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Monday, October 5, 2015


Village of Oak Creek
Pine Valley Ridge Trail

Sometimes there are just not enough parking spaces. This is conspicuously expressed at the Bell Rock Pathway trailhead in the Village of Oak Creek. Even though there's room for dozens of vehicles, the lot fills up quickly especially on weekends and during winter visitor season. That's because it provides access to the Big Park system of trails that includes some of Red Rock Country's most scenic, easy paths around iconic Bell Rock (a famous vortex site) and Courthouse Butte. If you encounter a packed lot, don't give up on your hiking ambitions----there's another way in. The system can also be accessed via the Pine Valley Ridge Trail that begins at the Jacks Canyon/Hot Loop Trailhead to the southeast. This relatively new route climbs 440 feet on a rocky backbone skirting subdivisions and the border of Munds Mountain Wilderness. Although the trail is obvious, it's not marked with signs. The toughest navigation involves finding where the route begins. From the trailhead gate where there's a sign for Jacks Canyon #55, hike about 20 feet down the road you came in on (do not pass thru the gate) and look for a red dirt single track on the right. Follow this trail 0.1 mile to the gate at Jacks Canyon Road, carefully cross the street, pass through a second gate and begin hiking uphill. At a third gate, turn right and from here, the path is clear although sketchy in some places. Just pay attention and you'll be fine.
At roughly 1.5 miles, beautiful views of the mesas of Jacks Canyon and Sedona's celebrated sandstone formations begin rolling out on all sides. From the high point, the profiles of Cathedral Rock, Capitol Butte and Cockscomb stand out from seldom seen perspectives. The trail then heads downhill to the junction with the Big Park and Courthouse Butte Loop Trails at the 2.4 -mile point. A map sign shows options for joining the wide-eyed masses orbiting Bell Rock, or you can skip the crowds by simply retracing your steps for a mellow 4.8-mile out-and-back hike.
LENGTH: 2.4 miles one-way to Big Park
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 4,270' - 4,710'
From Interstate 17, take the State Route 179 Sedona exit 298, turn left and go 6.5 miles on SR179 to Jacks Canyon Road. Turn right and continue 1.9 miles to the trailhead turnoff (Forest Road 179G) on the right directly across from Canyon Ridge Trail.
INFO: Coconino National Forest

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