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Secret Canyon Trail #121, AZ

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Guide 110 Triplogs  8 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Sedona > Sedona NW
4 of 5 by 48
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 10 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,800 feet
Elevation Gain 400 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,161 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4-5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.81
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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7  2018-11-03
Brins Mesa Trail #119
8  2018-04-30
Bear Sign / Secret Loop
10  2018-03-30 whycoyote
6  2018-03-28 gregstewart1952
15  2018-02-17
Bear Sign / Secret Loop
11  2017-11-25
Bear Sign / Secret Loop
3  2017-08-23
Bear Sign / Secret Loop
7  2016-03-20 Travis
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 7
Author Kip
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 0
Photos 0
Trips 7 map ( 36 miles )
Age ?
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Sep, Oct → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:11am - 6:31pm
Official Route
11 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
unexpected change
by Kip

Likely In-Season!
On the hike you go through wide open spaces, small pines, big pines, oaks, ferns, wildflowers and red-rock canyons!

0 mile Trailhead
1.9 miles David Miller
2.0 miles Canyon wall views
2.3 miles Good camping
2.9 miles Narrows

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.

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2003-05-10 Kip
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    Secret Canyon Trail Map
  • Sedona Trails 2018
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    Sedona Trails 2018

Coconino FS Details
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.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent of 31 deeper Triplog Reviews
Secret Canyon Trail #121
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a very much needed mental getaway. always wanted to do the bear sign/secret loop but wanted some extra miles so i started from the jordan trailhead and used brins mesa (thanks for the idea @hikerdw)

brins mesa is always a pleasant trail, imo, and especially coming back down late in the day with the sweet views. predictably saw nobody after the soldier pass cutoff.

quick walk along dry creek road and trail

bear sign is pretty awesome, especially up canyon with some pretty big trees, shade and occasional neat views. poison ivy is ready and raring to go. hated to see it end so soon

david miller...holy smokes. who knew? talk about short and sweet. really great views from the saddle, especially if you climb up the little high point. the wind this day, and especially on the highpoint was :o

secret canyon kind of goes by fast, but held it's charm from what i remembered (last hiked it probably 13 years ago).

the whole way back was very smooth, quiet and pretty relaxing really. i think i saw maybe 4-5 people on brins mesa coming back?. nobody at all on dry creek or the loop. coming down the end of brins mesa late afternoon/early evening is a treat.
Secret Canyon Trail #121
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Yolanda, Carey, and Maria joined me for a ride up to Sedona to do the Bear Sign / Secret Canyon Loop. The dirt road in was worse than I remember from last year when I drove up to Brins Mesa Trailhead. We parked at Secret Canyon and then hiked up the road to Dry Creek / Bear Sign Trailhead to start the loop in a counter clockwise direction. Tall trees lined the canyons up to the saddle of David Miller trail. We explored north from the saddle to find a nice panoramic view above the thick manzanita and a fire ring. Returning on Secret Canyon Trail there were few trees, mostly manzanita. Great loop!
Secret Canyon Trail #121
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After getting in a longer easy tread hike last Sat I wanted something less mental blah. This was the first hike of the day. If I felt okay we could tag on Devil's Bridge afterwards to fit in with the hip social tourists.

FR 152 was the shock of the day. Once upon a time I scraped a Ford Escort down it, that would be difficult now with a tow truck. Apparently when they made the berm at the start years ago they stopped all maintenance and the jeep tour$ rejoiced. 4wd and good clearance now or 4wd and pray. There are some good sized steps now.

Tread of the loop was easier than anticipated. On the bright side the scenery was stellar throughout. More shade from pines than anticipated. Lots of Arizona Cypress on Bear Sign, which is my favorite tree.

Last Saturday I was suffering energywise. I've lost quite a bit of weight since the accident and obviously don't have the reserves of the good ol' days. Nobody loves eating more than this cowboy. Since it turned into an olympic sport taking 3-4 times longer to chew I eat a lot less. Granted this wasn't a big hike but it was killing me early on last time. So I ate breakfast, which is not something I ever do. It made a world of difference. Just one ten minute break was plenty and only because I can't multitask yet.

I haven't seen much scenery since starting back hiking as I have to concentrate on the footing constantly. This loop is so scenic it screams at you even with your head down. This little loop exceeded my expectations, the road is not for everybody.
Secret Canyon Trail #121
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Solo backpacked Secret Canyon 5/6/2017-5/7/2017. Had to hike from Dry creek vista trailhead parking lot (2wd chevy s10 would have struggled to make it to the Secret Canyon Trailhead due to lack of ground clearance). Vultee Arch rd was extremely dusty and windy, I was glad to have brought alpine sunglasses with side shields as they kept the dust out of my eyes and allowed me to keep moving. A smagh would have also been useful to bring to keep the dust out of my nose and mouth (bring next time).

The trail was pretty easy to follow for most of the way. It is possible to lose the trail at water crossings, I did so once and had to bushwhack upstream until I found the next one. Going back was easier as I was able to spot the cairn I missed on the way in. There is also a turn to the left shortly after the intersection with David Miller trail where it can be difficult to figure out where to go, again look for the cairns. A couple of the water crossings are made on improvised log bridges, good balance is required as some are high enough up for a fall to do some damage. I brought water shoes but probably could have kept my feet dry if I did not bushwhack, it may not be possible to stay dry in the wet season.

It was extremely hot during the day and in hindsight would recommend going at least a month earlier. Water was a bit of a challenge as well. I went through 4 liters on the way in due to the temperature and much of the water that was a available was stagnant. There were a trickles coming down the sides of the canyon in a few locations but even this water was discolored. I boiled or used ClO2 tablets to purify it and had no issues.

Set up camp near a small waterfall ~9.1 miles in (it was a trickle of ~1 gallon a minute) were there is a rocky shelf suitable for a 2 person tent and with a camping stove wind shield made of rocks. Mosquitoes near the waterfall were irritating. Was able to hear mountain goats bleating at dusk (could not see them).

Return hike was easier, used just over 2 liters of water coming back. The 40 lb pack was too heavy, need to reduce carrying unnecessary items (also brought way too much food).

Link to topographical maps and field notes:

Link to trip video:
[ youtube video ]
Secret Canyon Trail #121
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Secret Canyon Camp
Backpacking trip with the kids. Joel Hazelton & te-wa had suggested Secret Canyon Trail, so off we went :D

We first got to Sedona around 10 AM and the parking lot at the entrance to FR152 was packed and a lot of people were parked along Dry Creek Road. This had me concerned that there wouldn't be any camp sites available in the Canyon, but fortunately the majority of the people were visiting other sites. Surprisingly we only met 5-6 people in the Canyon itself.
Based on others recommendations we elected to park the car and walk the 3.5 miles to the Trailhead for Secret Canyon Trail. The problem with driving the last bit is that the road is in pretty poor condition and somewhat high clearance is needed. I have posted some pictures of some of the trouble spots. We saw mainly Jeeps, a few trucks and a single Sequoia driving past the first couple of obstacles.
The 3.5 miles on dirt road is rather painful because it is heavy trafficked by people, Jeeps & ATV tours. Kids were almost worn out by the time we arrived at the TH :) It is however still a fairly scenic trip.
Red Rock Permit is Not required for parking at the TH to Secret Canyon and Camping is allowed even though it says no camping at the TH. Look at the following map for guidance: ... .jpg

The Trail itself is absolutely beautiful and perfect for Camping. There are several excellent Camp spots along the trail as soon as you get to the canyon itself. There was water at various points along the trail, but mainly still water sitting in pools. We didn't filter as we had brought enough water for the trip.

The trip out along the dirt road was equally painful with a heavy pack, so next time I will see if I can borrow somebody's jeep/truck.
Secret Canyon Trail #121
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Did a lollipop loop hike starting from the Jordan Road Trailhead. Hiked Brins Mesa, 152c, then the official Bear Sign / Secret Loop, returning back the same way. Bear Sign Canyon and the short David Miller Trails were the highlight IMO. Lots of flying insects the entire hike but it is that time of the year for them. Afterwards we had pizza at the Sedona Pizza Company and then stopped in at Oak Creek Brewery for a cold one.
Secret Canyon Trail #121
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So, while planning this out, I decided to take advantage of the near full moon and hike in by night, which turned out to be pretty interesting. The light on the trail was at least sufficient and everything around me was quiet and serene. Perfect for meditative walking. I ended up starting at around 6:30pm from the paved parking lot, as my car didn't appear to have enough clearance to survive the road, and after seeing more of it, I was glad I didn't try. (Definitely want something with a higher clearance than your average sedan; truck, SUV, Jeep, something like that) I ended up finishing for the evening about 2.5 miles in from the actual trailhead, where I decided the canyon was blocking too much of the moonlight for me to keep going. Having been on this trail for the first time, I didn't know where all the camp sites were, so I settled for sleeping in my hammock since it's easier to find two trees than a flat space under a night sky. Next morning, I had the pleasure of finishing off the last 2.5 miles with the rising sun putting a golden orange light on everything. I never saw a "you did it, go home" sign to mark the end of the trail, but it eventually became very faint, and then became unfindable after a while (about a mile after the very last site with a fire ring), so I figured that was it and made my way back with a whole new perspective on everything since I was looking at it all with the sun instead of the moon. I think I liked the moon better, even though sunrise was nice. The moon just made everything kinda spooky and dramatic...
Secret Canyon Trail #121
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Secret & HS Canyon Combo Loop
Warm in the Valley, Time to hit up Sedona before things get too warm there.

This sorta loop was our first of 3 treks on the day.

The old small parking area right after you turn off of the pavement with the Red Rock Machine, is no longer there. It has been replaced with a paved road leading a 1/2 mile or so to the new paved parking area complete with restrooms and NO Red Rock Pass machine. On 152 (Dry Creek Road), right after you turn into the new parking area, they have strategically placed Rocks at just the right height to keep out vehicles that should not be in there. If you can make it past this obstacle, you can make it the remaining distance on 152 in dry weather.

Most people probably don't even notice the HS Canyon 50 sign a little more than .6 of a mile from the start of Secret Canyon. Last time I passed by, I did a .. Hum... wonder where that goes. So when Joe suggested it as part of a loop, I was all in.

Make sure to go the 1.6 miles on this, not the 2.1 that we did. There is no obvious turn there, and the Cairns go straight on the nice trail up the canyon. Follow the GPS to a 90* turn Up and to the East. This is where the fun and scenery begins.

From here it's 3 miles until you meet up with the Secret Canyon Trail again. The majority of this portion was a blast. Some minor route finding issues here and there, but pretty country. The last 1/2 mile before hitting Secret Canyon was the portion I lost the most blood on. Timing was right though, as I was able to rinse off in a large pool in Secret Canyon once we made a steep decent from above.

Finally to the Secret Canyon Trail, we made our way to "The Narrows" had some lunch and debated which of our options to act on next.

Neither of us felt like boulder hopping to the end of Secret for what option 1 would have been, so we made a Beeline for the TH.

If you have time to waste, Here's a crappy video. ... YRrjYvcHUA
Secret Canyon Trail #121
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Secret & HS Canyon Combo
HS has been on my wishlist since Jim posted it a couple years ago. It seemed like a good alternative to bypass the boring miles of #121.

HS Canyon exceeded my expectations. It offered a lot of shade and some nice views. I don't think anyone really knows where this trail officially ends. My buddy Hikebot suggested a thru route hooking back up with #121.

Heading up was so easy we overshot a turn by 0.45mi after realizing it wasn't quite so easy anymore. Continuing on was mighty tempting and looked very doable. Yet Bruce had his heart set on hanging out with tourist and playing Yahtzee with the locals.

We headed back and found the missed turn. I'm doubting anyone would figure it out without knowing about it as it's a straight up mild bushwhack off the bat. It weaves in and out of deep ravines heading northward to #121. Cairns are seen on occasion. It looks well traveled in short sections and nowhere to be found at times. We noted a couple clippings to suggest it was cleared long ago. Aside from the killer views the most astonishing thing was the ease of travel through manzanita...

Paths through huge gnarly manzanita doesn't happen by chance. At one point passing through a ravine it was a virtual tunnel. Either a "secret" group has maintained this long ago or this is a long lost trail?

We passed one area with a ruins feel but likely just modern era windbreaks under an overhang.

The blazing midday sun with repetitive killer views wore us down a tad. We just wanted to get back on a trail... The closer we got to #121 the dicer it appeared. Low and behold it worked out though with a nice refreshing hat dip in the creek.


I have great fond memories of Secret Canyon. It's okay, guess there are just other things I enjoy more now or perhaps it's better in October.

After a late lunch and just past the narrows we opted to cut this one short and move on to other spur-of-the-moment game plans. The hike out went by quicker than anticipated. HS Canyon was cool, might check it out more someday. The HS :next: Secret follow thru was very cool to do once.

Saw an Arizona Mountain Kingsnake in the narrows.
Secret Canyon Trail #121
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Road in is as bad as ever. You'll need HC, but 4x4 isn't required. Trail was pretty muddy but in good shape till you drop in. Once in the canyon proper, large portions of the trail have been washed away and/or covered with debris by flooding in the last week - no biggie, just pick your way upstream.

Looks like the flood was pretty big, debris is up to approx 8~ feet above creekbed in sections. We started losing daylight 1-1/4 miles from the end and turned around, so I can't report on conditions any further in.

Campsites I saw all looked ok with no damage.

Plenty of water in the area at the moment, creek is flowing strong. Won't last, but should fill deep holes well in to spring. Many seeps active.

Permit $$
no fees or permits reported

if incorrect tell us about it

Red Rock - Secret Mountain Wilderness
see map for camping restrictions

Map Drive
High Clearance possible when dry

To hike
From the 'Y' in Sedona ( 179/89A ) follow 89A 3.1 miles Southwest to Dry Creek Road. Turn Right and go 1.9 miles to Forest Road #152. There is a fairly large sign with the multiple destinations of FS #152. Turn right on to FS #152 and follow it to... oh about 3.5 miles to the Secret Canyon turnoff to the left. I didn't track the mileage exactly, it's clearly marked and easy to find. What's hard to find is the trail from the trailhead. From the big three panel sign cross the creek and pick up the trail on the other side. A trail register is there, so if you don't find it soon you're not in the right area.

Access: Drive 27 miles south from Flagstaff to Sedona on US 89A. Continue through Sedona to Dry Creek Road (152C) at the west end of town. Turn right on Dry Creek Road and drive for two miles to Forest Road 152. This road is rough, but can be traveled by passenger vehicles. It is not recommended during wet weather. About 3 miles up this road on the left (west) side of the road is a two-track road. Turn onto this road. There is a trailhead sign at the junction of these two roads. The parking area is approximately 200 feet behind the sign.

Rated high clearance for the majority. Cars do drive this road.
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