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Saturday, April 23, 2011


Nine bucks. That’s what you'll shell out to visit this iconic Arizona hiking trail. Worth it? Absolutely! Because of its outstanding scenic qualities, this trail draws hoards of visitors from all over the globe. Today, I heard at least 5 different languages being spoken on the trail. The first .33-mile segment is barrier free, winding through an apple orchard flanked by soaring red rock ramparts on the west and the creek on the east. The pavement ends at a collection of early 20th century ruins. Here, the route turns to sandy dirt, following the stream up the canyon. Entirely canyon-bound, the path stays close to the water. Expect to make at least 12 creek crossings (one way) over the 3-mile course. Stepping stones and fallen logs serve as natural bridges, but during high-water periods, wading is required. Past the 2-mile point, the trail narrows and crowds tend to thin out. As the canyon closes in, vegetation goes viral—wildflowers, brambles, alders, maples, willows, dogwoods and countless vines cloak the route in an eerie veil of green. The official forest service trail ends at the 3-mile point. (This works out just fine because most of the really cool sights happen in this short segment). From here, there’s roughly
another half-mile of decent trail before steep cliffs, abysmal pools and a quagmire of underbrush swallow the route. Hiking beyond this point requires swimming, wading and advanced canyoneering skills---proceed with caution.
LENGTH: 3.3 miles one-way (on trail) OR up to 14 miles (with wading, swimming & climbing)
ELEVATION: 5,280’ – 5,520’
RATING: easy (on trail), moderate –difficult beyond trail’s end
From Phoenix, go north on I-17 to exit 298 (Oak Creek-Sedona) for SR 179 North. Go left (west) on SR179 and continue to the “Y” intersection (roundabout) with SR89A in Sedona. Veer right (northeast) on 89A and go 10.3 miles to the Call of the Canyon Day Use Area (between mileposts 384 & 385) on the left (west) side of the road—sign will read ‘West Fork”. Roads are 100% paved.
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 135 miles one-way
FEE: $9 daily fee per vehicle (up to 5 passengers). $2 per person daily fee for walk-in or bike-in.
HOURS: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (summer), 9 a.m. to dusk (winter). The gate usually opens around 8 a.m.. Use the self-pay kiosk if an attendant is not available.
DOGS: leashed dogs okay—bring poo bags and pack out all pet waste.
FACILITIES: restrooms
INFO: Coconino National Forest, Red Rock Ranger District

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


2012 UPDATE:
this trail has been beautifully resurfaced--check it out!

Judith Tunell Accessible Trail, South Mountain Park Preserve Recently, I received and e-mail from a family visiting the Valley who wanted to know if there are any Phoenix area trails where they could bring a toddler in a stroller and a grandparent who uses a walker. No problem. Many City of Phoenix parks have barrier-free trails and one of the most interesting is the Judith Tunell loop in South Mountain Park. Designed to exercise the mind as well as the body, the trail features interpretive signs describing everything from the survival mechanisms of ironwood trees to the numerous depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) projects located throughout the park. There’s even a rock face covered in ancient petroglyphs adjacent to the path. Additionally, water fountains, benches and covered ramadas placed along the wide, easy route make getting outdoors accessible to all. LENGTH: 1-mile (two half-mile loops) RATING: easy, barrier-free, maximum grade is 8.5% on stabilized granite. ELEVATION: 1,400 feet (flat) GETTING THERE: From downtown Phoenix, go south on Central Ave. to the entrance of South Mountain Park (south of Dobbins). Pass the main entry gate, take the first left and go roughly 0.25 mile to the Environmental Education Center on the right. The trail begins behind the center. Even though the center is temporarily closed due to budget cutbacks, the trail remains open. Nearest restrooms are located east of the Center at the end of the big parking lot (near the Holbert trailhead). HOURS: All gated roadways, trailhead parking areas, restrooms and ramadas are open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.. Trails remain open until 11 p.m. INFO: City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation, 602 262-7393