Friday, May 16, 2008

Hike #35: Soldier Pass Trail, Red Rock Wilderness, Coconino National Forest

Length: 4.5 miles

Popular with the local Jeep tours, the Soldier Pass Trail is a highly interesting trek with several delightful sights directly along the trail!

The trail begins to the right of the official Jeep path, working it's way through a quarter-mile of sparse forest. The trail then crosses the Jeep path at the first of the three sites along this trail. To the right of the trail is Devil's Kitchen, a 100-foot deep sinkhole (see picture below).

After Devil's Kitchen, the trail wraps its way between the Red Rock buttes for another mile until it arrives at the second site of interest - the Seven Sacred Pools. These deep puddles have slowly been carved from the soft slickrock and are generally filled with water. I've seen several beautiful pictures of these pools, with the sky and red cliffs reflected in their surfaces; unfortunately, during my visit, the pools where merely filled with a disgusting green water that was spawning numerous forms of life.

Continuing along, the trail again crosses the Jeep path and then descends into a dry creekbed. The trail then leaves the Jeep path and begins a rather steep climb into the surrounding cliffs. Eventually, the trail ends at Solder Pass Arch, a small natural arch with just inches between the arch and the adjacent cliff. In fact, the arch is much more cave-like than most of the arches one associates with arches of the Southwest! However, the arch does provide a welcome resting place that is both shaded and cool. After a well-deserved break, return along the same path or merely follow the established Jeep path back to the trailhead.

To view more photos of the Soldier Pass Trail, click here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hike #34: Boynton Canyon Trail, Red Rock Wilderness, Coconino National Forest

Length: 5 miles

Boynton Canyon Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Sedona area. The red rock surroundings and lush forest setting are considered by many to be the best Sedona has to offer. Adding to the popularity is the New Age belief that along this trail is a spiritual vortex believed to be a concentration of electromagnetic energy.

The first half of this trail passes through a box canyon with red rock buttes and cliffs towering on both sides. Although the cliffs are extremely picturesque, the view is slightly marred by the presence of a large resort adjacent to the trail.

After about one-mile, the trail descends deeper into the canyon, and a forest of pines, oaks, and sycamores obscure the red cliffs from view. The rest of the trail passes through a cool, shaded forest with numerous wildflowers and wildlife. Once you begin to think the trail is never going to end, the path begins a steep quarter-mile incline that ends at a wooden sign announcing the official end of the trail. Although the view from the end is somewhat impressive, one has to question whether it was really worth all that climbing!

Fortunately, the steep climb in makes for a quick descent back to the forest below. Now, it's merely a level return past the resort and back to the trailhead.

To view more photos of the Boynton Canyon Trail, click here.

Hike #33: Devil's Bridge Trail, Red Rock Wilderness, Coconino National Forest

Length: 2 miles

Although this short trail is just miles outside Sedona, due to the extremely rough condition of the dirt road leading to the trailhead, Devil's Bridge is relatively secluded by Sedona standards.

The trail wraps its way among some of the best Red Cliffs Sedona has to offer! Although this trail does provide magnificent views, the true highlight is the Devil's Bridge arch at the finale.

Standing at over 50 feet high, Devil's Bridge is the largest natural arch in the Sedona area. With a series of natural stone steps leading to the top, Devil's Bridge Arch is easily enjoyed from both above and below.

After a well-deserved break at the arch, merely retrace your steps and return to the trailhead along the same path.

To view more photos of the Devil's Bridge Trail, click here.