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Monday, July 19, 2021

Munds Wagon Trail


Monsoon water lingers in Bear Wallow Canyon

Sedona classic, Munds Wagon Trail, follows the course of an historic cattle trail that was used to drive herds and move goods from Sedona to summer pastures and markets south of Flagstaff.  The dirt wagon road was an essential, albeit dicey, transportation corridor used from the late 1800s to the 1930s when it was replaced by Schnebly Hill Road, which makes a precipitous, bumpy climb up red rock canyon walls to connect with modern-day Interstate 17.

Basket cairns mark the Munds Wagon Trail

Years after its demise, the route was relocated and repurposed into a non-motorized recreational trail.  The path slips through gullies and ridges between the road that traces the edge of Munds Mountain Wilderness Area and Bear Wallow Canyon. 

The route traces the edge of Munds Mtn Wilderness

From the Huckaby-Munds Wagon Trail trailhead, the hike begins with a slight dip over slickrock, roughly paralleling the road for excellent views of Sedona’s iconic Capitol Butte and Mitten Ridge formations.  
View of Munds Mountain Wilderness

The route is muddled with confusing paths-of-use, so be sure to follow the baskets cairns to stay on the official trail.  
Goodding's verbena blooms April - September

After two road crossings, the route begins the first of several dives into the canyon.  Shaded by cypress, juniper, pinion pines and pops of willows and hop trees, the rock-bound course of Bear Wallow Canyon harbors an ephemeral stream with dozens of tiny pools and rivulets that fill during snow melt runoff and summer monsoon rains. 
Yuccas & agaves line the high-desert route

Extend the hike on the Hangover Trail

The trail stays close to the canyon bottom for most of its 3.8-mile length, passing by waterfalls and shallow caves with stony traverses overlooking the gorge and an abrupt wall of sheer wilderness mountains. Where the trail ascends the agave-lined rims above the canyon, the rumble and roar of tour company Jeeps transporting boisterous groups up Schnebly Hill Road are clearly visible inching their way up the rutted, dirt passage.
Inside Bear Wallow Canyon

Evidently, passengers enjoy calling out and waving to hikers walking on the adjacent trail, which adds to the singular nature of the trek.  A group of picnic tables at the 1.3-mile point are something to keep in mind for a return trip lunch break. 

Catclaw acacia blooms April - October

Tadpoles scramble in the ephemeral canyon stream

At 1.8-miles, the trail meets the Hangover Trail junction. 

Trail crosses Schnebly Hill Road several times

For a longer and more difficult option, pick up this trail and follow it 3.6 miles to where it reconnects with Munds Trail at the Cow Pies trailhead. This detour involves much slickrock and exposure, so it’s not for the faint-of-heart. 
A shallow cave above Bear Wallow Canyon

To bypass the scary stuff, continue hiking on Munds Trail, as it the road two more times before it leaves the canyon and heads uphill to its north terminus near the top of Bear Wallow Canyon and colorfully-layered Merry-Go-Round Rock on Schnebly Hill Road.


To Hangover Trail Junction: 1.8 miles one way

To Cow Pies Trail junction: 2.8 miles one way

To end of trail: 3.8 miles one way

RATING: moderate

ELEVATION: 4,640 - 5,591 feet (on Munds Trail only)

GETTING THERE: From traffic circle located at the Oak Creek bridge on State Route 179 in Sedona, turn right onto Schnebly Hill Road and go one mile to the trailhead on the left. Roads are suitable for all vehicles. There is a restroom at the trailhead.

FEE: A Red Rock Pass or equivalent is required at the Schnebly Hill trailhead. There is a permit kiosk at the trailhead.

INFO: Coconino National Forest

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