Tuesday, April 5, 2016
SOLDIER PASS-BRINS MESA LOOP
Simply put---there's hardly ever a bad time to hike in Sedona. It's scenic beauty and myriad trekking environments are unparalleled. But, of all the months in the year, April stands out as one of the best to hit Red Rock Country trails. The climax of spring in the high desert brings fresh leaves, blooming shrubs and the emergence of flowering stalks on yucca and agave. It's nature's last hurrah before settling in for summertime heat and monsoons.
For hikers with limited time, the area's multitude of options can be overwhelming. That's why the Soldier Pass-Brins Mesa Loop is an oft recommended route. Along this moderate excursion, you'll be treated to samples of everything that makes Sedona such an outdoor recreation hot spot. Right out of the chute, you'll encounter Devil's Kitchen sinkhole. An interpretive sign at the site explains the complex geological forces that created the impressive gap. At the 0.6-mile point, a chain of natural water tanks known as the Seven Sacred Pools reflect russet pinnacles and attract hordes of birds and thirsty critters. After 1.25 miles, the trail enters the non-motorized use cloister of Red Rock Secret Canyon Wilderness and the sound and fury of swooping bikes and Jeep tour crowds are soon vanquished. Roughly halfway up the trail, look for a set of arches-in-the-making weathering out of sandstone cliffs on the opposite side of the canyon.
The hike's glory note resonates at Soldier Pass--a breezy, high point vista where cliff-rose blossoms perfume the air and bees collect nectar from Feather Dalea bushes and tiny buds on Sugar Sumac trees. Here, far-reaching mountain views will have you conjuring your best "Singing Nun in the Alps" happy twirl. Beyond the pass, spotty stands of cypress and juniper provide welcome shade before the route moves onto sunny Brins Mesa. In the summer of 2006, a wildfire torched some of the vegetation on this 2-mile traverse over a wide plateau. The area is recovering nicely and the damage has not sullied the experience at all. Be sure to check out a short spur trail that leads to a lookout pinnacle. The hike down off the mesa requires some big step maneuvers and route finding. Watch for log blockades and basket cairns to stay on course in the dodgy bits. The final short segments on Cibola Pass and Jordan Trail weave in and out of wilderness, slick rock mounds and flood scoured drainages before coming full circle.
From the trailhead, hike 0.2 mile to Devil's Kitchen. Turn left, hike 1.7 miles on Soldier Pass Trail and veer right at the Brins Mesa Trail junction. Hike 2 miles to Cibola Pass Trail, turn right and follow it 0.6 mile to Jordan Trail, turn right and go 0.3 mile then turn left and hike 0.2 mile back to the parking area.
LENGTH: 5-mile loop
ELEVATION: 4,140' – 5,075'
From the traffic circle at State Routes 179/89A in Sedona, go 1.20 miles west on 89A to Soldier Pass Road. Turn right and continue 1.5 miles to Rim Shadows Drive, turn right and go 0.25-mile to the trailhead on the left.
The parking lot is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
INFO: Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest