Happy Monday! Watching this morning news made probably quite a lot of people in the Phoenix valley sigh seeing those 90+ F the whole week. Honestly, I’ll take that all day long before having to shovel snow in order to take the car out. But living in the South made me really anticipate those fall hiking trips to Sedona or Payson. You get gradually transported from the desert scenery to the rich smell of wet leaves and the sounds of the wind moving the trees around and the creek flowing in between them.
There are many evergreens but few places can boast exceptionally vivid fall colors. While Payson trails require some uphill to get to the prime spots - Sedona just brings it to you on the silver platter. There are creeks and trails all along 89A Highway. It does get longer to get there than your maps will tell. Those roundabouts are some tempo-killers. But embrace the flow and know that what is to follow is totally worth it!
But first, a little detour is a must to mention. After you pass the first settlement on the 179 going towards Sedona it is nice to stop by the Bell Rock which will be on your right. There are some very short and easy trails that lead to various levels of rock. And at any stage, the unique Sedona skyline opens up to your view. Late Fall through early Spring might make it a bit trickier as those red rocks get covered with thin glass-like ice which makes it impossible to hike up even in boots.
Later the road takes you through the actual old town of Sedona and keeps going up through the woods following Canyon Creek. There are also amazing and easy adventures along the way. Canyon Creek trail is great and dog-friendly. There is the sweet little spot to recharge and have brunch/lunch in the intimate local cafe called Indian Gardens. Essentially it was made for backpackers and hikers but turned into a hidden attraction and just a nice place to recoup.
Going further down is mine by far favorite Sedona hike (which however can get crowded at times and parking can be challenging). It is easy to miss an exit on a sharp turn. West Fork Trail #108. It's an easy 7.2 ml out & back dog-friendly hike that is well shaded as it goes into the canyon and features multiple creek crossings, birds, flowers and hues to die for. There is also an option of keeping the walk going. When the trail runs into the tight red rock canyon covered with water, depending on the season, you can actually proceed through it if you wade through knee-deep water and supposedly camp past that point in the woods. That is yet for me to explore but definitely something I put on my list :)
Last time I hiked it was in October 2018 with my mom and lab. We were pretty discouraged as it was starting to rain and the line of cars had formed at the entrance despite the mid-week. However, due to rain, most people left and we enjoyed a secluded walk with the soon-to-show sun. On the way back, after warming up with the hot local coffee we were yet to face some unique AZ experience. Going in the mountains on the way back to Phoenix we noted a dark cloud ahead, showers with huge rainbows coming through on the East and bright blue sky and a sunset on the West. In 20 minutes we started our ascent into the black cloud with extreme winds and a rainstorm. Multiple trucks going the same direction were whirling unsteadily around the corners and there we saw a man on the motorcycle driving up among them. He must’ve really needed to get to Phoenix that day. On the brighter side, we were driving an SUV with a roof. The only issue was I had been missing a rare window from the past camping “breaking into my own car”. At that point, it was taped with a gorilla duck tape which had started to fall off and had to fix with the tape from my medical emergency kit.
Eventually, we got out of the mountains just to embrace the most vibrant sunset as we started our descent to the Phoenix Valley. It was definitely a memorable day that included all the variety Arizona is famous for.