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Wednesday, February 12, 2014



A relatively new addition to the sanctioned stock of Sedona hiking trails, this one originated as a mountain bike route. As with many wheel-wrangled paths, the Mescal Trail is big on challenging terrain and vertigo-inducing exposure.  Beginning at roughly a mile into the trek, the gaping, U-shaped bend on the flanks of Mescal Mountain known as "the bowl" comes into view. Here, the trail seems to disappear into the russet sandstone making the traverse of the cliffs appear impossible. Within a few yards, a wood sign marks a brief section where the trail splits---one side is "difficult", the other "extreme". Pick your poison. Although these ratings pertain mostly to bike technicality, I chose to err on the conservative side by taking the "difficult" arm and found that, except for some slick rock and edgy narrows, it wasn't too tough. The path soon becomes clear and after another mile-and-change of semi-queasy ledge hiking, the route rounds the mountain to meet Dead Mans Pass Trail at the border of Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness and Boynton Canyon.  Straight ahead is the Kachina Woman vortex site---a popular spiritual retreat and platform for musicians who fill the canyons with soulful strains of Native American flute or didgeridoos. Mescal Trail ends here, however, a map at the junction shows how to use Dead Mans Pass and Long Canyon Trails for an optional loop back to the trailhead.

LENGTH: 4.8-mile loop
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION:  4239' - 4723'
FEE: a Red Rock Pass is required. $5 daily fee per vehicle.

From the US89A/AZ179 traffic circle in Sedona, go 3 miles west on 89A (left, toward Cottonwood) to Dry Creek Road (FR 152C), turn
right and continue 2.9 miles to Long Canyon Road (FR 152D), turn right and go 0.2 mile to the trailhead on the right. Trail begins across the road. This route can also be accessed via the Long Canyon trailhead 0.3 mile farther up FR152D.
Follow Mescal Trail 2.3 miles to Deadmans Pass Trail, turn right (NE) and hike 0.9 mile to Long Canyon Trail. Turn right (S) and hike 1.6 miles back to the trailhead.
INFO: Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-203-2900

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