A week and a half is not enough time to do even a small fraction of things around Sedona. Each time I come back to this area I am reminded of my love for this wonderful red rock country.
“No matter where in the world I’m coming back from, in Sedona I always feel a sense of safety and peace, as if I’ve returned to the home of my soul, into the arms of Mother Earth the red land that always welcomes me with open arms.”― Ilchi Lee, The Call of Sedona: Journey of the Heart
Hiking and Mountain Biking are just a couple of the activities to be enjoyed but it certainly is a good place to start.
This trip is my first one here in the RV and an opportunity to stay in one of the Thousand Trails Campgrounds during my one year membership. The campground is a little drive into Sedona (about 35 minutes) but on the positive side it is near amenities and out of the Sedona traffic, which can be a nightmare. Although it is a typical RV park there are a good number of sites that are not right on top of your neighbor and I was lucky enough to get one with a nice view out toward the Verde River hills.
For many folks coming to Sedona means looking for the elusive vortexes. Vortexes are found at sacred sites throughout the world is believed (by some) to be a special spot on the earth where energy is either entering into the earth or projecting out. These enhanced energy sites are believed to facilitate prayer, meditation, mind-body healing and creative thinking. Experiences at these vortex sites seem to range from negative to neutral to cosmic. No matter what your experience each of the sites is a place of awe, worth visiting for aesthetic reason so your time will not be wasted even if you do not have one of those life-altering experiences.
“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Millions of years ago, the area now known as Sedona was covered with sea. With the gradual withdrawal of the waters combined with the earth’s powerful forces of upheaval, this masterpiece of nature was created. Sculpted by wind and erosion, the monuments of vividly colored mesas were formed.
The deep red color for which Sedona is famous is due to the presence of hematite (iron oxide, otherwise known as rust) that stains the sandstone of the Schnebly Hill and Hermit Shale layers. The steepness of the terrain is due the fact that the top layers of the strata are composed of basalt and limestone, which are harder than the underlying sandstone. Water running off the edge of the escarpment eats away at the lower layers, creating the shear cliffs. Eventually enough soft material is worn away that it undercuts the cap layer, which subsequently breaks off in large slabs and falls into the canyons. This exposes new soft material and the process starts again, with the cliff face now twenty-odd feet further north than it was before leaving behind some of the most spectacular and picturesque canyons and buttes found anywhere in the world.
Tourism is Sedona’s primary industry attracting over 4 million visitors a year second only to the Grand Canyon as Arizona’s most visited destination.
First order of business if you are planning on hiking and biking here is to pick up a good map and hiking trails book. There are so many great trails here that it helps to have some good descriptions to find the right fit.
One of the great things about the hikes here is that the majority of them are on Forest service land which means that Cory can tag along.
I also had the opportunity to spend some time with a friend from Moab that was down in the area. Pete and I were able to get in some good hiking and biking around the area.
One of my favorite hikes, and one that I do practically every time I visit, is the climb to saddle of Cathedral Rock (believed to be one of the vortex sites).
Vortex or not the climb and hike is not to be missed. There are a few challenging places on the climb where you have to make your way up short rock faces and with a little boost Cory made his way up the trail to the top.
The saddle at the top (end of trail) provides some space to move around have lunch and enjoy the awesome views to the east and west with the red rock cliffs framing the north and south. You can park at the Cathedral Rock trailhead to make the climb or for a longer great day hike park instead at the Yavapai Vista trailhead and hike the Templeton Trail to the base of the climb.
Jim Thompson Trail from downtown Sedona:
The first stop in town should be the Visitor Center located in Uptown Sedona. They have a wide variety of good information and the volunteers and staff that work there are great at helping find whatever information you may be looking for. Also a good place to buy those maps and hiking books. After a stop at the VC get out and stretch your legs as well as enjoy the views looking back over town by hiking the Jim Thompson Trail which starts at the end of Jordan Road right out of Uptown Sedona.
Bell Rock area trails:
Located south of Sedona closer to the Village of Oak Creek you will find the iconic Bell Rock. There are numerous trails around and up Bell Rock as well as its neighbor Courthouse Butte. The hike around Courthouse Butte takes you along the base of the rock and more importantly away from the crowds located near the Bell Rock trailheads off Hwy 179. These trails are great for both hiking and mountain biking (especially for a novice biker like myself). Also good in this area is the Big Park Loop and for those wanting an elevated vantage point the Bell Rock Climb. If you are a climber you can do as my son Matt did on a previous trip and make your way as high as possible on the rock. For this trip staying on the lower level was enough and the views along the trails were awesome.
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” -John Muir
Broken Arrow, Margs Draw and Chapel trails:
As we had two vehicles we also had the ability to do a shuttle hike and park one car at the end before driving the other to the start of the hike. This gave me the opportunity to combine three trails that go through some incredible red rock areas. Starting off the Schnebly Hill Road we started out on Marg’s Draw Trail into a bowl surrounded by the red rock cliffs, wilderness area, Lee Mountain and Twin Buttes. There was also the added benefit of a close up view of the famous Snoopy Rock.
From Marg’s Draw we transitioned on to the Broken Arrow Trail winding around the rocks through the Devil’s Dining Room to Chicken Point. This is also a very popular area for the jeep tours and seeing a number of pink jeep groups is very common especially when you get to the scenic Chicken Point. Chicken Point is also a good place to view the “white line” trail. As described by Bike Magazine it is a “high-consequence” trail with a vertical drop off the edge if you make even the slightest mistake. Click on the Bike Magazine link for some great videos of this high adrenaline ride. Unfortunately there were none of those thrill seeking bikers on the white line while we were stopped there for lunch. The last leg of the hike was from Chicken Point down the Chapel Trail to the base of the Chapel of the Holy Cross, another world famous Sedona icon.
Mountain Bike Loop around Mescal & Doe Mountain:
Thanks to Pat (an old friend from Sedona) who drove down from Prescott for the day we were able to navigate an awesome mountain bike loop ride in the Mescal and Doe Mountain area. When bike trails are designated as intermediate in this area they certainly are not kidding! There were numerous places where this novice rider felt most comfortable getting off and pushing the bike over various obstacles in the trail. By the end of this ride I was definitely at the limit of my biking abilities and ready to call it a day. Even though it was difficult and challenging it was a great ride, pushed my limits and gave me a tremendous sense of accomplishment when we were done. Trails that we covered on the loop included Mescal, Deadmans Pass, Aerie, Cockscomb, Dawa and Long Canyon. All trails that would also be great for hiking in the area.
I have already arranged to meet up with Pat again when I return to the area to do some paddling on the lakes up around Prescott and possibly more biking if I have recovered from this ride!
“A traveler is really not someone who crosses ground so much as someone who is always hungry for the next challenge and adventure.” -Pico Iyer