will see dozens of smalls stacks of stones. You have stumbled upon one of Sedona’s New Age anomalies. This spot is known to the locals as Buddha Beach and is the supposed site of a vortex.

Hearty hikers may want to follow the Templeton Trail as it leaves the river and begins to climb steeply. If you are here to enjoy the red rocks this stretch of trail will delight as the trail winds up Cathedral Rock, walking on top of the red rock itself with wonderful views of the valley and Cathedral Rock towering above.

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