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Monday, February 11, 2019

Fay Canyon

Fay Canyon
An impressive rock formation at the end of Fay Canyon Trl.
Loosen the vice grip on your brain’s imagination center and the russet stone escarpments embracing Sedona’s Fay Canyon Trail transform into dragon scales, crouching gremlins and other-worldly beasts.  
Yuccas line the beginning of Fay Canyon Trail
Of course, rousing this kind of magical point-of-view needs some help. A willingness to tap into your inner child, or better yet, hiking with an actual pack of vociferous kids should do the trick.
Yuccas are plentiful in sunny spots on the trail.
Is it a steamboat or castle? Ask a kid. 
When approached without prejudice, expectation or mind-muddling electronic devises, whimsical forms hiding among the trail’s sandstone cliffs seem to pounce from their precipitous perches. 
Sandstone buttes along Fay Canyon Trail.
Letting go of what we know to be true and logical frees the mind to train a playful lens on Sedona’s Secret Canyon Wilderness Area.  
Oaks, pinion pines and junipers close in on the trail.
It’s the “wild” in wilderness areas that sets them apart from forests, parks and other public lands. The 1964 Wilderness Act set a global precedence for protecting unspoiled lands from development and destruction. Undisturbed lands benefit wildlife habitat, watersheds and offer opportunities for responsible recreational use. You can’t drive a motorized vehicle, fly a drone, build a structure or even ride a bike in these special places.  Of Arizona’s 90 protected areas, Sedona’s Red Rock Secret Canyon Wilderness is one of the most attainable and imagination-stoking destinations in the state.  It’s a satisfying trip for expert backpackers and casual day-trippers alike.  Seldom-seen sections (Bear Sign and Secret Canyon Trails) of the a 43,950-acre wilderness are reached by hiking miles into remote back country, while milder excursions are just a few steps from paved roads and plush resorts.  Whether you enter this enchanted zone through a groomed front door or a rickety back gate, you’ll soon understand how the simple act of walking a primal path is as much a privilege as it is a wonder behold.  
Russet cliffs weathered into fantastic forms.
The trail is in Red Rock Secret Canyon Wilderness.
A front-door favorite, the Fay Canyon trailhead on Boynton Pass Road is outfitted with a restroom and plenty of parking.  Just yards from a heavily-travelled byway, the effortless out-and-back trail immediately enters the wilderness, passing through sandy drainages and sunny fields dotted with yucca and twisted manzanita shrubs. As the path narrows, the animated cliffs close in revealing an outdoor art gallery of nature-sculpted shapes. Weathered pinnacles resemble golf tees, hammers, dancers and birds. If you’re hiking with or near kids (a given on this family-friendly trail), listen to some of the names they assign to the rocks. Sponge Bob, Bart Simpson, Pokemon. 
A primitive side trails leads to Fay Canyon Arch.
A half-mile in, a faint path on the right leads to an emerging natural arch. Barely visible from the trail, the true scale of the overhang isn’t apparent until you’re standing beneath it. The optional, quarter-mile diversion requires scrambling on loose rock with some minor exposure but pays off with fly-over vistas and interesting nooks to explore. 
Washes and tangled roots near the end of the trail.
Forests of oak, cypress and pinion pines thicken as the root-and-vine-tangled route dives deeper into the canyon culminating at a boulder-choked wash below a magnificent red rock formation. The sculptural piece de resistance, which stands several stories high, has no name. But its imposing presence and place in the landscape bumps creative thinking into over drive.  Is it a shark fin? An anvil? An alien landing platform? Who can say? The whole point of this excursion is to let your imagination roam wild. If you’re stuck for a name, just follow the kids.
There's easy access to Fay Canyon Trail.
What will you see in Fay Canyon's red rocks?
LENGTH: 1.2 miles one-way
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 4500- 4800 feet
From the State Route 179/89A traffic circle in Sedona, veer left and go 3.2 miles on SR 89A to Dry Creek Road (Forest Road 152C). Turn right and continue 4.5 miles on Dry Creek Road to the Boynton Canyon Road intersection, turn left

 onto Boynton Pass Road and go 0.5-mile to the trailhead on the left. There’s a restroom at the trailhead. A Red Rock Pass is not required.



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