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Thursday, October 13, 2011


Red Rock Secret Canyon Wilderness, Sedona

Although not apparent from the trailhead, the remote upper reaches of Bear Sign Trail host surprisingly rich woodlands of deciduous trees that transform into a canopy of color in early autumn. To find these hidden thickets, hike on the juniper-and-scrub-lined Dry Creek Trail to the Bear Sign junction, veer left and pick up the trail heading uphill. Much of the path parallels boulder-filled ravines lined with sycamore, willows and cottonwoods eking out a living where water collects among gigantic bounders. Throughout the hike, haphazard webs of Canyon grape vines sprawl in viral abundance forming delicate veils of diffused sunlight. An especially photo-worthy section of the route passes through a concentrated stand of Arizona cypress trees. The spindly trunks and shaggy bark of this tenacious species are marred by claw marks, scat and gnawed stumps-- the “bear signs” for which the trail is named. No worries though, the black bears that roam this area are shy creatures and will usually skulk off unnoticed when roused by approaching hikers. To learn more about hiking in bear country, visit: Southwest Be Bear Aware:

LENGTH: 3.5 miles one way
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 4,800 -5,450 feet
KID FRIENDLY?: sorta. Trail is rocky and you have to hike 2 miles before getting to the best color, some kids might melt down.
From the "Y" intersection of AZ 179 and AZ89A in Sedona go left (toward Cottonwood) and continue 3.2 miles to Dry Creek Road. Turn right, go 2 miles to Vultee Arch Road (Forest Road 152), hang a right and continue 4.5 miles to the Dry Creek #52 trailhead located past the Vultee Arch parking loop on the left. A high clearance vehicle is required on FR 152.

FEE: Red Rock Pass--$5 per vehicle is required
INFO: Coconino National Forest, Red Rock District 928-203-2900

Wednesday, October 12, 2011



Located 23 miles north of Sedona along scenic highway 89A, Griffith Canyon itself is is only mildly impressive.  However, this "little canyon that could"  makes it mark on the map by collecting and funneling water downhill into two of Sedona's major gorges--Pumphouse Wash and Oak Creek Canyon.   From the trailhead, the route seems kind of ho-hum, but hang in there-- good stuff lies ahead if you know how to explore.  The official trail is wide, flat and easy-to-follow, tracing the edge of the cliffs above the marshy-green canyon.  Where the route bottoms out, several obvious spur footpaths leave the main trail and head into a steep-walled riparian corridor.  Richly lined with wildflowers, Virginia creeper, wild roses and  plenty of poison ivy, the exploratory paths wind through a mucky swale dotted with shallow pools, trickling channels and a tiny wetland ringed with cattails before it dead-ends in about 0.25 mile in a bog near a fenced stand of aspen sprouts.  
LENGTH:  1.2 mile loop (plus 0.5 more with optional canyon explore)
RATING: easy
ELEVATION:  6,919’
FACILITIES: restroom, picnic table
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX:  152 miles one way
TRAILHEAD OPEN: April – October.  Trailhead is closed in winter.
From Phoenix:  go north on I-17 to exit 337 for US 89A south (located roughly 7 miles south of downtown Flagstaff).  From the end of the off ramp (at the entrance to Fort Tuthill Park), turn left (south) and continue 2.4 miles on 89A to the signed turnoff for Griffith’s Spring.  The short, dirt/gravel road to the parking area is rutted but passable by sedan.
From Flagstaff: go south on I-17 to exit 337 and follow directions above.
INFO: Flagstaff Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-526-0866