Sunday, April 19, 2020

Exploring Sedona's red rock country on foot

Sedona is a visually stunning city in the heart of Arizona’s red rock country. It is surrounded by a panorama of natural  formations—arches, bridges, pinnacles, cliffs, and gorges. Together with mesas, canyons, and cave—some featuring prehistoric pictographs and Indian ruins--this region contains such varied and colorful geography and history that one visit is never enough.
Sights like this are all around Sedona.

We have been to Sedona three times in the past five years and find new ways to explore and enjoy the natural beauty each time. While casual sightseeing is fine to do, there is an abundance of outdoor activities to take advantage of in this land that nature has been sculpting through erosion for more than 350 million years.

A plethora of places to visit around Sedona
We have taken several jeep tours, a helicopter ride to see formations from the air, driven extensively in the area, and played golf there. But one of our favorite—and possibly the best way to become acquainted with this treasure--is on foot. With easily 100 trails suitable for day hikes in the region, we have only begun to scratch the surface. Here are a few that you might want to try.

Crossing Devil's Bridge
Devil’s Bridge Trail: The trek to Devil’s Bridge, a massive 54-foot-high natural sandstone arch, takes a little more than an hour, even more if you spend time being a dare-devil on the bridge or find it necessary to park a half mile before the start of this popular trail. The trail begins on an old unpaved road but eventually climbs natural (read uneven) rock steps to the top.

You’ll hike about a mile to the destination, a natural rock formation that is only about five feet thick. The bridge spans about 45 feet; it has cracked and fractured over time but apparently is stable enough for the many hikers who are enchanted with a sense of danger. For those who are brave enough to walk out on the arch, you’ll be rewarded with dramatic vistas of the surrounding canyons, mountains, and red rock formations.

On the Fay Canyon Trail
Fay Canyon Trail: Plan at least an hour and a half to hike through Fay Canyon, located in the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness. From the starting point of the 2.4 mile round trip, you’ll walk toward stunning red rock walls to the mouth of the scenic box canyon. An unmaintained side path leads a quarter mile up the steep east canyon wall to elusive Fay Canyon Arch. 
Approaching the arch

From below, the arch is hard to recognize. The massive slab of rock that forms the arch broke away from the canyon wall, leaving the arch close to the vertical cliff behind it. The 23-foot thick natural arch has a 90-foot span and height of 15 feet. Tread carefully along the stone walls to the arch and a small prehistoric dwelling from the ancient Sinagua Indians.
Take time as you walk the both directions of the trail to admire the gorgeous red sandstone cliffs of nearby Bear Mountain.

A rocky trail up Doe Mountain
Doe Mountain Trail: Doe Mountain is a flat-topped mountain between Bear Mountain and the Cockscomb (a formation with scalloped spires that resemble the comb of a rooster). A zigzagging path ascends the north face of the mountain with views of caves and rock sculptures in the weathered cliffs. While the trip to mesa is only about three-quarters of a mile, it seems longer because of its many switchbacks. A steady climb over craggy rocks takes you along the eroded cliff face to the top.
Standing on the rim of Doe Mountain near Sedona
When you reach the plateau 400 feet above the valley floor, you have wide, sweeping vistas of the surrounding red rock landscape. You can loop around the mesa on an unmaintained path, which adds another 1.25 miles. Or just meander close to the rim and take photos of cliffs and canyon walls across the canyon. If you decide to take the perimeter loop, make note of where you started for your return.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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