Remember our Take a Hike With Kate series? She’s back today with fun hikes in the Sedona area that are perfect to do as training for Havasupai!
Training to hike to Havasupai Falls in Southern and Central Arizona can prove to be tricky. I live in Phoenix, where there are lots of straight-up hikes up mountains and longer flat-ish hikes, but nothing that quite replicates a long, downhill hike into a canyon followed a long, uphill out of a canyon. And, frankly, Phoenix gets hot beginning in May and extending through October. While one- or two-hour hikes are possible in early morning, a complete day of hiking here can send you to the hospital in June.
What’s a girl to do? Go north, friends. Sedona, Ariz., is about an hour and a half north of Phoenix. It’s an easy drive, and when you get there you’re rewarded with incredible scenery, great beer, and a funky local scene full of hippies, trippies, artists, tourists and bikers.
Added bonus? Some elevation (4,500 feet). So upon heading to rim country my first hike was Soldier Pass #66.
My hiking partner and I chose this trail as it was close to town and it covered varying terrain and excellent scenery over 5.5 miles. We arrived as the trail head opened at 8 a.m. and only saw a few other cars. The trail goes into a wash and then you sort of “pop out” near the Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole, which is HUGE! It “sunk” in the late 1800s and there was another collapse in 1989. It’s a sight to see for sure, but you’ve got more hiking to do.
Here’s where it gets a little confusing. We came across the “Jordan trail,” which by some accounts seems to be the “Soldier trail” … either way we were determined to get in nearly 6 miles, so we took the trail to its eventual ending point where it intersected with another trail.
The trail wasn’t hard, quite moderate, but it was home to some great views and well-marked (if confusing) trails. You’re also likely to see a few jeep tours taking tourists out to the sinkhole.
Our next hike was more challenging and although it was warmer, we picked a spectacular day. Conditions were a bit overcast but breezy. We did Bell’s trail to Wet Beaver Creek. Seven miles of rolling terrain ending in a dip in the creek. Well, actually it was a bit cool to “dip,” but we stuck our hands and feet in.
Parts of the trail have been everything from a jeep road to a cattle trail. Along the way you’ll pass off shoot trails, White Mesa Trail and Apache Maid Trail.
Upon nearing the river you’re just about to be confused on where to go, but then there’s a sign that says “free crack this way” (locals call the hike “the crack;” it’s a popular swimming spot in the summer) and so, you follow it. There you are, in a shaded green riverbed surrounded by picnic-friendly rocks and trees. But you have to turn around and go back to the trail head as there’s no camping in the vicinity. I’ve also reached the crack using trails nearby, so if you’re in the area you can extend this hike past the creek going in either direction.
Finally, I recommend two hikes I’ve hikes recently in the Sedona area, Devil’s Bridge, which can vary in length depending on where you park (sometimes you might need a high clearance vehicle). Typically it’s 4 miles and the turnaround point is, you guessed it, a “bridge” well, arch, formed naturally in the red rock. Be daring and stand on top and take that photo opp. This is NOT a hike for anyone scared of hikes.
Also, West Fork is a great trail outside of Sedona near the Forrest Houses resort. It’s about 5 to 7 miles depending on how far you hike in, and it’s friendly for dogs and included water. Definitely a great trail for distance, speed and shade. I often do this trail after Thanksgiving dinner!
I do most of these hikes with a full backpack — the same one I’m taking on the trail and have been trying different combinations of outfits that I could be sure provided cooling and quick dry time.
As it gets hotter, I’m incorporating hydrating foods such as berries, melons, cucumber, tomatoes and other water-rich foods into my diet. Luckily, I grow many of these in my summer garden. I love hydration drinks to break up the water intake and to help with electrolyte intake. My favorites are NUUN, SOS, and good old-fashioned full-calorie Gatorade. When it’s 117 degrees here in Arizona, just getting in the car to go work out or hike will dehydrate you.
Countdown to five days at Havasupai: less than a month! Have you ever done any of these hikes in Sedona before? —Kate