On the hike you go through wide open spaces, small pines, big pines, oaks, ferns, wildflowers and red-rock canyons!
Canyon wall views
On this trip, there were pockets of brown, stagnant water if you're into filtering that sort of stuff. If not bring your own water.
The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. For the most part the hike is flat. There are a fews ups and downs through ravines. Nothing serious though I'm sure with a pack it might drain you after awhile.
Maybe it's me, but it felt hotter than forecasted during the day and cooler than forecasted during the night. This is especially true when you are in the wide open areas without shade. I'm not sure I would do this hike with a pack any later then May.
A couple good campsites become available around 2.3 miles. There's a great spot with a clear view of the canyon wall, 34 57.256, -111 51.235. This is one of the few spots where you can see the canyon walls without trees in the way. If you want to hike further in, there is a good spot just after the waterfall too, 34 57.391, -111 52.004. Although there is occasional airplane noise, this is the quietest place I've camped in a long time.
In mid May, on this trip at least, the hike provided great photo opportunities for wild flowers, butterflies, and your typical Sedona red canyons. If there's no water, the waterfall is still a good photo opportunity; it gives you the curvy rock / slot canyon picture. Behind the waterfall campsite mentioned above, it's possible to get up on some red rocks and get above the trees: Simply scramble up the wooded hill until you run into the red rocks; from there, walk around until you can find a safe place to get up.
I'm not a plant guy, but after reading Joe's warning
, I did come across a number of plants that could pass for poison ivy. The plants were around the river crossings, on stalks about knee-high, had three, spear-shaped leaves, and a number of the leaves were shiny and turning red. If you're not familiar with poison ivy, it can be real nasty stuff; take a few minutes to read up on it.
The Secret Canyon Trail is of moderate length, leading into the Wilderness. The first two miles follows an old road bed, that is fairly flat and easy going. The rest of the way, the trail meanders in and out of the canyon bottom. Vegetation varies from chaparral to mixed conifer along this typically dry water course.
The signed trailhead is across the usually dry streambed of Dry Creek west of the parking area. The trail immediately enters Wilderness. The wide, nearly flat trail leads into the wide canyon mouth with nice views, but no shade from the desert scrub vegetation. At 2/3 mile, HS Canyon Trail branches off to the left. Continue ahead for Secret Canyon. At 2 miles, continue ahead (west) as the trail drops down to cross a drainage. It climbs gently for the next 3 miles beside the canyon drainage, frequently dipping down to cross it.
There is shade from oak and ponderosa and nice views of red rock formations. At 5 miles, the streambed turns sharply left a short distance to an interesting "chute". Return to the trail which continues ahead, climbs sharply, then levels out. At 5.5 miles, there is a deep ravine and a series of pools in the solid rock streambed. An unmaintained trail continues on. Return by the same route for an 11 mile hike. The hike can be shortened and still be worthwhile. The trail can be very hot in summer.