Monday, January 4, 2016
CHUCK WAGON TRAIL
For hikers of a certain age, the name Chuck Wagon might conjure images of a TV dog food commercial from the 1970s. Remember the miniature horse-drawn wagon racing through a home with the family dog eagerly in chase? That freaky little wagon eventually disappears into a kitchen cabinet where the goodies are kept neatly out of sight. Unlike in the ad, the goodies on Sedona's Chuck Wagon Trail are by no means hidden. The amusingly twisted route on the west end of town rolls through russet cliffs above and through Dry Creek. On the high points, views of Capitol Butte, Mescal, Doe and Bear Mountains, Cockscomb and the Grassy Knolls stand out over gullies painted in a million shades of green by cypress, juniper and yucca. The trail was originally blazed by mountain bikers and was recently adopted into the Red Rock Ranger District system. With the exposure of this swooping beauty-of-a-trail to foot travel, a typical hiking experience includes sharing the path with lots of swift-moving bikers followed by trekkers (some with dogs) in hot pursuit of the goodies.
Another feature of note on this trail is the crowds. But don't despair, most of them are going to Devil's Bridge. In addition to its standalone awesomeness, Chuck Wagon Trail also provides a way for hikers to avoid the kidney-jarring drive on Dry Creek Road to access the immensely popular, 0.8-mile Devil's Bridge Trail. A map at the Dry Creek Vista Trailhead shows how to use spur paths for either a road walk or trail hike to the site.
In addition to the requisite Devil's Bridge pilgrimage, there are dozens of ways to link Chuck Wagon Trail into a day of hiking. Here's one option:
From the Dry Creek Vista Trailhead, follow Chuck Wagon trail 4.8 miles to where it ends at Long Canyon Road. Cross the road and pick up Long Canyon Trail heading left. At the 0.3 mile point, turn left on Mescal Trail, hike 0.2 mile, cross the road and follow the signs to the Chuck Wagon junction. Turn right and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
LENGTH: 6.6 mile loop (as described here)
ELEVATION: 4,480' - 4,680'
Dry Creek Vista Trailhead:
From the State Route 179/89A traffic circle in Sedona, go 3 miles west (left toward Cottonwood) on 89A to Dry Creek Road (Forest Road 152C). Turn right, go 1.9 miles to Forest Road 152, turn right and continue 0.2 mile to the trailhead on the left. Roads are paved and sedan-friendly dirt. No fees.
Alternate access points:
From the State Route 179/89A traffic circle in Sedona, go 3 miles west on SR 89A (left, toward Cottonwood) to Dry Creek Road (Forest Road 152C), turn right and continue 2.9 miles to Long Canyon Road (Forest Road 152D), turn right and go 0.2 mile to the trailhead on the right. No fees.
Long Canyon Trailhead:
From the Mescal Trailhead, continue another 0.3 mile up FR152D to the on the left. Trail begins across the road. No fees.