Arizona is a wonderfully diverse place which satisfies all ends of the adventure and pleasure spectrum. From deserts, to mountains, to forests, to the red rocks, there is something in Arizona for everyone and every taste.
What makes Arizona a spiritual place is the combination of earth energy concentration and the connection to the Native Peoples. If one opens his heart and mind to the energy here, it is impossible to miss the intense spiritual energy from mother earth and from the Ancestors. Even if one simply chooses to admire the remarkable landscape, the deep spiritual energy is evident everywhere.
Red Mountain is a little know trail which is an exceptionally easy hike offering a spectacular landscape and view of remarkable rock formations. The location is actually the crater of an ancient volcano and there are many quiet areas to explore, as well as to spend some time in solitude tuning into the earth’s energy. Unlike the famous vortexes of Sedona, I’ve never heard reference of Red Mountain as a vortex, although from personal experience, I can testify that the earth’s energy is very strong here. One can easily spend hours in quiet solitude opening the mind to the universal wisdom.
Red Mountain is an easy drive from Flagstaff although it is not well marked. It is best to hike this location between April and November. From Flagstaff, follow US 180 north for approximately 32 miles. Be alert for the mile markers because these will be your only indication of where to turn. At mile marker 247, go left onto a dirt road. After turning onto the dirt road, it is less than half a mile and you will come to a fence. The trail is not marked, but this is the trail head and you can park here. The hike is approximately 2.5 miles round trip and there is no water available along the way so be sure to bring adequate drinking water. The trail itself is marked along the way with trail markers so it is very easy to follow. As you near the crater, the path follows a wash which can be a bit confusing but if you watch for the markers, you should be able to stay on the path .Even before arriving at the crater, the landscape is quite remarkable. You will be rewarded with barren cinder slopes (see photo above), juniper and pinion trees, and a moonscape like geography. The entrance to the crater is a 6′ wall which must be climbed although there is a wooden ladder there. It is possible to scrabble around the wall but the ladder does make things easier. Depending on the time available and expectations, you can spend less than an hour here or the entire day can be spent in quiet reflection. Below are some photos from inside the crater:
Sedona is also known as the red rock country for it’s spectacular rock formations. Although entire website could be devoted to Sedona, here are a few collections of thoughts and experiences about this magical place.
A Day Trip to Sedona
While I’ve stayed in Sedona before and spent several weeks there, on a recent business trip to Phoenix, several of us stayed over a day into the weekend to make a day trip to Sedona before heading home. It was a long day, starting at 7:00 AM in the morning to drive to Sedona and ending before 11:00 PM that evening when we returned to our hotel in Apache Junction. From Phoenix, head north on Interstate 17 towards Flagstaff. Exit at route 179 which takes you into the village of Oak Creek. Shortly after exiting, you will come to a visitor center and here you can stop to use the restrooms, and most importantly, to purchase a red rock pass in order to park in the parking areas in the red rock country. The cost is minimal: $5 for a daily pass, $15 for a weekly pass, and $20 for an annual pass. (The $20 is a real deal if you plan to come back frequently.) Make sure you stop and enjoy the view from the visitor center and take a few photos before heading out! Continue on 179 to a left on Verde Valley School Road. Congestion is dramatically eased these days after completion of most of the road improvements over the last few years so making the left is easily done via the roundabout. Verde Valley School Road eventually turns into a dirt road. While it can be followed to the end at the river, there is no parking at the river and the signs warn about turning around. Park in the area marked for river parking on the left. Time to hike Sedona’s most famous landmark: Cathedral Rock! Before embarking from the trail head of Baldwin trail, which is directly across from the parking area, make sure to walk about a quarter mile down to the river at the end of the dirt road for a spectacular view of Cathedral Rock. This point is the most photographed and painted scene in Sedona as artists and photographers paint and take photos from this very spot. If time permits, make sure to come back here at sunset as the color and light on Cathedral Rock is nothing short of spectacular. Heading back up the dirt road, pick up Baldwin Trail on your left across from the parking area. The trail runs along the river and at some points, provides easy access to the river which is quite a relaxing sight to watch the water gently flowing over the rocks. You can wade in the river and on hot days, be sure to bring a bathing suit for a refreshing cool down on the return trip from Cathedral Rock. Eventually the trail leaves the river and you will come into a clearing with a rather sandy path. From here, you will have a remarkable view of Cathedral Rock before starting the ascent. Baldwin Trail will intersect Templeton trail here so bear to the left to rear Cathedral Rock. From here, the trail gently ascends via moderate switchbacks until you reach an open area with some spectacular views of the other side of Cathedral Rock as well as into the valley below. While the trail is well used and easy to follow, be sure to follow the trail markers which are mounds of rocks held together by chicken wire. The trail will shortly intersect Cathedral Rock Trail for the last segment of the hike to the top of Cathedral Rock. At the trail intersection, take note of the way you came. Cathedral Rock Trail is only about .6 miles and from this point leads down to a parking lot. Our path took us along the river for a longer and enjoyable hike although if you are not observant, it is easy to follow the path down to the wrong parking area on your return and you will need to hike back up to pick up Templeton Trail and get back on track to Baldwin trail. From here, the climb can get steep. The guides at the Ranger station call the hike strenuous. To experienced hikers in reasonable shape, the hike is really nothing more than moderate. However, casual hikers will find the climb a challenge and it is not uncommon to see some members of hiking parties stopped along the way having given up while the rest of the party heads to the summit. Don’t give up unless you absolutely must; the views at the summit are well worth the extra effort! At the summit, there are plenty of places to explore and you can even look down and see the section of trail where Baldwin and Templeton trails intersect. It is a satisfying experience looking down on the path you have taken and realizing how far you have come. (See photo below) Take time to get some good photos from all sides and above all, take time to meditate. Cathedral Rock is one of the famous energy vortexes in Sedona and the spiritual energy is very strong here. Find a quiet spot and slow down to listen to what the spirits have to say to you. Every time I visit, I find new meaning and outlook on life.
After hiking back to the parking area, drive into Sedona and take some time to enjoy a nice BBQ lunch and maybe browse a few of the shops. (Nice stuff but a bit pricey in Sedona’s uptown area as this is ground zero for the tourists.) Head back on Verde Valley School Road to 179 and go left on 179. This takes you past Bell Rock (worth a stop and a short hike if you have the time), and eventually to the intersection with Route 89A. Take a right on 89A and go a few blocks taking any parking spot you can find. (Free for 3 hours) I usually like BBQ and the pulled pork at Mesquite Grill and BBQ (250 Jordan Road) is as good as any I’ve had. The place is tucked away between shops and on a hot day, there is small area where you can go inside and enjoy air conditioning. Otherwise, simply eat at one of the outside tables. After lunch, a great afternoon hike is Boynton Canyon Trail. Head back in the opposite direction on 89A and instead of going left at the roundabout back to 179, continue on until you reach Dry Creek Road. Go right on Dry Creek Road until you come to a T intersection where you go left onto Boynton Pass Road. Follow the signs to the trail head which will be on the right. This area is near the Enchantment Resort which is private property (and their security takes this very seriously). There is trail head parking although on busy days, no overflow parking is available and there is no parking along the road. The trail head begins right off of the parking area and the entire trail goes for about 2.6 miles deep into the canyon. Be careful hiking this trail when thunderstorms are a threat. Besides the treat from lightning, many parts of the trail follow the (usually) dry creek bed and flash floods can present a danger to hikers as well. I was once out in the canyon when a thunderstorm came in and it is not a relaxing experience! Be sure initially to follow the trail signs staying with Boynton Canyon Trail as Deadmans Pass trail also intersects very near the trail head. Boynton Canyon, besides being one of Sedona’s famous vortexes, is also culturally significant. Native peoples from the Apache and Yavapai nations believe that Boynton Canyon is the birthplace of their people. In some places, you can even see ruins in the rocks from ancient Sinagua peoples. One short side trip worth taking is Vista. Many visitors simply take this hike up to two interesting formations, including Kachina Woman, vs. hiking back into Boynton Canyon. The trail to Vista is clearly marked and is a loop hike which will bring you back to Boynton Canyon Trail. From Vista, the trail proceeds along the boundary of Enchantment Resort. Do respect the fenced areas as the resort will prosecute trespassers and has 24×7 armed security. You will come to a wilderness sign-in station and I recommend (as with all departures into the wilderness) that you register your party in the log book. The Rangers use this information in the event of emergency to locate missing parrties who have ventured out into wilderness areas. Experienced hikers will be familiar with this self registration system from other areas in the US parks and wilderness areas. Once past the furthermost point of the enchantment resort, (they have a video camera with a strongly worded sign warning hikers not to trespass), the trail snakes back to a rock wall. On hot days, this is a cool place to stop and rest and often the wall is wet from water seepage. Continuing on, you are rewarded with many stunning views on both sides of the canyon. Hiking this trail in the late afternoon is particularly impressive since the sun will be setting to set over the western rim. The setting sun really plays on the rocks offering interesting contrasts of light and shadows which provide excellent opportunities for outstanding photographs. Eventually, you will notice your surrounding change and you will be in a densely wooded area which provides welcome shade on a hot day. Be sure to admire the giant alligator juniper trees which are unmistakable as they are named after their bark which resembles the skin of an alligator. The trail continues to wind along, following the creek bed which is usually dry. The last several yards can be a tough climb but open up to views of a natural, sheer walled amphitheater. This is a great place to stop, rest, and meditate before returning the same way you came. If you hiked into the canyon in late afternoon, be sure to notice how the colors and shadows on the rock walls have changed as you hike out.
Stop to unwind and have some dinner in Sedona before heading back. Follow 89A back towards uptown and take 179 from the roundabout. As you go through the Village of Oak Creek on your way back to Interstate 17, the Marketplace Cafe located in the Oak Creek Factory Outlets shopping center has great food and atmosphere as well as either indoor or outdoor dining. This will be one busy day, yet we managed to be back at our hotel in Gold Canyon by 10:20 PM so it is definitely a workable day trip from Phoenix. Better still, plan to come back to Sedona as there is much, much more to do and see when actually staying here. If you do come back to stay in Sedona, the absolute, hands down, best place to stay in Sedona is the Canyon Villa B&B . The rooms and hospitality at this Inn are excellent and with many of their rooms, you wake up with views of Bell Rock framed within your window!