Posted by: davepidgeon | February 16, 2009

Red rock n’ roll

Alison and I stood in a mix of apprehension and disappointment on the sidewalk. “Have we reached the Gatlinburg of Arizona?” I asked, looking around at Sedona’s kitchy blend of tourist shops and soulless bars. Maybe we arrived at the wrong part of town, and I half expected rollercoaster tracks to soon rise above the town buildings for DollyLand Arizona with the screams of riders echoing off the nearby red rock mountains.

Fortunately, backcountry escapes from the Red Rock capitol’s tourists crowds are not difficult to find. 


Salmon-colored mountains rise above Coconino National Forest, Ariz.

Salmon-colored mountains rise above Coconino National Forest, Ariz.

For up close views of these iconic mountains, check out this 6.5-mile loop into the Secret Canyon Wilderness north of Sedona. Just driving to the trailhead takes a heart-of-steel as the unpaved, red-clay road takes several adrenaline-inducing dips that can leave a rental car in worse shape than a demolition derby. To find the trailhead, take Arizona 89 A and turn right onto Dry Creek Road. From Dry Creek Road turn right on the aforementioned Forest Road 152 and pray you make it 3.5 miles to the Secret Canyon trailhead.

Now it’s time to get some red dust on those boots.


Hiking the Secret Canyon Trail near Sedona, Ariz.

Hiking the Secret Canyon Trail near Sedona, Ariz.

They say a vibe exists here as if the red rocks are a portal to a different spiritual plane. I don’t know about any of that. What I do know: This hike is a bomber, especially as you wind deeper into the wilderness along the Secret Canyon Trail. Rust-tinted mountains draw your eyes away from the path and upward to the mountaintops and azure sky. The nooks are filled with snow and evergreens if you hike this during wintertime, and when we hit this trail in mid-December during a weekday, we didn’t meet anyone else. Red rocks, solitude, my best girl – I shouldn’t be allowed this much earthy pleasure. Maybe there is a spiritual gateway in Coconino.

After just under two miles, the David Miller Trail branches off the Secret Canyon Trail to the right. For about three quarters of a mile, the DMT winds steeply up a gorge on the east side of Little Round Mountain. From time to time, stop and look behind you. Every mile you passed in your car and on foot is laid out behind you.



A view from the Secret Canyon-David Miller loop hike.

A view from the Secret Canyon-David Miller loop hike.

The DMT then turns and heads into Bear Sign Canyon, where you hook up with the Bear Sign Trail. Turn right and follow the creek bed out for just over two miles. This part was constantly in the shade when Alison and hiked it, which meant perpetual snow conditions. Slippery, but beautiful and cold. Turn right on to the Dry Creek Trail, and follow that back to the red clay forest road. Turn right and walk a short distance to the Secret Canyon Trailhead on your car.

I would count this among the top three day hikes I’ve taken in my life.



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