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Monday, October 14, 2019

Ridge-Sketch Loop

Framed view of the Pyramid rock formation on Sketch Trail
Sketch Trail traces the edge of Carroll Canyon
The trails pass among junipers, yucca and pinion pines
A merry-go-round style of scenic vistas, varied terrain and a little bit of mild exposure combine for a pleasant high-desert hike in southeast Sedona. Tucked in a hilly pocket of territory in the Carroll Canyon area of trails north of the Crescent Moon Picnic Area on Oak Creek, the Ridge-Sketch circuit offers a quick, 4-mile tour of a slice of Coconino National Forest that’s close enough to town to be convenient yet provide a quiet out-there feel. 
An edgy bend in the Sketch Trail
From the obscure trailhead on Chavez Ranch Road, begin by hiking 0.3-mile west on the Ramshead Trail, hang a left at the Ridge Trail junction and follow the signs and basket cairns 0.7-mile to the beginning of the loop section at the Ridge-Sketch junction.  The 2.1-mile loop portion may be tackled from either direction, but to get the climbing over first, go right and continue on the Ridge trail.  
Sacred datura plants bloom along the route
The east leg traces the scrubby foothills below 4,680-foot Table Top--a jetty-like extension of Table Top Mountain which is home to the Sedona airport.  After a few high-step maneuvers, the trail arrives on a sunny crest with ocotillo-framed views of Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock, two of the area’s most famous sandstone formations.
View of Sedona from the Ridge Trail
Farther up the trail, profiles of the distant Bradshaw Mountains and the distinctive triangular shape of the 4,498-foot Pyramid rock formation stand out over the leafy floodplains of Oak Creek.
  Where the circuit meets the Sketch Trail, make a hard left and get ready for a whole other experience.  As the route heads downhill, the rounded, buff-colored mound of Capitol Butte dominated the horizon before the knotted path dips and bends on the lip of Carroll Canyon.  The trail passes among twisted junipers and breezy grasslands to a vista point at a precipitous drop off above the canyon’s sheer limestone walls. 
Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock seen from Ridge Trail
Beyond this keynote photo opp spot, the trail swerves south clinging to a slender ledge pinched between contorted boulder-riddled escarpments and beveled drops offs. 
Sketch Trail has Bradshaw Mountains vistas
Although it’s close-to-the-edge and quite rocky, the last mile of the loop portion isn’t too difficult as long as you aren’t afraid of heights and also keep an eye out for mountain bikers approaching from behind blind curves. 
Capitol Butte dominates the horizon on Sketch Trail
As you inch your way back to the loop junction-- using honeycomb patterns in the limestone as handholds—take a moment to scope out the many miles of trails that wind through the surrounding hills that may be used to build upon this sampler loop. 
LENGTH: 4-mile loop
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 3996 - 4422 feet
From the State Route 179/89A traffic circle in Sedona, go 4.2 miles west (toward Cottonwood) on SR 89A to Red Rock Loop. Turn left and continue 1.8 miles to Chavez Ranch Road (Forest Road 788) turn left and go 0.6-mile to the trailhead on the right.


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