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Mitten Ridge - Bear Paw Loop, AZ

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Abbey's Way Trail #151
Abbey's Way Trail #151
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 6.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,465 feet
Elevation Gain 794 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,166 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 12.63
Interest Off-Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
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22  2022-05-21
Casner Damifino Hangover Schnebly Hill Loop
19  2022-05-21
Casner Damifino Hangover Schnebly Hill Loop
15  2019-05-25
Sedona Hike: Hungover Elephant
20  2019-05-21
Sedona Hike: Hungover Elephant
7  2016-02-20
Munds Wagon - Cow Pies - Hangover
5  2016-02-20
Munds Wagon - Cow Pies - Hangover
18  2012-12-22
Mitten Ridge Loop
55  2012-06-08
Cowpies & Hang Over Trails
Page 1,  2
author avatar Guides 9
Routes 28
Photos 211
Trips 20 map ( 96 miles )
Age 85 Male Gender
Location Sedona, AZ
Associated Areas
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Sedona Region
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Preferred Mar, Nov, Apr, Feb → 8 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:25am - 6:06pm
Official Route
7 Alternative

by pbaenzig

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Munds Wagon TrailCow PiesHangover Trail

Sedona/HAZ legend Peter's excellent description below is being preserved.

Munds Wagon Trail starts at the trailhead known as the Huckaby Trailhead. This large, paved trailhead is on the left side of Schnebly Hill Road, where the pavement ends, about 0.8 miles from SR 179. If you haven't hiked on Munds Wagon Trail before, or if you don't want to take your car on the very rough unpaved portion of Schnebly Hill Road, I recommend you start at the Huckaby Trailhead. I find Munds Wagon Trail quite an attractive trail despite closely paralleling the dusty, busy, and noisy Schnebly Hill Road. Starting at the beginning of the trail adds about 2.5 miles to the hike. If you've hiked Munds Wagon Trail as often as I have, you may prefer to start your hike a bit further up the trail. If you decide to start at the Huckaby Trailhead, follow Munds Wagon Trail. It's well marked and hard to miss.

I like to start way up on Munds Wagon Trail #78, at the picnic tables (34,52.081,-111,44.098). They are about 1.2 miles by road (or trail) from the Huckaby Trailhead. There is a small pull-out on the left side of the road with space for two to three cars. It's rare to see a car parked there. The trail and the tables are close to the road at this point, less than fifty feet. Unfortunately, you can't see the picnic tables from the road, and the pull-out is easy to miss.

A second starting point is a quarter mile further up, at what I call The Grotto. (34,52.167,-111,43.904) It's a little dry waterfall next to the trail, which you can see from the road. There is a pull-out there, too.

From the picnic tables (or The Grotto), follow Munds Wagon Trail for a good half a mile until you come to little side canyon (34,52.252,-111,43.604). At this point, you can either continue on the trail to the Cow Pies parking area, a bit less than a mile, or you can turn off to the left and start hiking up the little side canyon. If you're on a bike, continue on Munds Wagon Trail to the Cow Pies turn-off (34,52.278,-111,42.771), turn left, and bike out to the Cow Pies (34,52.516,-111,43.033). From this point, the biking and hiking trails continue together.

For hikers, I suggest hiking up the wash; it gets you away from the road and offers spectacular views. It does require a bit of route-finding skill, but as long as you keep going up the wash, you're going in the right direction.

After you turn left off the trail, you first walk on the rock wash bottom for a short distance. You soon see a distinct trail leaving the creek bottom on the left. Follow this trail; it leads you through some brush and cutting off an S-curve on the creek. Once the use trail gets back to the wash, it splits: one branch goes to the left up the creek and the other straight ahead across the creek. I normally go straight ahead, following some mild switchbacks up a bit of a ridge. The trail meanders left and right, at times hard to see, but continues up through brush and Arizona Cypress until you see some bare red slick rock. Walk up the short rock incline, and you'll be on top of a large flat slick rock area with great views. Ahead of you is the rock face of the Cow Pies. You can scramble up the front, but it's tough and potentially dangerous. You can also go to the right of the cliffs, but you're close to the road, and the trail is very indistinct.

I suggest you walk across the slick rock, keeping a bit to the left. Your goal is to rejoin the little wash to your left. It requires a bit of route finding, but you should be able to pick up the trail at the end of the slickrock. The trail leads over a dead agave, "blocking" the trail back into the red rock wash. Follow the creek bed, walking mostly on slick rock, stepping up some small dry waterfalls. Look carefully for the trail going off to the left or the right in places to bypass rock-choked parts of the creek. You'll have to do a bit of rock hopping here and there, but nothing too difficult and challenging. You'll pass a very unusual curved Arizona cypress hanging off the rock face on the right. Soon after, you have to scramble up some steep slickrock on the left to bypass a pour-off. Follow the creek bed some more, then look for the trail going off to the right to avoid a big pour-off. Follow the trail up the ridge; the trail drifts to the right to another branch of the canyon and ends again on the solid rock bed of the creek. You have a spectacular view down the canyon at the head of the pour-off.

At this point, you can see your goal: the end of the wash. Follow the wash to the top. In this part, there are a multiplicity of routes, all leading to the wide Cow Pies Trail at the top of the ridge. From this point on, the biking and hiking trail continue together. You can follow the Cow Pies Trail to the right for a short exploration of the Cow Pies proper, or you can turn left and continue your hike towards Mitten Ridge. Follow the trail to the slickrock area, turn left there and look for the first good place to go up on the large slick rock ahead of you. Continue up on the slick rock, looking for easy ways up the steep parts. Stay more on the left side, but don't worry about a precise route. Your goal is the head of the canyon to your left, where the slick rock you're walking on meets Mitten Ridge.

Once you're close to Mitten Ridge, you should be able to discern a faint trail that leads to the left around the head of the canyon. The trail continues on ledges (mostly wide but at times narrow) towards the west. This part of the trail is generally quite distinct and hard to miss because of the drop-off on your left and the cliffs on your right. Follow this trail for a bit more than half a mile until you arrive at the slick rock at the foot of Mitten Ridge Saddle, also known locally as Midgely Bridge Overlook. The trail goes up to the saddle on the right side of the steepish slick rock through rubble and vegetation. But I prefer walking up the slick rock. Start at the little dirt ramp in the middle, and then walk up until you're just below the vertical ledge near the top. At this point, you can walk to the right and follow the trail on the side to the top, or you can scramble up the ledge in the middle where there is a tree.

From the top of the saddle, you have superb vistas into the canyon you hiked up and on the other side into Oak Creek Canyon. Two trails and two routes start at this saddle. First, quickly the two routes.

One route is basically the same as the one described by Joe Bartels in 2001, except it is possible to continue provided you find "the" route. I would not recommend trying this route unless you're fearless and a superb route finder. The route ultimately connects with the Huckaby trail after you've braved a couple of traverses that scare the hell out of me.

The second route is also quite challenging but not as dangerous. From the saddle, when facing Bear Wallow Wash (south), you first walk right (southwest) a short way, staying at the saddle level. You'll see a tree at the west end of the saddle and some steepish slick rock leading down to it. Go down the slick rock (mantra: trust your boots!) to the tree, where you'll see a bit of a trail. Follow the short trail back onto much more manageable slick rock. Continue down the slick rock, drifting to the right as you descend. You have to manage some minor drop-offs (five feet or less), but there is always is an easy way down. You'll be walking in a field of Fort Apache limestone chunks. Your goal is a rock nose at 34,52.308,-111,43.607. The route becomes clearer after a while because the rock drops off vertically on both sides. The total distance from the saddle to the nose is less than half a mile. As you get closer to the nose, don't lose faith, there is a way down that is a bit challenging but does not require any special skills. Go out on the nose, almost to the end. The down scramble point is fairly obvious -- it's on the left side, and a quick butt maneuver gets you down the first ledge. Continue down about three more much shorter ledges, then work your way to the left on the last ledge. At that point, you should be able to pick up a bit of a trail. Follow it using common sense, i.e. if it seems impossible, it means you haven't found the right way. So look around you, possibly back up a few feet, and look for the "right" way. Towards the bottom, there are many "right" ways; they all cross the rubble down to the wash. Turn right in the wash, and in a short while, you'll be crossing the trail that leads you back to Munds Wagon Trail. On Munds Wagon Trail, turn right to get back to your trailhead. This route is fun and useful if you're hiking the Bear Paw trail (described below) in the opposite direction: go up the Bear Paw and come down this way, bypassing the Cow Pies. This makes for a much shorter hike than the full loop described here.

The two trails are on the Oak Creek Canyon side (the north side). If you look carefully, you can see the first trail going off on the right, partly hidden by a big squarish block of rock. This trail is an unofficial bike trail known as the Damifino trail that leads out to the cliff nose on your right. From there, it continues down into Oak Creek Canyon, where it joins up with the Casner Canyon Trail, crosses Oak Creek, and continues on the Allens Bend Trail to Grasshopper Point. You hike up the road a bit towards Highway 89A, pick up a trail just below the highway, hike down canyon parallel to the road to near Midgely Bridge, where you come to a signed intersection with the Huckaby Trail. Huckaby Trail gets you back to the same trailhead where Munds Wagon Trail begins -- making for about a twelve-mile hike.

The second trail is a new unofficial bike trail, probably built during the winter of 2007/8. I call it the Bear Paw Trail because further on, there are some painted bear paw markers. I have heard that the bikers have a different name for it. The trail starts below you on the left, also on the Oak Creek Canyon side. You can get down to it directly down the steepish slick rock on the left, or you can scramble down on dirt on the right side where the Damifino trail starts, then cross over to the left on a wide ledge. Once you pick up the trail, it is extremely easy to follow. It is a well-built trail with cliffs on the left and drop-offs on the right. It is very easy hiking, but probably rather tough biking. This trail is one of the most spectacular trails in the Sedona area, with incredible views and great rock formations. It follows a green vegetation band that crosses the cliffs on the north of Mitten Ridge. The length is about two and a half miles, essentially level. Towards the end of the level portion, the trail turns south around a big cliff and leaves you at the top of a moderately steep stretch of slick rock leading down to a saddle. (34,52.438,-111,44.419)

You can follow the bike route marked with faint, half-erased painted bear paws on the rock. From the end of the obvious trail, the route goes right (north) and a bit down until it starts going down pretty much straight down to the level of the saddle. There it turns left (south), and you follow some ledges to the saddle proper. An alternate way down from the spot where the obvious trail ends is pretty much straight down to the saddle. It requires more scrambling but is very doable.

At the south end of the saddle, the trail continues. It's well defined again, and it is just under two miles until it joins Munds Wagon Trail at 34,52.231,-111,43.704. Turning right on Munds Wagon Trail gets you back to your starting trailhead. You can shorten the hike a bit by turning right (south) off the Bear Paw Trail at 34,52.256,-111,43.870. Some faint tracks lead you down to the Grotto Trailhead.

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2008-06-21 pbaenzig
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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.

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.

Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From the "Y"intersection of Highway 89A and SR 179 in Sedona, follow SR 179 towards Phoenix (south) just past the the bridge across Oak Creek. Turn left (NE) on Schnebly Hill Road. Follow it about a mile to the end of the pavement. The large Huckaby Trailhead is to the left of the road. If you're willing to brave the very bumpy dirt road, continue on Schnebly Hill Road to the Picnic Table or Grotto trailhead as described in the text.
page created by pbaenzig on Jun 21 2008 6:06 pm

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