Go Outdoors: A not so professional opinion on day hikes and drives in Sedona

Lindsay Wienkers

If you ever find yourself in a desert ecosystem with large red rocks scattered around, there is a possibility that you are in Sedona, Ariz. If this is the case, you should beware of the rattlesnakes as well as the possibility of a flash flood. In fact, even if you are not in this particular area, still be cautious of these dangers. However, you should also be aware of the day hikes and drives Sedona’s unique biome provides. It should be mentioned that my suggestions are from my own personal experience I had in December with my family. I am sure my opinions of them would change dramatically if we would have visited in the summer.

Courthouse Butte Loop

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Courthouse Butte view near the trailhead. (Lindsay Wienkers | Collegian)

 

Out of all the hikes that took place during our five-day family vacation, the Courthouse Butte Loop was my favorite day hike. This flat and well-maintained trail allowed us to get an up-close view of both the Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock, as well as experience a variety of flora. Cathedral Rock seems to be one of the most popular rocks displayed in the Red Rocks region. Other massive formations are scattered in the distance. This loop provides many spectacular views. This could be the reason why many websites and guides mention the fact that this is a very popular destination for day hikers. However, our family was able to avoid the crowds. During the four mile loop, we came across approximately six individuals and two dogs. The lack of attendants could have been because it was getting a little dark out and it was raining for the majority of the time. Considering we are Seattle natives, this was not a problem. In fact, because my family enjoys being secluded from others when in nature, this weather worked in our favor.

West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon

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Unlike many other trails in Sedona, West Fork trail had densely packed trees all around, even growing on top of rocks! (Lindsay Wienkers | Collegian)

 

This trail was absolutely beautiful and included a distinguishable terrain from all the other hikes we experienced. Some of the defining features was the proximity we had to the surrounding canyon wall, as well as the large quantity of trees we had to meander through. However, the characteristic of the trail that stood out the most were the many streams we needed to cross. The trail itself went on for 14 miles, and after a certain mileage marker it becomes less maintained. However, my family did not make it to that point. At first, the streams made the hike a little more technical, which can be fun. After crossing the streams in a span of about three miles the fun of the technicality slowly faded, and then it was nerve-racking. To be able to cross the streams one needed to walk across rocks and sticks – both of which were quite icy and wobbly. Although it did slow down the hike, my family was able to make it out dry. This was not the case for everyone we came across, though. To help reduce the odds of falling into cold water, I suggest wearing hiking boots, using a walking stick and taking your time.

Red Rock Scenic Byway

Going into this drive I was pretty excited. Although I prefer hiking, my family and I thought that this would be a fun way to see a lot of rocks in a short amount of time. Although it is very possible that we did not complete the entire section, perhaps because we did not go far enough, we were not too impressed. The road did not go very far and most of the rocks we passed were ones we already saw from getting to other trailheads. However, there were a few fun and Sedona-esk stores that were on the way to 179.

  • Son Silver West is a massive and unique outdoor art store which we stopped at.

  • Garlands Indian Jewelry is a turquoise jewerly store out by itself in a building that looked more like a family-owned breakfast place rather than something that contained thousands of dollars worth of local-made turquoise jewelry.

  • Although this restaurant would be about 20 minutes away from the scenic drive, I think it would be almost a dishonor to my brother to not mention perhaps his most favorite restaurant he has ever been to. Although an interesting name, the Barking Frog provided lunch and dinner for our family a number of times. The food was quite delicious, even their cactus fries. Originally, we were hesitant on consuming those.

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    One of unique species of flora displayed in Sedona. However, I am not sure if this is the actual type of cactus they use at The Barking Frog. (Lindsay Wienkers | Collegian)

 

Jim Thompson Trail

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View about 50 meters from the Jim Thompson trailhead. (Lindsay Wienkers | Collegian)

Although I am pretty sure this is the trail we were on, I do admit I have a hard time with maps and we could have been on a different path. If one ends up taking part in this particular trail, I would take a close look at the map at the trailhead. I remember the names were quiet similar to each other, yet they led to completely different areas. Regardless, it was a very nice hike and once we got away from the trailhead there were a lot less people. It seemed that the majority of individuals there stayed by the bridge where the parking is, and took pictures. Once again, this hike was not very hard. People of all ages were taking in the fresh air and scenic views here.

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Devil’s Bridge

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Devil’s Bridge displaying its intricate formation as well as the rich red color all rocks possess in Sedona. (Lindsay Wienkers | Collegian)

Out of all the hikes we took part in during our stay, this was the most strenuous. As we were passing the hardest part, a much, much older man was keeping up with us, proving that he is more badass than we will ever be. On the other hand, younger individuals struggled with some of the large stone steps that were necessary to climb to get to the top. However, before one goes on it make sure to disregard the mileage posted on the second trailhead. Although I do not know the exact mileage, it stated that the distance to this bridge is .7 miles which I believe is as false calculation. Our family would have needed to walk farther if we were not equipped with a four wheel drive car, like many visitors were. There were two trailheads, the first is where most people parked and began their journey. However, we passed the first trailhead and bumped along to the second. Although the walk seemed nice, off-roading is pretty fun especially with a specific destination at the end. In fact, Pink Jeep Tours even came this way to give tourists the full Sedona experience. Although this hike also included some nice views, it was very crowded which was the major factor of why I was underwhelmed when I came across Devil’s Bridge. However, there is also a reason for the popularity- the bridge is a pretty crazy sight and it seemed like a lot of people enjoyed posing on the rock for their future Holiday Cards or Instagram posts.

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View from West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon. (Lindsay Wienkers | Collegian)

 

“The earth has its music for those who will listen,” said George Santayana. Whether you enjoy earth at one of these locations in Sedona, Ariz. or somewhere across the world, I hope you treasure the music it provides your soul.

Collegian writer Lindsay Wienkers can be reached at blogs@collegian.com. Leave a comment!