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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Winter water clears the weir

Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness
Wet Beaver Creek near the weir

Near the weir
Finding “Bell Trail Virgins” isn’t easy.  Ranking high on the flagpole of fabulous Arizona hikes, Bell Trail is a destination most seasoned trekkers have visited at least once.  "Virgins" are those who have somehow managed to miss this blaring giant of a trail.  As for me, I’ve hiked this trail so many times it cycles in my brain like an viral video over, and over, and over……again.  Yes, the beauty, the water, the juxtaposition of cactus-studded savannah with lush, streamside greenery and, oh yeah---those pool-wallowing naked people.  Never again.  I said.  Until a friend emailed me about introducing not one, but TWO “Bell Trail Virgins” to this iconic, Red Rock Country route, the anticipation of seeing the smiles on their faces was just too good to pass up so, I was on board, but with a twist that included a wander down the Weir Trail which branches off the Bell at the 2.5-mile point.  For years, I’ve had a hankering to explore this short diversion, however, since it seems to be a favorite haunt of the aforementioned skin-clad hordes, I never got around to it.  Alas, our hike this week amidst residual snow and 40-degree temperatures meant the weir was clear.  Turns out, the Weir Trail is a beautiful little trek that winds gently down to a concrete dam (the weir) and a gauging station that transmits flow data to---I don’t know.  Densely wooded with cottonwoods, sycamores, alders and willows, the creek near the weir is bolstered by rusty sandstone cliffs and sandy beaches.  One advantage of visiting this trail in winter is that the creek flows fast and wild, more so than in springtime when snowmelt wanes, the water warms and the nudists return to their wallows.
Water rages over the weir: Jan. 31, 2013

LENGTH:  7 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  3860' - 3760'
FACILITIES: restroom
FEES: none.  A Red Rock Pass is NOT required here.
BEST SEASON: October - April

From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to exit 298 for Sedona-Oak Creek.  At the bottom of the off ramp, turn right onto FR618 and continue 2.2 miles to FR 656 where there's a sign for “Beaver Creek Work Station” and the trailhead.  Turn left and go 0.1 mile to the Bell Trail parking lot. 
HIKE DIRECTIONS:  Follow Bell Trail 2.75 miles (past the White Mesa and Apache Maid junctions) to a large metal sign at the wilderness boundary. The Weir Trail #85 veers right while the Bell Trail continues straight ahead.  Follow Weir Trail .75 mile to its end, and then backtrack.

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


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