..........................................................Arizona Jones Outdoors: Hiking, Backpacking, Mountain Biking, and more!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mountain Biking in Sedona, AZ

I live 20 minutes from Sedona and I have mountain biked there many, many times. I have been riding there frequently since the late 90s. I went there just last weekend and the weather was a perfect 72 degrees. The trails in Sedona are very nice and the scenery is amazing, I'm talking truly amazing. So I decided to share some information about this great place to mountain bike. Sedona has trails all around it, in fact you can almost ride around the whole city on trails except for a few places that are wilderness and they don't allow bikes. The trails are well maintained and well marked in most cases. The trails have a wide variety of difficulty level. In some places it will be smooth and easy going but in many cases there are some difficult and technical sections. Most of the technical sections are short and if it is beyond your skill you can just walk that part and be back on your bike riding primo trails again in no time. The Sedona trail system has in my view four main parts. They are the south, north, central, and the west areas. There are some areas not included in these four main parts, but for ease of discussion I will exclude them. My favorite is the south area followed by the north area, but it is all good. In this post I will talk about the north and south parts and deal with the others at another time. I have pieced together a few maps to help out. They were partial areas and had some inaccurate info so I tried my best to improve them.
The south part is from Munds Mountain Wilderness on the east side to Oak Creek and from Morgan road and Broken Arrow trail head in the north south to the Village of Oak Creek. This area of trails divided in two by highway 179. There are two places where you can go under the highway bridges or in a tunnel that connect the areas. Running north and south through this area parallel to the highway is the Redrock Pathway, and many of the trails branch off from it. The Redrock Pathway is a wide foot and bike path that starts at the Courthouse Butte parking area and goes north terminating at the Little Horse Trail Head parking area. The Redrock Pathway is reasonably smooth (by Sedona standards) and is wide so people traveling in both directions can pass with ease. It is a good place for beginners to try mountain biking for a first time. No technical skill needed at all. The main trails that branch off the Redrock Pathway are the Llama Trail and the Little Horse Trail on the East side and the Templeton Trail and the HT trail on the west side.
The Templeton Trail branches off the pathway just north of what is called "Baby Bell" (a small rock butte just north of the much larger Bell Rock) and heads west and then goes under the highway and then takes you to Cathedral Rock. The trail skirts along the north flank of this ridge that contains Cathedral Rock and then leads you to Oak Creek then goes south along the creek and eventually to world famous Red Rock Crossing. I love this trail for it's scenery and I love a part that travels for a time on a nice rock ledge contouring to the terrain around the base of Cathedral Rock. It is very cool. Along the way you pass the Cathedral Rock Trail coming up from the Cathedral Rock trail head and heading up to the saddle of Cathedral Rock. Once at Red Rock Crossing you can cross the creek and head into the central part of the trail system that takes you to what is called West Sedona or you can complete a loop around Cathedral Rock by taking Verde Valley School Road back into the Village Of Oak Creek and Highway 179. Or you can go south into Redrock State Park and to more trails.
The HT trail branches west off the Redrock Pathway near the north end of the pathway. It too goes under the highway and then connects to the Templeton Trail and helps make loop rides happen that can include parts of Templeton Trail. There is also a trail that heads south from the intersection of HT trail and Templeton Trail that is somewhat new that goes all the way to The Village Of Oak Creek on the west side of the highway. This new trail is very cool and helps make for some new longer loop ride opportunities. This photo is taken from that trail west of the highway and Bell Rock, looking out to the northeast toward Elephant Rock and the Twin Buttes Branching off to the east side of the Redrock pathway is the Llama trail. This trail branches off to the east just north of Courthouse Butte. There is a major intersection on the pathway where a trail that circles Courthouse Butte heads east. You take this and after a short way the Llama Trail splits off to the left heading northeast. You cannot take a bike on the Courthouse Trail around the Butte because it is in a wilderness area so you must turn off at the Llama Trail before the Wilderness boundary. Llama Trail was started by a guy that did Llama tours years ago and then was found by mountain bikers. The Forest Service did not really maintain it or recognise it as an official trail for quite a long time. When I first started riding it 13 years ago it was little used and narrow. Now it is quite well traveled and wider like most Sedona trails. This photo is a typical view along the Llama trail looking east to what I guess would be Lee Mountain in the Munds Mountain Wilderness. The Llama trail skirts along the west border of the Munds Mountain Wilderness heading north and eventually intersects the Little Horse Trail .
The Little Horse trail branches east off of the Redrock Pathway near it's north end and heads up to a pass between some large mountains called Chicken Point. It travels just south of two large and impressive spires of rock called the Twin Buttes (also called two sisters). The trail leads you up to a pass between the mountains called Chicken Point. Chicken Point is a large area of flat slickrock at the north east base of the Twin Buttes with a steep drop off on the south side. This has great views off to the south and west and the jeep tours take people out here. This is what it looks like just east of Chicken point looking west at the east side of the Twin Buttes. This old dude on an old classic Ibis bike is me AZ Jones on the slick rock at Chicken Point. At this point there is a trail at the west end of the slick rock area that heads north along the base of the mountain called Elephant Rock. You just follow the rock stack markers. Don't take the jeep roads. This trail is called Broken Arrow Trail. Broken Arrow Trail has great views across an unpopulated valley to Munds Mountain and the Devils Dining Room. The Broken Arrow Trail takes you north to the Broken Arrow trail head at the end of Morgan Road. There is a short side trail that leads down into the valley to a large exposed rock area called Submarine Rock that is fun to freelance all over.
The north area of trails in Sedona is divided into two parts by Oak Creek. East of the creek are the Huckaby Trail that That goes from Schnebly Hill road parking area down to the creek under Migley Bridge and the majority of it is downhill. But once at the creek there is a steep climb up out of the canyon to get the the road and parking area at Migley Bridge. East of the Schnebly Hill parking area is the Munds Wagon Trail. This trail runs parallel to Schnebley Hill Road and ends up at an area called The Carousel. This is uphill most of the way with a few crossings of a wash and a few crossings of the road. You could have someone drop you off at the top and ride downhill and continue on Huckaby all the way to the Oak Creek. It would be a fun downhill run. Part way up the Munds Wagon Trail is a side trail to the north that leads out to some large flat areas of rock called the Cow Pies. This is a fun place to just goof around. like a giant skate board park for bikes but with world class views. At the north most of the Cow Pies there is a trail that heads west along a ledge in the rocks out to a saddle and then drops over the saddle and down to Oak Creek and comes out at Grasshopper Point in the canyon. This photo is taken from the Cow Pies looking at the saddle. This trail to the saddle and down the other side is called Hangover Trail. It can be difficult to follow and has some very difficult and technical sections that should be tried by advanced riders only. There is some serious exposure in some spots on this trail.
The other half of the North area of Sedona trails is west of Oak Creek. This part has a trail called the Thompson Trail that starts at Migley Bridge heads north and then southwest along the base of Steamboat Rock. Steamboat rock is a prominant rock formation at the base of the large mass of Wilson Mountain. This photo is of Wilson mountain as seen looking northeast from the Jordan Trail. The Thompson Trail follows an old wagon route that Jim Thompson an early homesteader used to take supplies up into Oak Creek Canyon. The Thompson trail goes from Migley Bridge at one end to the Brins Mesa Trail Head Just Northwest of the older or uptown part of Sedona. You cannot take the Brins Mesa Trail (that heads north) because it heads into wilderness areas where bikes are not allowed. Instead you continue from there west on The Jordan Trail into an area that the locals call the Secret Trails. The Jordan Trail will take you over the Soldiers Pass Trail Head and Coffee Pot Rock. This is a typical scene olong the Jordan Trail looking west toward Coffee Pot Rock. The Secret Trails area has several side trails and many wind up in the bottom of a wash and into a maze of bootleg trails that can be confusing. This is a photo looking north from the Secret Trails area. Once over at the Soldiers Pass Trail head there is another trail that heads west called the Tea Cup Trail that takes you out west at the base of Coffee Pot Rock and up to Sugarloaf and the Little Elf Trail Head. From here you can continue west out past Chimney Rock and Lizard Head Rock and out to the western area of trails that I will cover in another post.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Paria River Canyon

Here are some photos from a recent trip to Paria River Canyon on the Arizona-Utah border. I already posted about this area but thought people might like some more. This time when I went down the canyon there had been some rain and it was real muddy and the water flow was much deeper than I have experienced. Even still I made it down to the confuence of the Paria River and Buckskin Gulch. From White House trailhead to the confulenec and back took me more than six hours and It was tough going. Slippery and muddy and wet. 14 plus miles total. This is a fantastic canyon that gets very tight and very tall. As you strart down stream from the trail head at first the rocks on eack side are far apart and not very tall This time there was much more water than I have experienced before. In the past the stream has been very low flow and the soil around it has just been dry sand. This time there was mud, and lots of it. As you go farther down stream you can see the cliffs start to get much bigger.
The hight of the cliffs at first will get large and then decrease and then get large again. And the distance between wil tighten and then widen intermitantly. But soon the cliffs get much closer together as you go and they stay that way. It is around 3 to 4 miles before the first real narrow sections. Pretty soon the cliffs are huge, towering hundreds of feet up and close together shutting out all but just reflected light.
In some places the cliff walls only 15 feet across with cliffs that are several hundred feet high on both sides. This time because of the water flow the water was wall to wall in many locations. Most of the time the water depth was about knee high. But being cloudy it was hard to tell where deeper holes were.
As you get to the confuence with Buckskin Gulch, it gets real tight and dark. This next one below is the slot canyon of Buckskin Gulch coming in from the side into the Paria River Canyon. I read that the cliffs are 400 to 500 feet tall in some locations and I don't doubt it. This next one is looking from inside Buckskin Gulch out to where Paria River Canyon meets it. This last one is looking from the confluence of the two canyons back into the Paria River slot that is the way back.
This is a fantastic canyon. I'm telling you that a camera just can't get the job done. Or at least if I'm in control of the camera. You just have to see it. The White House trail head has only five camp sites that are on a first come first serve basis. So you are lucky if you get to camp at the trailhead.

For mor information on the Paria River Canyon and it's tributary Buckskin Gulch and the surrounding area go to this other post http://azjonesoutdoor.blogspot.com/2010/09/exploring-buckskin-gulch-and-paria.html 

Also see this post on nearby Coyote Butes and "The Wave" http://azjonesoutdoor.blogspot.com/2010/07/coyote-buttes-north-section.html

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Arches National Park

Arches National Park is a gem of a place. While it doesn't have the amazing vast views of the Grand Canyon, or the awe inspiring sheer cliffs of a Yosemite or Zion (though it does have a little of that), for me in it's own way it is just as special. Arches has the largest collection of natural rock arches found anywhere in the world. It is not a very big place as far as National Parks goes, but it packs a lot into a small space. This makes visiting it easy for all types of people of all ages and ability. I have been there several times and it never gets old for me. What I love about it is the scale of things is small enough that you can climb around in it and feel like a part of it yet there is also an amazing size in some cases as well. This really isn't a place to rock climb massive cliffs (though there are some big and awesome cliffs and spires in the Courthouse Towers area) but it is a place to climb around on rocks like a kid on playground equipment. While some of the arches are truly massive many are delicate and beautiful works of stone art. The arch formations are made up of a salmon pink shade of sandstone called Entrada Sandstone. The larger cliffs and spires in the park I believe are made of Navajo Sandstone. There are small junipers and pinion pine trees through out the park but for the most part this is a high desert environment. Arches can be divided up into five main parts: Courthouse Towers, The Windows, The Fiery Furnace, The Devils Garden, and Klondike Bluffs.

The first area called Courthouse Towers is all about very large redrock cliffs and tall spires. To best see this there is a short one mile trail that takes you through a gap in the rocks called Park Avenue. There are also several noted rock spires or monuments with whimsical names like the Three Gosips, Tower Of Babel, The Organ, and Sheep Rock. Most of these can be seen from the road. Here is a view of the Three Gosips taken from the road.
The next area The Windows area has short walks to some of the largest and beautiful arches that could be imagined. Double Arch is located here and is one large arch that splits and branches out into two.
It is grand in size with the larger opening measuring at over 148 feet across and 104 feet high. If you look very closely there are actually people sitting up in the opening in this photo to give some scale. Just southeast of this arch are three other large arches, Turret Arch, and the two Windows (two large arches in one long rock). The North and South Windows are also called the Spectacles because when viewed from east side they look like a giant pair of eyeglasses placed on the ground.
The larger of the two openings (South Window) is 115 feet across and 56 feet high. Right near these two amazing arches just to the west is turret arch.
Turret Arch is a strange rock formation with a large arch (65 feet high opening) and another smaller arch. And coming up out of the same rock as the arch is a spire or turret sticking up on one side. Here is a photo of Turret arch viewed from the west so you can see one of the windows through it in the background. All three of these are just a short easy walk from the road.

The third major area called the Fiery Furnace is known for it's assortment of red spires and fins and tight canyons as well as a few smaller but interesting arches. This area is a maze and now a permit is required to go here. Either with a ranger or not. They are trying to limit impact to the fragile environment. There are also some smaller arches in this area, but to me they are not as impressive as the ones in the Windows or the Devils Garden areas.

The Devils Garden part of the park has at least six or seven major arches. The longest one being Landscape Arch measuring 291 feet from base to base, and it's opening is 105 feet high in the middle. This is a very long and delicate arch that gets pretty thin in the middle for its long span. A photo just does not capture the scale of this amazing natural sculpture. Many of the arches in this area are smaller and more intimate in size but very beautiful. In some cases they are like picture frames to frame and view the beautiful landscape. In other cases they are like incredible large sculptures to admire and meditate on. The arches in The Devils Garden vary in size from the dramatic to the small, and some are accessible and some are high up in cliffs or rocks. I love this area with it's fin shaped rocks and great views of the La Salle Mountains. It would be a fun place to explore even without the amazing assortment of arches. This previous photo is from the back side of Landscape Arch looking out towards the La Salle Mountains to the southeast. The walk out to my favorite arch of this area, Double O Arch is around two miles one way. Double O Arch has two openings, a smaller one down low you can climb through and a much larger one that is up higher. As you take the walk out to Double O arch you will pass several of the others on the way. I have kept going out past this quite a ways into the fin canyons and camped overnight back in the 80s. It is a beautiful area but a maze of linear rocks that could get you lost if you don't pay close attention as you go.

The last of the five main areas is The Klondike Bluffs. The Klondike Bluffs part of the park is the most remote. There are only dirt roads to access it and this eliminates most of the visitors. I have visited this area by riding a mountain bike on a trail outside of the park up to the park boundary near this Klondike Bluffs and then walking in the rest of the way. In this area there are large rock formations, and again the linear fin type formations. One of the most notable features is a long line of spires called the Marching Men.

There is one more well known attraction that stands alone and is not in any of the five main areas of the park. It is called Delicate Arch. This arch sits out on a beautifully sculptured bare stone ridge top off the beaten path so to speak. It has a 1.5 mile (one way)trail starts at the Wolfe Ranch parking area that goes out to it, with a moderate climb. This arch is sitting on the rim of a slickrock bowl perched on the edge of a steep cliff. The arch is about 52 feet tall. This is one of the most photographed places in the park if not all of Utah. It is the most widely-recognized landmark in Arches National Park and is depicted on Utah license plates and on a postage stamp commemorating Utah's centennial anniversary of statehood in 1996. The Olympic torch relay for the 2002 Winter Olympics passed through the arch. This is the one photo I did not take because I didn't have one that could do it justice. To get a good photo you need to get there at sunset and hope there are not a million people climbing all over the place as is often the case. Here is a site that has some great photos of this amazing landmark to give you a perspective of how it fits into the fantastic stone environment that surrounds it. http://utahpictures.com/Delicate_Arch_Arches_National_Park.php If you are at the Wolfe Ranch parking area I have heard there are some good pictograph panels in the area that I have never seen myself that might be worth a visit if you have the time.
If you visit Arches there is a campground with 50 sites that are first come first serve basis. I camped here once and liked it as far as structured car camping type campgrounds go. The weather here can get very hot in the summer with highs above 100 degrees. The winters can get pretty cold too so the best time is fall or spring. Though the winter can offer up some interesting beauty when snow falls on this red rock environment. Finding Arches National Park is easy its just off the main highway north of Moab Utah.

Here is the National Park web site.  http://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm