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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

A Quirky, Quiet Place in Sedona


Looking west from the trail.

Serene, solitary walks in Arizona’s high desert are good for the soul.  Even in times like these when conditions require us to distance ourselves from others, an occasional escape from the din of civilization can refresh a stressed body and mind. 

The route traces the west flank of Bear Mountain
Revered for its scenic beauty and restorative powers, Sedona is a go-to destination for mental and physical renewal. 
A corral near Robinson and Red tanks
Miles of hiking trails offer escape into gorgeous red rock canyons and cacti-studded mountaintops where the soothing sounds of ravens and digeridoos echo from russet escarpments. When times get tough or just plain confusing, it’s only natural you’d want to make a road trip to Sedona.
Silverleaf nightshade blooms along the route
Yet, once at the gateway to deliverance, you’ll likely discover that everybody else kind of had the same idea.
There's plenty of solitude on this who-knew hike
Miles-long traffic jams, packed trailheads and noisy crowds are the norm in the magnetic northern Arizona town.
 But, if all you want is a head-clearing walk in the desert, there’s a little-used route tucked among some of the area’s most popular hiking trails.  
 Beginning of the non motorized part of the hike  
Manzanita shrubs grow along the route
The satisfying little trek is surprisingly easy to find and mostly ignored in favor of its big-draw neighbors.
  Located off Boynton Pass Road in northwest Sedona not far from the hyper-popular Bear Mountain, Doe Mountain and Fay Canyon trails, the dusty, deceivingly dull-looking Forest Road 152E provides access to a quiet back country stroll below the western flanks of 6,541-foot Bear Mountain.
The hike follows old roads and rugged paths
From the dirt turnout that serves as the trailhead for this hike, follow FR 152E for 0.3-mile and turn left onto FR 9600.
A mesquite tree frames Bear Mountain views
Lightly shaded by junipers and cypress, the route curves through sunny rangeland just outside of Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness in Coconino National Forest.  
Looking north toward Loy Butte
After a half-mile of hiking on dirt roads, the route meets a fenced roundabout where a gate at the west end signals the hike’s transition from road to path. To protect wildlife, only non-motorized traffic is allowed beyond the gate.  Off to the left, a conspicuous stand of cottonwoods and a dilapidated corral marks the site of Robinson and Red Tanks, important wildlife water sources.  
The no-name trail welcomes hikers
The unnamed trail, which is part degrading two-track and part scrappy path, passes over and through several drainage areas with wonderful views of 5,700-foot Loy Butte to the north, the famous Cockscomb formation to southeast, the mountains around Jerome and Cottonwood to the west and seldom seen geological layers of the back side of Bear Mountain. Airy and wide open to the sky, this off-the-main-drag gem delivers a healthy dose of refreshing isolation. 
Part of the hike follows FR 9600
The unassuming trailhead
At the 1.3-mile point, the trail narrows and gets more difficult to follow as it ducks into gullies and cacti-tangled manzanita shrubs.
 Unless you’re dressed in protective long pants and sleeves and willing do some searching to pick up the trail beyond the scrubby barriers, make the tree-ringed clearing that sits outside the quagmire the turnaround point for the hike.
Cockscomb (R) and Doe Mtn (L) seen from the trail

LENGTH: 2.7 miles roundtrip

RATING: easy

ELEVATION:  4,487 – 4,564 feet


From the State Route 179/89A traffic circle in uptown Sedona, go 3.2 miles east (toward Cottonwood) on SR 89A to Dry Creek Road. Turn right and continue 4.5 miles to Boynton Pass Road, turn left, go 1.9 miles and park in the dirt turnout at Forest Road 152E on the right. For reference, this is 0.7-mile past the Doe Mountain/Bear Mountain trailhead. There are no fees.


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