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A.B. Young Trail #100, AZ

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Guide 89 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Sedona > Sedona NE
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,225 feet
Elevation Gain 1,860 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,002 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3.5-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.01
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4  2019-02-20 clayncallaway
6  2018-06-30 Jim_H
26  2016-06-25
AB Young - Buckhead - West Fork Loop
20  2016-06-25
AB Young - Buckhead - West Fork Loop
9  2016-06-25
AB Young - Buckhead - West Fork Loop
5  2015-09-19 afrankie
18  2013-05-27 paulhubbard
8  2013-05-11 southpawaz
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author Sande J
author avatar Guides 3
Routes 0
Photos 23
Trips 13 map ( 70 miles )
Age 58 Female Gender
Location Mesa, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, - - → 2 PM
Seasons   Spring
Sun  6:11am - 6:31pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Sensational Switchbacks
by Sande J

Well, here we go-

If you've ever explored Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona and imagined what it would be like to hike from the waters of Oak Creek to the top of the canyon, then imagine no more, because this is the route that will take you there! This hike begins at the Bootlegger picnic area, about 9 miles north of Sedona on 89A. The small picnic area is just past the Junipine Resort on the west (left side) of the highway. As far as parking is concerned, you're basically on your own to find a roadside pullout along this narrow, busy road. This may require driving beyond Bootlegger to find a space and walking south back to the picnic area. Make sure to exercise caution if using this option, as this area of the road is narrow, curvy and heavily traveled. Don't park at the resort or at the cabins north of the picnic area as they may tow your vehicle.... And make sure you get your Red Rock pass! Normally, the area swells with visitors during the recommended summer camping and hiking season, but our HAZ group got lucky during the off season on a record warm day in January and had the area almost completely to ourselves. Out of all the hikes in the area, you may be able to beat the crowds a bit on this trail since it takes some effort to get started.

Once you are in the picnic area area, walk to the stairway at the southwest end which will lead you directly down to the creek for a fairly easy crossing. Scout the creek as you approach and look for the shortest rock hop route across the stream at the point of the small flowing rapids. After crossing the creek, look straight ahead for the power line pole and scale up the small ravine to the level area where you will find an unmarked trail. Take a right on this trail (heading north) and look for a second shorter pole where the power lines connect. Keep walking and at about 100 feet beyond that pole, you will see an elevator trail , (Going up anyone?)... marked by a small rusty old sign that says "AB Young, Trail 100".

History sources say that the Anasazi Indians used this trail as a return route to their summer hunting grounds and more recently, in modern times, was used to move cattle from the rim country until it was improved by the CCC in the 1930's. I'm not sure, but perhaps AB Young was a rancher in the area....This trail is also sometimes referred to as the East Pocket Knob Trail.

Get ready for the vigorous one and a half hour stairmaster workout as this exciting trail, consisting of 32 switchbacks is going to take you from the trailhead at 5300 feet to the top entrance 1.6 miles ahead at approx 6700 feet!

As you trek ahead and leave the lower shade of the trees of Oak Creek, the trail elevates quickly and opens up on the sunny slope, offering immediate views of the entire area of the canyon. The scenery is utterly fantastic and it just keeps getting better as you climb, so be sure to make a few stops to take it all in during the ascent. Gradually, the sound of traffic from the highway below gives way to peaceful winds and added solitude.

At near the halfway point of the hike to the top, the trail crosses a small rock slide bed. As you climb, you will continue to cross the rock slide bed 7 times as the trail switchbacks and elevates across it. The slide areas are short and not dangerous, but be aware of them and remain sure-footed as you cross them. The trail becomes a bit more narrow at about 6200 feet and you will encounter the personal space of the thicker bushes and vegetation that grow here, including century plant, agave and prickly pear, so it is probably best to wear long pants. After 27 switchbacks, you will encounter a long final ascent towards topping out on the main trail. It is easy to see your destination from this viewpoint, so hang tough for about 5 more switchbacks and you will get your reward.

When you reach the top, you will be delighted to see a pine forest wonderland ahead of you as you stand on what seems to feel like the top of the world. If you choose to, you can continue from this point another 1.25 miles onto the East Pocket Lookout Tower at 7196 feet. Follow the faint trail that leads off to the immediate left (southwest) by a large fallen log. You will now be hiking on softer dirt and beds of pine needles under the shade of the ponderosas and junipers. This is an unmarked and unmaintained trail, but if you turn on your route finding skills it is not difficult. The trail pretty much follows the the eastern edge of the rim, so hang in that direction and you should stay on track with no problem. After about 15-20 minutes on this trail you will come across a small old wooden sign that says "Oak Creek" that marks the return route from the tower on your way back. There is a great lunch spot near the rim on some large rocks in the sunny opening to your left just beyond the sign. Here, there are excellent views of the Mogollon Rim, the Bradshaws, and the Mazatzal mountains in the far distance.

Moving on, the Lookout Tower is only about 7 minutes ahead. The trail begins to go inland a bit, but you will see a couple of large rock piles and some small cairn markers that help guide you. Due to the season, the tower was closed on this trip, but it is possible to take the stairs up to the second level for a view to the south. There is an old Jeep road that leads off to the right and heads down in a westward direction from the tower that takes you to the "viewpoint" of the Secret Mountain Wilderness. The topo maps shows a northwest bound spur of the Jeep trail leading to a viewpoint which you encounter on your right shortly after you pass the gate at the bottom of the hill. We attempted the trek, but due to the slow trudging incline in the snow on the road, and the lack of daylight hours due to the season, we came up short this time. What a great reason for a return trip! Take your topo map if you are planning to make it out to the viewpoint and give yourself plenty of time to explore this beautiful wilderness area. Since this is an out and back trip, return via the same route, passing the tower , through the pines and back to the entrance trail to make the descent back to Oak Creek.

Before you leave the top, check out our own special "HAZ" viewpoint that lies just to the north (right) of the entrance trail. Scope the quickest route up to the highest area of rocks within view and you are in for a nice surprise and a fantastic view of the San Francisco Peaks.

Not only is this hike a true ascent, but naturally, a true descent as well, so it may be considered somewhat knee challenging. This hike can vary in time depending how long you stay and explore the top, so make sure to carry plenty of water and food.

An up to date weather report is a must for this hike, especially if you plan to attempt an off season trip, as temperatures and conditions in this area can vary extremely due to the region and the elevation gains. As usual, hike smart and you are sure to have a most beautiful and memorable Arizona experience.

Have fun out there! (photo links in summary are to photos by GTG, azhiker96 & Sande J)

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2002-01-15 Sande J
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  • 100 Classic Hikes - 2007
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    100 Classic Hikes - 2007
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  • Sedona Trails 2018
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    Sedona Trails 2018

Coconino FS Details
The A.B.Young Trail leaves from the southernmost end of the Bootlegger picnic area. Take steps down to the creek, find a suitable place to "boulder hop" or wade the stream, cross the creek and find an old metal sign indicating the trailhead.

It immediately begins a moderately steep ascent and enters wilderness area. The shade of the creek area is quickly lost and nice views of the canyon and some interesting rock formations open up. The trail climbs 1600 feet in 1.6 miles over the 33 switchbacks to the rim of Oak Creek Canyon. At this point, the trail enters the shade of ponderosa pine and heads west for 0.8 miles on a gradual ascent (this portion of the trail not well marked), ending at the East Pocket Fire Lookout Tower.

The trail is believed to have been built originally by C.S. (Bear) Howard in the 1880's and it was reconstructed in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corp and supervised by A.B. Young.
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
A.B. Young Trail #100
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A return trip to the Barney Tract, where I last hiked to on June 9, 2011. Not much has changed, it was just a lot drier today. You couldn't tell the area had 1/2 an inch of rain 2 weeks again from T-Storm Bud, per the East pocket Lookout operator. Unlike Wrightson Monday, which was somewhat green. It pretty much felt the same as it did 7+ years ago, save for the fire affects from the 2014 Slide Fire, which has opened up the views on the upper AB Young. Can't say I made a smart choice to visit the Sedona area in June on a Saturday, but I did it. Recommend against it. The hike was nice, though.

Yes, like most of the state, this area desperately needs summer rains.
A.B. Young Trail #100
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Lead a large group on a combination car camping, hiking, and off-roading trip. The plan was to start off at Bootlegger day use area. From there the "Mountain Goats" would hike up A.B. Young trail while the "Road Warriors" would drive up to flagstaff and take FR #231. Everyone would meet at East Pocket Knob Lookout Tower which is a ~2 hr trip for both groups. The first group arriving at the tower would win the race and we would camp for the night near the lookout.

The "Mountain Goats" ascent was quite the challenge and only three of the five people originally starting out were able to complete the 2,000' ascent. Our problems began almost immediately. While rock hopping across Oak Creek one of the party fell in and got soaked up to their shins in the freezing water. Fortunately, they were wearing sandals and they did not get completely soaked or hypothermia would have been a serious concern. The wet feet were taken in stride but may have contributed to future problems.

Having somewhat successfully crossed, we then proceeded to hike north along the path on the west side of Oak Creek looking for the start of A.B. Young trail. Our crossing point must have been farther north than originally anticipated because we came upon houses before seeing the start of the trail. We turned back, retraced our steps, and soon found the junction with a sign for the trailhead.

The trail was quite steep, we quickly warmed up from the exertion and had to remove extra layers. Early on in the hike one of the party (the same one that fell in earlier) began having trouble with the ascent. They needed to take breaks with increasing frequency and by the time we were ~25% of the way up they were only able to go a few hundred feet before having to stop again. The individual in question had Asthma but had left their inhaler in the vehicles that were driving to the campsite. Drinking water and eating snacks did not improve their condition. It was thought that altitude sickness could have been the cause as the trailhead was at nearly a mile above sea level and each step forward took us higher still. The decision was made to send the suffering hiker back down to the trailhead with a more robust member of the party who could render assistance during the descent if necessary. The "Road Warriors" were contacted and one of the two vehicles headed back to Bootlegger to pick up the two returning hikers.

The remainder of the hiking party continued onward. There were several switchbacks that offered breathtaking views on the way up and we stopped to take pictures at a few of them. The terrain was not difficult, aside from being steep, and navigation was overall not too challenging. There were a few places where it was possible to miss switchback turns where the trail was faint. Once on the rim the trail was heavily covered with pine needles and difficult to see in places. In the few instances when we got off the trail it quickly became apparent and was not difficult to get back on track.

Despite the earlier mishaps we reached East Pocket Knob Lookout 2 1/2 hours after leaving Bootleggers but did not see any of the "Road Warriors" waiting for us there. The watchtower was not manned and was locked but we were still able to go most of the way up and admire the view. After cooling off for a bit and bundling back up we started walking down the forest road. It was thought that the driving party might have been there long ahead of us and gone back to a more suitable location to set up camp. Some distance down, the road intersected with FR #231 and there was a closed gate with a sign saying "East Pocket Lookout". We still did not see anyone and continued down the road until we found a good place to camp with an established firepit and improvised log benches.

At this point it was quite cold so we gathered wood and started a fire while we waited for the rest of the party to arrive. Once this was done we started to get concerned as the drivers still had not made an appearance and all the camping gear was in the cars. I hiked back to the rim (where there was cell service) and managed to get a message out to the drivers. Apparently they had been to the very spot where the East Pocket Lookout sign was located but had been put off by the closed gate and had not realized that the lookout was just short walk past. They had continued on FR-9018M for a considerable distance seeking a way around the closed gate and would have to turn back. It would be another half an hour before the the rest of the party arrived with all the camping gear and the two hikers in tow.

There was 2nd campsite further down FR-231 that gave an excellent view off the edge. We made it a point to get up at dawn to admire the view with the sunrise. The location of both campsites is noted on the linked maps below. We repeated our race on the way out without anyone getting lost or other mishaps. This time the "Mountain Goats" won with 20 minutes to spare.

This was a fun trip despite the numerous mishaps that occurred. If I were to do it again I would go when it was warmer (earlier in the fall or the spring) because the 28 F night made for some rough sleeping. I would also do a better job ensuring that the various groups were well acquainted with the provided maps so that the intended destination was not missed. I would also bring more water. We brought 5 gallons for 10 people in addition to everyone's individual camelbacks and water bottles. It ended up being barely enough for all the cooking, cleaning, and putting out campfire. All in all it was an excellent trip and I will probably go again at some point in the future.

Link to Downloadable trail maps: ... 8bP4MmcNQ
Link to hike video:
[ youtube video ]

Did not see any fall colors. It was late in the year but we did not see much broad leaf vegetation so I would not anticipate colorful foliage even at the optimal time.
A.B. Young Trail #100
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AB Young - Buckhead - West Fork Loop
Joe came up with a good one this week. It only got warm a few times, but the breezes and tree cover made it quite tolerable.

It was confusion right off the bat on this one. Having no idea how we got off the trail 50 ft in, we just crossed the creek and hit the AB Young on the other side. This is still a steep one, things have not changed. Pines at the beginning, Pines at the top and exposed everywhere else.

We stopped at the East Pocket Lookout and talked to the Lookoutkeep whose name was Guy. Strangely he was a Michigan dude, hailing from the next town over from where I used to live.

After some pleasant FS walking, we got to the exciting part. Joe had actually spent some time this week and came up with some options. Nestled between the two Technical Canyonering options of Illusion Canyon and Immaculate Canyon, Joe came up with a route that us non-canyoneer types could manage. Steep in spots, sure, but nothing crazy or scary. Only one 50 yard spot with thick prickly stuff. Some really cool undercut areas and one area with a JJ ladder to descend 20'. A great job of putting together this route.

We exited the canyon into the West Fork of Oak Creek 4 miles from the Trailhead. There was a group taking a break there that looked at us with a confused look as to where we'd come from.

This was actually my first time in the lower portion of the West Fork. Quite a gorgeous place. The people got thicker the closer we were to the TH.

Our road walk on 89a to get back to the Bootlegger is not recommended.
A.B. Young Trail #100
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AB Young - Buckhead - West Fork Loop
Needed a hike that wouldn't fry the @The_Eagle. This loop goes up AB Young to the lookout tower. We met Guy manning the tower and chatted for a bit. He's drawn the surrounding peaks on the windows. Simple and effective for him to learn and visitors to gander.

Next we strolled the forest roads over to Buckhead Point. This is between the famous Immaculate and Illusions canyoneering routes. After pondering over topo and satellite views it seemed doable. Most notably the option to abort and a shorter than normal hike to allow time for adjustments.

Heading down was steep. A short unnecessary stretch of mega thorn locust was the most undesirable part near the top. Most of the route is through a burned area. Just slow going hopping over dead trees, dealing with loose terrain, dodging and sometimes laying in poising ivy.

Just before meeting up with West Fork and Illusions we walked through a nice halfpipe subway. The end of which was the only downclimb. About ten to fifteen feet straight down a slickrock funnel. Luckily someone propped up a jj ladder. This dead tree worked but it's on it's last leg and potentially dangerous. With nice sticky shoes you could stem down.

Turning into West Fork we immediately saw a group lunching. It's been 9 years since I've hiked lower West Fork. Being a huge Autumn fan, summer out here never appealed. This is the first time I got to experience West Fork past the 3mi trail too.

Not as many people as expected. West Fork is spectacular. Summer just doesn't compare to Autumn IMO. We hiked the highway back to Bootlegger which was hands down the scariest part of the day. Instead, arrange a shuttle and be safe.

Great to get a hike with a little bite for a change!

Patch of nice Wild Bergamot in one area, a couple other patches, a light amount in West Fork of various types. No real show stoppers and not enough on the loop to go with a moderate rating.
A.B. Young Trail #100
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This hike is a workout hike - true stairstepper up to the top climaxing with a plateaud pine forest. The hike itself though...I prefer the southern red rock hikes in Sedona to this. Hiking through the remains of wildfire provides some unique post-apocalyptic scenery about half way up until the steeper rock held off the flames.

The first mile of the trail the sounds of cars from Rt. 89 is among the dominant sensory experiences. The fresh air and solace of elevation is more than welcomed on this one. Quick gains.

The trail doesn't seem to get much use with sage, thistle, and other brush encroaching upon the trail in it's entirety. Wear pants.
A.B. Young Trail #100
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Parked at Bootlegger Picnic area and used my annual federal park pass to avoid the $5 Red Rock pass fee. Nice steep trail with good views. Went all the way to the fire tower (unoccupied). Although Sedona was teeming with tourists on this busy Sunday, we didn't see anyone on the trail.
A.B. Young Trail #100
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I woke up Friday morning feeling blue and deciding I needed some nature therapy, and having recognized that Spring is here already, I thought that checking out the creek to witness its progression would be pretty neat and probably be very beautiful.
Fortunately, I made a good choice. The creek was gorgeous, especially in spots where the sunlight was bending through its shallow, calmer parts in the afternoon. The new grasses and leaves also glowed in the light, making it an overall peaceful experience.
The climb wasn't too bad, however I seem to enjoy most climbs people don't, so don't take my word on that. There's some groups of wildflowers on the way up too. Once the climb is over, there are some truly incredible views at the top at the edges of the quiet pine forest. That whole hike is really something to behold.
Just what I needed.
And to top it all off, after feeling pretty mellowed out, I took a dip in the creek while taking in the surroundings. This brought me from content and mellow, to a positively good mood. :)
A.B. Young Trail #100
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This trail was delightfully easy to access from the Forest Houses. I was unsure how I would fair since I haven't hiked a ton lately. I actually think this one is easier than its stats let on. Its a pretty steady up with very few big steps so I was able to find a maintainable pace. I didn't quite go to the lookout tower but made the main viewpoint which was awesome as usual.
A.B. Young Trail #100
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Stairclimber? We don't need no stinkin' stairclimber! If 33 switchbacks, constant uphill, cardio torture is appealing to you, you'lll really enjoy this trail! It is beautiful, with wildflowers galore, and the temps on top are nice and cool. But this time of year start early, as there's very little shade going up the hill!

BTW, it's way easier to go through Junipine Resort and find the trail just after the creek crossing at the bottom end of the resort.
A.B. Young Trail #100
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"is something wrong?" he asked, "you're just walking by all these penstemons!" "yes," i replied, "something is wrong. it's too hot." it was about noon when we started hiking up the trail and the sun was unrelenting in its heat. southpawaz reminded me that it would be cooler farther up, so i passed by those penstemons until the trip down, when the trail was shaded.

the lookout structure looked like it had been refurbished, inside and out. there was a couple from flagstaff who had been there before that pointed out the new stairs. the fire lookout guy, ed piper, said the beds and the kitchen had been redone, too. ed and his dog chelsea had just been on since monday this season. his wife works at turkey butte (how convenient). they have a trailer that they share that is parked near turkey butte and he makes the trek to their home away from home every night. ed has been doing this for 10 years (his wife since 1991), and he had been a wildland firefighter before that. both him and his wife are retired school teachers from flagstaff.

looking at his osborne fire finder, and his view, i was in awe of how many manned fire lookout structures there are in this area (and how many i have yet to visit!).

the hike up the AB Young trail was brutal starting so late (i only counted 30 switchbacks) and i really didn't care for all of the road noise. however, the destination made up for it.

so many penstemons!

Permit $$
Red Rock Pass - may or may not be required. Go to Red Rock Pass then check "When is a Red Rock Pass Required?". If you have questions contact the Coconino forest service.

Red Rock - Secret Mountain Wilderness
see map for camping restrictions

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
Drive into Oak Creek Canyon to Milepost 383.3. The trail starts across the creek from Bootlegger picnic area. After crossing the creek, a short climb will bring you onto an old road above the creek. The trailhead starts at the old metal sign which is within 300 feet of your crossing. From most crossings, the sign will be just downstream.

2011-04-23 Jim_H writes: While in the past parking for the trail was not to be found in the Bootlegger Campground, the campground has been turned into a day use area (camping no longer allowed) and there are spaces in the facility for trail hikers to use. Road side parking is no longer necessary, unless really, really busy. Red Rock or other Federal pass is required to use these off-highway facilities.
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