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Monday, February 5, 2018


View of Capitol Butte (Thunder Mountain) from Ridge Trail
Recent trail development in the southwest corner of Sedona has added miles of fresh dirt in the hilly terrain between Airport Mesa and Oak Creek.  Routes like Skywalker, Scorpion and Pyramid are terrific supplements that connect to a maze of old standards, providing additional access points and myriad opportunities to create loop treks. 
Wilson Mountain seen from Carroll Canyon Trail
Before exploring the new and shiny, take a walk on the original, well-worn Carroll Canyon Area Trails for an overview of the what makes this pocket of high desert and deeply scoured gullies so special.  Downloadable forest service maps and signs posted throughout make the system easy to navigate the core trails--Carrol Canyon, Ridge, Herkenham and Old Post.  Whichever way you lace this one up, be sure to include the 1.8-mile Carroll Canyon Trail because you won’t want to miss the best part—a dizzying traverse above a twisting limestone valley.
Here’s one circuit to try. 
Smoke Tree
From the Old Post trailhead, hike 1.1 mile uphill through patches of thorny Smoke Trees and yuccas with big views of Courthouse Butte, Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock on the southern horizon.  Turn right onto Carroll Canyon Trail and get ready for more stunning beauty. The route ascends along jagged sandstone and rough-cut steps to emerge at a scenic vista point. Here, glimpses of Capitol Butte (a.k.a. Thunder Mountain) and the flat-topped form of Wilson Mountain appear to the north.  
View of famous Sedona formations seen from Old Post Trail
The trail then ducks into juniper-cypress woodlands before rounding a bend where the contorted course of Carroll Canyon rolls out below.  A short passage hugs the lip of the steep-walled gorge that plunges 200 feet with views of Oak Creek and its surrounding floodplains peeking through the cracks.  It’s a queasy, edgy walk that ends with a descent into the first of several boulder-cluttered wash crossings.  Once through the wash, the route enters a savannah-like grassland, fringed with mesquite and the occasional cottonwood. 
One of several wash crossings on the route
At the next junction, pick up the Ridge Trail, hike 0.7-mile north and reconnect with the Old Post Trail for the final leg of the loop.  But the scenic wonders aren’t done yet. The back end of the circuit keeps delivering surprises.  
The limestone abyss of Carroll Canyon
Sunny plains sliced and diced into a jigsaw puzzle of flat fields, abrupt climbs and a web of water-whittled muddy ravines define the trail as it brushes past suburban homes before a powerline signals the final descent back to the trailhead.
A Shady passage of Carroll Canyon Trail
LENGTH: 5.5 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  4090 to 4440 feet
From the State Route 179/89A traffic circle in Sedona, go 4 miles west (toward Cottonwood) on 89A to Upper Red Rock Loop (Forest Road 216). Turn left and continue 1.8 miles to Chavez Ranch Road (Forest Road 216A), turn left and go 0.1 mile to the Old Post trailhead on the left.
INFO: Coconino National Forest

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