Long Canyon is one of the many
alluring escapes within the Red Rock - Secret Mountain Wilderness. It's
situated to the east and northeast of extremely popular Boynton Canyon.
Which brought to mind the obvious question. How does Long Canyon compare
with Boynton? I'll give my thoughts in a moment.
Bug spray proved to be invaluable on this outing. I always carry a little bottle in my pack. I haven't pin pointed the exact conditions. Though April and May seem to be the bug months in my experiences. In this case four applications kept me alive.
The trailhead for Long Canyon Trail #122 is
well marked. Ample parking for most hikes. It likely gets overcrowded
for this Red Rocks getaway. From the trailhead check out the map and
available information. It's
a no brainer where the
trail takes off
. A now closed jeep road makes up the first section of
this trail. Sections of the trail are fine grain sand. Teva sandal
users like myself might opt for boots in the hotter months. Sand
burns! Having suffered a recent foot injury I was "lucky" enough
to be on this trail in boots.
I read in several books the beginning
of this trail was on the drab side. Folks, the top of South Mountain in
Phoenix is drab. It's pretty tough to find a drab area anywhere close to
Sedona in my opinion. Okay so the trail is wide. Yeah it's an old
jeep road, go figure. The real controversy is the city closing in on the wilderness. This is true. A
golf course is being
alongside the first mile. The trail doesn't actually cross
into the wilderness until a mile into the hike. I'm wondering how they
plan to keep those little white balls from pounding us hikers in the head.
Cause I know of one hiker that'll be pounding ye golfer with el' fisto in such
case. I'm just kidding, but I do wonder how they intend to keep it
safe. Big tall fences or walls do seem out of character with the
area. At any rate... Okay it's not the best first mile but it isn't
the worst either. Mescal Mountain first comes into play on your
left. There are trails tempting you over to a quick Red Rock fix. I
was lured into such. I'm happy to report there's nothing exciting over
there! One good photo opportunity
it. There are several tiny alcoves along the east side of Mescal
Mountain. I didn't see any evidence of ruins in the two I checked out.
Disregard any print prior to 2001
about which fork of the trail to take. There's really only one confusing
junction. The far left goes to Mescal Mountain as described above.
The far right is your ticket. Here's an easy way to remember. There
are two thick diameter fence post with a slanting brace. The slanting
brace log points "right" DOWN to the correct trail. A little
further in you come to the trail log. Which contained strong superlatives. Most
in disapproval of the neighboring golf course. A mile into the trail comes
the wilderness boundary. If you're mountain biking it's time to turn
around or hide the bike.
Butterflies played tag from this
point on. I guess they were well aware of the wilderness boundary.
Don't get too excited. These are Sedona camouflaged butterflies and fairly
tiny. Quick little buggers too.
. At this point I'm thinking this is a decent Sedona
hike. But nothing is wowing me as of yet. However, a front section
of Maroon Mountain
is flaunting it's pearly white cap in
the near distance.
As you proceed further into Long
Canyon the forest begins to take over. Nice red rocks are fairly
close. Although not many good viewing opportunities are presented along
the trail. One such spot early on is your best bet. I didn't pay
much attention thinking it'd only get better.
So far the going has been pretty
straight forward. Gaining 270 unnoticeable feet of elevation gain thus
far. The trail is protected from the sun. I imagine a fair share of
folks turning around here after two miles. There doesn't seem to be much hope
of the canyon opening up like Boynton does at the end. Nevertheless I
continued on. At this point I had passed enough groups to account for the
seven cars at the trailhead. Then came the beautiful fields of
poison ivy. Hey, they are pleasing to look at in healthy large
quantities. Basically, if it has three leaves don't touch it or brush up
against it. This isn't gonna save you from poison sumac with seven plus
leaves but it's a good start.
Man I'm itching just writing about
it. There was poison ivy in small patches alongside the trail. To date I've only seen worse cases in Devils Canyon
near Superior. For the record this is no match. It's canyon wall to
wall and four feet high in Devils Canyon. I'm proud to report Long Canyon
didn't rub me the wrong way.
Alligator junipers are always interesting. One in particular
appears to be ripped open by a bolt of lighting near the base. There's a
couple getting pretty large too. Not to mention one huge pine tree.
You'll undoubtedly spot the huge pine as the trail passes to the left. Light lavender wildflowers blanket sections of the
trail. By this time you've completely forgotten about any golf
course. Though the ending of this trail was perplexing my mind.
When I was assuming the trail should
be ending soon it just intensified. Dropping into ravines followed by
thick forest strolls. Then whammy.
A wall, an
more precisely turned out to be the end of this journey.
There's only one little tiny view of a nice wall through the foliage. Surely
this wasn't gonna cure my appetite. Either side of this wall was a
full fledged scramble up to who knows what. I opted for the right
side. The left proved easier coming down for the record.
It's a short and well earned scramble
to a center pivot point. You won't have any problems finding it.
It's pretty much straight up beyond the overhang. Taking only five minutes
to conquer. This is the spot to catch a whopping 360 degree view.
It's pretty incredible. Now to answer the question. How does it
compare with Boynton. It doesn't. It's very different. Boynton
is very Sedona with it's soft curves and extended views. This is Sedona
twisted in with Canyon de Chelly among everything else. I was sweating up
a storm, limping from a foot wound and these views eased the pain.
Oh my, I wanted to continue. I
forged on through terrible bushwhacking conditions. We're talkin' prickly
pair and that kind of stuff. A trail does fad in and out. If only
I'd started earlier! I'm sorry... I can't say after this one trip if it's
possible to make it up to trail #109 which runs atop Secret Mountain.
It would definitely be a push and a grunt if possible. Notice the smooth
tan walls. Perfect for painting. Not YOU, I'm talking Indians 700-1500 years ago. The forest service says "small Indian ruins and
some primitive rock pictographs" can be found... Enjoy the bone!
Note: Trail data including mileage is to the pivot rock with the 360 degree views. Camping is not permitted in Long Canyon. Near the 0.6 mile mark by the trail log Deadmans Trail takes off to the west. This connects with Boynton Canyon in a half mile or so. - May 16 2001 joe bartelsCoconino FS Reports
Wide and nearly level, Long Canyon Trail provides easy access into Sedona's scenic red rock backcountry. For the first mile or so, the route follows an old jeep trail up an ephemeral streambed. Though this drainage is usually dry, it still supports a community of riparian or water-loving vegetation. Along the trail you'll even find a number of cypress trees, Arizona cypress, which are easily recognizable by their shaggy bark and round, gum ball-size seeds.
Providing a scenic setting for this unique habitat are a sampling of the picturesque buttes and cliffs for which the Sedona area is so famous. Steamboat Rock, Wilson Mountain, Maroon Mountain, and a number of unnamed cliffs, spires, windows and arches are visible from this trail. The trail ends at a red sandstone cliff where there are a few small Indian ruins and some primitive rock pictographs. Please don't disturb them.