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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Loopy Sedona hike with fall color

View of Oak Creek from Baldwin Trail

Cathedral Rock, Nov 4, 2012
An aerial view of Sedona's network of trails reveals a very loopy web.  Most of Red Rock Country's short trails are interconnected, allowing hikers, bikers and equestrians to customize their treks.  The Baldwin Trail loop anchors the far west end of the Bell Rock-Cathedral Rock cluster of paths.  Beautiful as both a standalone or combo hike, Baldwin makes a scenic swoop near the base of world-famous Cathedral Rock, topping out at a sunny highpoint with great views of Sedona and the Bradshaw Mountains before dipping down to graze the wooded fringes of Oak Creek.  A map kiosk at the trailhead details the route and its connecting trails, including a (highly recommended) diversion to a vortex (place known for its spiritual energy) site on Oak Creek via the Templeton Trail.
The diversity of this trail is a wonder.  Hikers wander through flood plain grasslands, over slabs of bare rock dotted with cypress and agaves and among enormous creek side sycamore-cottonwood riparian forests flanked by soaring red walls of sedimentary stone.  All this variety makes it a good "appetizer" trail to get a little taste of all the goodies of hiking in Sedona.

LENGTH:  2.1 mile loop (according to my calculations--FS says its 1.6 miles)
RATING:  easy
ELEVATION:  4020' - 4150'
FEE: a Red Rock Pass is required.  $5 daily fee per vehicle.
FACILITIES: restroom
From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to exit 298 for Sedona AZ 179.  Turn left (west) and continue 6 miles on AZ 179 to the Verde Valley School Road traffic circle. Veer left and drive roughly 5 miles to the Baldwin Trailhead. Last few miles are rough dirt, but passable by sedan.  Alternate access:  a point on the right side of Verde Valley School Rd just before FR 9829 where a 0.3 mile spur path connects to the trail.  Also connects to the Templeton Trail.
INFO: Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-203-2900

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sedona fall color update: Nov. 4, 2012

Sycamores on Oak Creek, Nov. 4, 2012

Oak Creek, Nov. 4, 2012
Although the crowns of the sycamores and cottonwoods surrounding Oak Creek have turned to crispy brown toast, there’s still plenty delicious autumn color to be seen along Sedona’s favorite stream.  One way to get to the color quickly is to hike the Templeton Trail which can be accessed several ways including from Bell Rock Pathway (which takes you through 2 tunnels under SR179) and a road pull out at milepost 308.7 on SR 179.  However, since this is a fall color update, my hike takes off from the Cathedral Rock trailhead, which is closest to the water.  From the trailhead, follow a 0.3 mile access path along a combo of constructed rock stairs and slick red sandstone marked by basket cairns to the Cathedral Rock/Templeton junction sign.  Straight ahead is a short (0.4 mile), semi-technical rock scramble leading to two nice vista points----optional, but not this hike.  Instead, head right and follow Templeton, which clings to a rugged, yucca cluttered slope.  After about a half-mile, the path swerves for first views of Oak Creek and its flood plains.  Here, the route makes an easy but edgy descent to the forested color frenzy along the waterway. A kaleidoscope of massive  sycamore, cottonwood, of alder, sumac, willow, walnut and countless shrubs (beware of poison ivy) glow like beacons among cypress and junipers with a backdrop of rusty cliffs to boot.  Along the next half-mile, the trail stays by the water exposing countless root tangled coves and shady spots to relax in this high-desert oasis.
overlooking Oak Creek
LENGTH:  3.4 miles one way
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  3970’ – 4330’
FEE: a Red Rock Pass is required.  There’s a permit kiosk at the trailhead that takes cash and plastic.  Daily fee is $5.
From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to exit 298 for Sedona  SR179.  Go left (west) and follow SR179 11 miles to Back O’ Beyond Road at the traffic circle near milepost 310.  Veer left and go 0.6 mile on Back O’ Beyond to the Cathedral Rock trailhead on the left.
INFO: Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-203-2900