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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year, hikers! Now, let's go hike.

Oak Creek, Munds Mountain Wilderness
Shortie inspects an icy pool

the red rock "beach"
What could be better than hiking in Red Rock Country on a crispy cool winter morning? Sedona’s backcountry is especially stunning under a layer of frost as we experienced on the Woods Canyon Trail this week. Following the gorge created by Dry Beaver Creek, this trail begins with a traipse through Jacks Canyon Riparian exclosure---a delightfully lush strip of cottonwoods and reeds where you’ll need to make a pair of easy creek crossings.  Beyond the crossings (which were frozen over on our hike) the trail encounters a cattle gate and its first of two junctions.  Just past the first gate, go right at the sign that warns of extreme conditions in the area.  Not to worry, trail #93 is pretty easy up to 4 miles making for an easy out-and-back day hike.  The first mile follows a two-track jeep road through a yucca-studded savanna prowled by resident cattle, but soon dissolves into a sandy-muddy footpath as it delves into the canyon.  At 2.1 miles, the junction for Horse Mesa/Hot Loop pops up on a sunny ridge. Here, be sure to turn around for some super sweet views of Mingus and Woodchute Mountains (snow covered on our trip). Veer right at this junction to continue on Wood Canyon Trail, which will enter the Munds Mountain Wilderness Area in another 0.1 mile.  Now, the really good stuff starts to show up.  The hike transitions from a flat stroll into a gentle ascent along the cliffs above Dry Beaver Creek.  Leafless, white barked sycamore trees clutter a creek bed full of gunmetal gray basalt boulders washing up against rusty sandstone escarpments.  The cool winter color palette here is a memorable sight. The skeletal trunks interspersed with junipers and ponderosa pines against a backdrop of red and gray is chilly and wild.  The highlight of the hike is “red rock beach”, a slab of brilliant russet sandstone jutting into a stream of boulders.  Beyond the beach, the trail gets sketchy and ledgey, which is why many hikes make it their turnaround point.
crossing in Jacks Canyon riparian area

LENGTH:  5.3 miles one-way (trail degrades after 4 miles)
RATING:  moderate
ELEVATION:  3890’ – 4310’
From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to ext 298 for SR179, Sedona-Oak Creek, Go left (west) and continue 8.5 miles to the turn off for the Red Rock Ranger District Station on the right.  Trailhead is located within the ranger station complex in the south (lower) lot where a small metal sign indicates the start point.
early morning start on trail #93

INFO & MAP: Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-203-2900

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