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North Wilson Mountain Trail #123, AZ

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Guide 70 Triplogs  5 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Sedona > Sedona NE
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 2.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,800 feet
Elevation Gain 1,539 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,539 feet
Avg Time One Way 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 7.23
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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25  2019-06-01
Wilson Mountain Loop
16  2019-06-01
Wilson Mountain Loop
16  2019-04-14 Naferg323
14  2019-04-14 caragruey
5  2019-04-13 lwbenso
8  2018-11-03
Wilson Mountain Trail #10
8  2018-01-26 OdinWiski
14  2017-10-21 Nightstalker
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author boxerjoey
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 0
Photos 440
Trips 4 map ( 28 miles )
Age 43 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Oct, Nov → 10 AM
Seasons   Early Spring to Early Winter
Sun  6:11am - 6:31pm
Official Route
6 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
A fine autumn walk
by boxerjoey

The upper sections of Wilson Mtn, past this segment, were torched in the Brins Fire 2006. Page data reflects #123 one-way segment. The description below is more in depth going further. Check out this route for a hearty hike.

To date, Wilson Mountain and North Wilson Mountain trail have been treated as the same hike on this website with trip logs for each appearing on the "Wilson Mountain" hike. This is a shame for the two hikes are very different and each deserves their own description and photosets. Moreover, the autumn colors section of this website could use a few more entries, and this one would most certainly qualify. The choice of which Wilson Mountain trail to enjoy depends on whether you prefer south-facing manzanita-covered slopes overlooking Sedona or north-facing forest offering ample shade for a hot summer day, and later in the year, incredible fall color.

While this hike begins only 3.4 miles north of the southern Wilson Mountain trailhead at the Encinoso Picnic area, it offers a remarkably different approach to the summit plateau given its northerly exposure. The views of Sedona found on the Wilson Mountain trail are replaced with vistas of Oak Creek Canyon, Dry Creek basin, and there is potential for stunning autumn color afforded by a heavily wooded drainage, which is in stark contrast to the sun-baked (though still beautiful) pinyon-juniper forest of the southern approach.

Leaving the picnic grounds, the trail parallels 89A for a moment before turning southwest into a drainage that is followed for approximately 0.75 miles gaining 600 feet of elevation. After this, a modestly steep ascent is made up the west side of the ridge that separates the drainage from Oak Creek Canyon. Typical November scenes from the initial part of the trail include colorful deciduous trees and mixed forest below peak 5,838. If you are lucky, you will find a perfect leaf on the ground, reminding you that beauty is all around in the forest. You just have to poke around.

Continuing up the drainage, the trail maintains a modest grade and passes through breathtaking forest, which eventually leads to a decent view north of a ridge on Wilson Mountain. The trail turns eastward and the grade increases, passing through some narrow sections that would be tough if covered in ice or snow (which I am sure it is in mid-winter). The trail is covered in a fair amount of loose debris in the steeper section; careful footing (especially on the descent) is advisable.

The climb will bring you to the "First Bench" area at 1.4 miles. Continue south through this unimpressive section of trail for 0.4 miles until reaching a trail junction with the Wilson Mountain trail coming from the south. Turn right and follow the Wilson Mountain trail, which gains about 500 feet of elevation in attaining the summit plateau. On the way, arresting oak forest lines the path offering a panorama of many different fall colors. Again, if you look down occasionally, you will find little treasures that make hiking a pleasure.

Once on the summit ridge, the path takes you past more autumn color in this typical scene before arriving at the northern edge of the plateau at around 3.8 miles. The view north to the San Francisco Peaks and Oak Creek Canyon is well worth the effort. Note that there is barely a trace of color in the creek already well into November. A close up view of the canyon and its dramatic red walls highlights the splendor of Oak Creek and reinforces the lack of fall color. To the east, a curious set of deciduous trees forms a South America outline. Before heading to the western edge of the mesa, the sun graced the San Francisco Peaks making them appear like a mirage on the horizon.

At the western end of Wilson Mountain, the views are still quite impressive offering a peek into the labyrinth world of red rock country. You will want to spend a lot of time meandering across Wilson Mountain taking in the majestic scenes surrounding you in stereo. Just make sure you allow time for enjoying the forest on the return trip, which was on impressive display in the golden light of sunset. As usual, I finished this hike in near darkness, having spent a significant amount of time taking photographs. This breathtaking tree granted me a photo before the sun bid farewell for the day.

If you are looking for a less crowded alternative to the Wilson Mountain trail (the trailhead of which was packed with cars on this particular Sunday; there were only two cars in the North Wilson Mountain trail parking lot) and appreciate fall color, this is a great option for a decent workout and satisfying views of red rock country.

According to the 2018 FS map camping is allowed outside the green line. If you can't read a map, do not camp.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2003-11-18 boxerjoey
  • wilderness related
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  • Wilson Mtn Map
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    Wilson Mtn Map
  • Sedona Trails 2018
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    Sedona Trails 2018

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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 24 deeper Triplog Reviews
North Wilson Mountain Trail #123
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Amazing mountain adventure. Great views, wildflowers, and best of all no mud! Trail is well maintained and marked. Route scout did say that I was off trail numerous times though and I was clearly not. Not sure what was up with that. We went to both lookouts. The canyon overlook is my favorite. There is a black tailed rattler that has made his home at the end of trail on the cliff face of the sedona overlook. Not aggressive, but he is there. We took our time and enjoyed the view from the top. Someone with more motivation than us could get up and down much quicker.

Mariposa lilly's galore
North Wilson Mountain Trail #123
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1st overnight backpacking trip with my girlfriend...thought this one would be a nice intro! Little did we know that the official trail gpx for this hike only brings you to the "bench" overlooking Sedona. We were thinking more of the summit, which was almost 1.5x the distance from the bench. If you're thinking of camping by the bench, it is possible, but everyone hiking the trail will have a full view of your campsite. After getting to the summit, there was a campsite right near the end with an overlook of Sedona. We decided we wanted more privacy so we hiked along the ridge a half mile. We didn't find anything good (there were tons of shrubs, bushes, cacti, and rocks) so we hiked back toward the trail. We found a decent campsite a little of the trail (see pics). If you are thinking of camping there I'd try to find the same site -- just go to the right of the trail maybe 100ft and you should see a nice flat clear spot overlooking Sedona (or look at my GPX file and see where there is a lot of movement toward the end/see my pics). Otherwise weather was beautiful and the view was superb. Brought about 4.5/5L of water each and was came back with 0.5 to spare. There may have been a couple of spots to filter water near the first bench but it wasn't clean and probably would have needed a "pre-filter" before running it through the actual water filter. As far as parking goes, we had an America the Beautiful Annual Pass so we just left it on the dash in the parking lot.
North Wilson Mountain Trail #123
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Pine Mountain Wilderness was the objective today, however, we hit some mud on that way in that was saying otherwise. In fact, I was very lucky to have been able to even get the Xterra turned around, so after our morning tour of Dugas, it was back to the highway and a plan B, Wilson Mountain.

It was still raining pretty good when we reached the trailhead, so we waited a half a half an hour in the car before stepping off. We didn't have to buy a red rock pass, because access was free due to the holiday. We started to a light drizzle, but it quit pretty quickly, however, the effects of a couple days of rain and snow were very evident. The trail is pretty much flowing like a robust creek right now, with ankle deep water in spots and every step-up transformed into a small cascade. The views back into Sedona were great and there were also several small waterfalls in the drainages paralleling the trail that made it very hard to put down the camera in the first few miles. After we hit the saddle, the snow started. We ended up putting on micro-spikes for the final 2 miles and while it could have been done without them, we were happy to have them. By the time we reached 6700-7000 feet, we were breaking new trail and trudging along through foot deep snow. We took a small break near the end of the official route and then headed back down. Jackie spotted an amazing waterfall across 89, so we made a detour down North Wilson Mountain Trail to find a good vantage point, but I struck out on the first viewpoint and quickly lost my zeal after an even heavier fog moved in. We hiked through a snow, sleet, rain precip. combo as we made our way down and Jackie got a little cold, but we made it. The TH/viewpoint parking was full by the time we arrived and the rain steady, so it did not take much time to load the dogs, drop the wet gear and get out of there with the heat on high.

What a great plan B, something tells me Wilson Mountain probably blew the doors off whatever the Verde Rim Trail and Pine Mountain had to offer today. The conditions, although bothersome at times, created some spectacular views and a sublime setting that probably elevated this hike to one of the better ones I have done in recent memory.
North Wilson Mountain Trail #123
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Short sunset hike from Encinoso Picnic Area. Got a late start due to battling crazy holiday traffic gridlock in Sedona. The canyon definitely seemed greener than my last hike 5 years earlier. Quite a few sumac bushes growing along the trail, which will make for some fiery red fall color. Sumac's poisonous cousin ivy is plentiful along the trail, unfortunately. Encinoso Picnic Area bathroom smelled like a dead elk fell into the pit toilet. Foul! Stopped by Oaxaca in Sedona for a quesadilla dinner before heading back to Prescott.
North Wilson Mountain Trail #123
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Morning Glory - Sterling Loop
Finally got a loop around Wilson. jj felt a little uneasy driving up noticing I was wearing pants and a long sleeve shirt. "Off trail on this hike?"... no worse, the overnight low is 31 :scared:

55 degrees starting just before 9am and not much over 60 all day. Hiking weather.

Saw a few individuals heading over Wilson Bench. First time on Jim Thompson. Nice, nearby trails are nicer. Cibola is one of the nicest non water trails around Sedona.

Up and down MG Spire in 1h 15m at a nothing special pace. Couldn't clear the first pitch last month due to a chest injury earlier in the month. Healthy made all the difference. The first pitch was no trouble up or down. The slant up higher was as I remembered. First look it appears a bit sketchy. One or two steps into it and it seems impossible to have trouble unless you jumped out of the crack and off the wall.

Sink hole, seven super sacred pools then off to the arches. Morning light was the ticket last month. Just fair this round, almost dark inside mid day. Crossed paths with a group of interesting people, really just wanted to keep

First time on the west side of Brins. Most probably like the red rock east but the west is cypress tree canopy. A pleasant surprise. Up Vultee and down Sterling. The scariest part of the hike was the last mile along the highway. No shoulder and cars whizzing by ultra close.

not much, very isolated
North Wilson Mountain Trail #123
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I decided to try going up North Wilson Mountain Trail this round and was actually able to get to the North Overlook. Last time (maybe a year and half ago), there were so many downed trees that we decided to turn around before we made it and just go to the Sedona Overlook. I meant to go to the true summit on the way out, but must have been in a hiking groove, as suddenly I was heading down past the trail split and had missed going up there. Tons of butterflies on the North Wilson Trail on the way out.
North Wilson Mountain Trail #123
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Wilson / Sterling - Vultee
We've talked about this one for awhile and even tried it a month or so ago only to find the area was closed for 3 more days. The plan, up Wilson North #123, check out the South Overlook, out to the North end and go to Lost Wilson out and back, then down the North slope of Wilson to meet up with the Sterling Pass or Vultee Arch trails.

We were not sure what shape any of the trails would be in since they opened a month or so ago. All were in great condition

North Wilson Mountain Trail #123 - We were the first vehicle in the lot at around 7:30a. The colors were still hanging on in pockets on the way up in the Canyon. The first respite from the climb is at The First Bench of Wilson Mountain. The next climb took us to views to the the South (Sedona) overlook, and give a great overview of the opportunities for hiking in this area. There was one or two cars in the Midgley Bridge lot when we went by, it appeared full now.

Next off to the North end to check out our opportunities. The Land Bridge that appeared to exist on Topo and GE from the Northwest corner of Wilson to Lost Wilson Mountain, did not exist. So off to try to complete our loop off the North end of Wilson. We dropped in at the place I'd spotted on GE, and started the thick, steep, prickly drop down. After making it down 300' we made he decision to retreat back to the top.

On the way back to the TH we took lunch at the high-point of Wilson Mountain @ 7,122'.

Next we drove over to hike up the Sterling Pass Trail #46 to the Vultee Arch Trail #22 and get to the Arch and back before dark. The climb to Sterling Pass is a steep one, (1,100' in 1.2 miles) especially the upper 1/3rd. The colors were holding on nicely. Geology helps make this an interesting trek.

Down the western side of this trail, to the Vultee Arch Trail #22, you loose 775' in about the same distance. This side has less step ups and the switchbacks are lazy in comparison.

I really enjoyed all three of these first time trails for me. Perfect weather and company (for the most part). I hope Joe is not too much of a bad influence on you Ray :sl:

Video from the top of Mount Wilson
(South and Northwest Overlooks) :next:

Colors ranged from past prime to just beginning on the lowers portions close to the Sterling /Vultee intersection
North Wilson Mountain Trail #123
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Wilson / Sterling Pass
My first hike in the Sedona area. I've been spoiled the last two weekends with great adventures and great hiking partners. Joe's trip log (Wilson / Sterling - Vultee Arch) eloquently captures the details of the hike, so I won't repeat it here.

What I will say is that the weather was perfect, the colors were brilliant and the views were breathtaking. All of them. Perhaps the most enjoyable part was the continuous banter (some might call it bickering) between Bruce and Joe. When I wasn't sucking air trying to keep up with them, I had a hard time catching my breath because I was laughing so hard! These two would have made a great comedy team in an old style variety show of the 70's and 80's.

One thing I've learned about hiking off trail with Joe and Bruce, I need to do a better job of protecting exposed flesh. The scramble in the bramble (not bramble, but I like the rhyme) on the attempt to connect N Wilson and Sterling left me a little bloodied. While Joe and Bruce so deftly navigated their way down the steep slope (and back up) without so much as a nick, I was hooking myself on every barb out there. I need to work on that.

All in all, it was a great hike and another beautiful day in Paradise!
North Wilson Mountain Trail #123
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Wilson / Sterling - Vultee
For many moons I've wanted to connect Wilson to Sterling. We headed up North Wilson #123. A large portion of this was torched in the 2006 Brins Fire. A good portion survived too. Regardless it is one beautiful pocket heading up to First Bench of Wilson Mountain.

Once on Wilson we showed Ray the southern lookout. Not up to snuff with the Munds overlook yet mighty darn close. Next we headed to the north. Took a gander at Lost Wilson Mtn. Bruce laughed no. It does looks sketchy. While I think it is doable it would take the entire day from what I saw so I wasn't totally heartbroken. Contact me if interested.

Next it was over to the northern lookout. Yeah... not sure why I haven't been here before. Stunning. We headed down a sliding steep slope covered in nasty needle barbed brush. On occasion a friendly bush was grasped to control the slide. It wasn't looking great so Bruce sent out a test Joe to survey. I saw a steeper but still borderline doable canyon to my right. Bruce informed me his track went left. Now that I'm home looking at it, I'm grateful I did not take the right plunge. That would have dropped us down the Sterling side... doh!

I checked out the left, circling around to a saddle Bruce mentioned from above. It looked more of the same we came down. Ultimately we decided to abandon the option. I'm pretty sure it's doable after reviewing the route plus based on what I saw above and below.

We headed back and lunched on the peak at 7122. This was low on my radar. While a little brushy I think it's worth it. There is a red rock layer up there not seen at lower elevations. The views are fabulous. Oak Creek, the San Francisco Peaks, Kendrick, Sitgreaves, Bill Williams, etc.

Since we couldn't make a loop out of Wilson and Vultee we drove to Sterling for an over-n-back. Autumn foliage in Sterling goes from picking up in the lowest elevation to a week past in the upper. Basically perfect. Bruce and I hit Vultee while Ray took a breather at the pass. We made it out just before headlamps were necessary.

Warm for the area and time of year, luckily that meant perfect!

Looks to have been extreme a week ago. This was a warm year so most areas hit later than normal.
North Wilson Mountain Trail #123
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Wilson Mtn via N Wilson Mtn 123
On my way home from hiking last night, I received a text from a couple friends wanting to do a hike in Sedona. So of course I said "yes" and was happy to ride along.

Maybe it was because of the all day hike the day before, but I was expecting this to be a lot easier. Wilson Mtn. from the north trail is a solid hike and the views are amazing as is to be expected in Sedona. We took a nice long lunch break at the overlook at the top.

Surprisingly few people on the trail today.

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
From Sedona, drive 5 miles north on AZ 89A to the Encinoso Picnic area, which is approximately 3.4 miles beyond the Midgely Bridge (Wilson Mountain) trailhead.

Between mile markers 379 and 380 on 89A.
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