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Coconino National Forest
Stage 1 Fire Restrictions Aug 14th to TBD
This 2001 description was written before the Hangover Trail "surfaced." The Hangover Trail is more used and offers great views too. This description has a couple of wicked views you will not see on Hangover.
Sometimes the most memorable experiences are the worst. I recall a frightening experience on Mt. San Jacinto in '98. That's the huge mountain looming over Palm Springs. If you ever watched Love Connection (in the early '90s), this is the mountain with the tram where several dates went. Except I was on the flip side in Idyllwild. I came close to death, hanging for life on an icy slope. Later in the day, my brother-in-law said: "oh yeah, some guy died up there last week."
Although nothing in comparison, Mitten Ridge here gave me a good scare. However, you can enjoy a great adventure. Just don't push it when things get tricky. Use something I lack, a little common sense. Also, I don't recommend hiking this trail mid-June as I did. The trail is nearly 100% exposed. However, a 5:30 am start would likely be okay in the summer. A more enjoyable scenario would be a spring/fall sunset hike. I can only imagine the postcard sunsets this area must create.
This area has been lodged in my mind for about five or six years now. The original plan was to mountain bike up Schnebly Hill Road to Foxboro Lake. Then check out the "Cow Pies" on the way back down. After six horrid biking miles up Schnebly Hill and the sprocket cog assembly fell apart on my bike. Luckily I was able to coast six miles back down to my car. Unfortunately, I didn't get to check out the "Cow Pies" on that trip.
Welcome to Bear Wallow Canyon. A rock formation called the "Cow Pies" fill the canyon next to the Mitten Ridge. Creating the largest mass of open bare red rock I can recall. A real mountain biker treat, in addition to great hiking opportunities. From the trailhead, you work through typical Sedona forest down into a wash, then back up. The first bare rock slab is encountered quickly. (maybe five minutes, I didn't clock it) You'd likely pass right by here if this weren't claimed as one Sedona's vortex sites. Dark grey volcanic rocks typically get arranged into huge medicine wheels by New Agers. Continue...
Continue up through the second stretch of forest to Mitten Ridge. Just before reaching the southern flank of Mitten Ridge is a huge smooth "Cow Pie." Probably the smoothest patty, whoops, I mean... "Pie" around.
Here you could opt for the easier family route. Which would explore the half-mile long pitter patty pie peninsula. If you do this be sure to check out this photo. Notice how the smoothest "Pie" is adjacent to Mitten Ridge. You then need to walk out (southwest) the extent of this formation. Then there's a small area of trees on a land bridge over to the mass section of putties. ( I mean "Pies" )
The Mitten Ridge Trail goes on the east side of the smoothest "Pie." Then it works west, holding a fairly level line across the southern flank of Mitten Ridge. Seven-tenths of a mile here consists of scattered vegetation. Prickly pear and snugly perched agave specimens want your skin. Keep your eye on the trail, and you'll come home without a scratch. The trail peters out on a huge slope of red rock. The area is easy to spot as there's a thick band of limestone along the upper slope. At an angle of 34 degrees, this slope is pretty steep but not out of range for maneuverability. Leave the boots at home, snug Teva's work great on this surface.
Atop this slope is one of the coolest saddles I've encountered. You won't be able to go straight up the middle. Trees on either side give you the leverage needed to conquer the lip ( a ten-foot wall basically ). Once on the saddle more views open up. It's pretty incredible. There's an excellent view of Wilson Mountain rising behind the Midgely Bridge. The slope on the flip side is noticeably steeper at a 45 degree angle. I don't recommend heading out there as I didn't spot any ledges. It's probably possible, but one slip and you're history. Come back down from the saddle and continue west on the southern flank. The saddle is probably a good turnaround point.
I continued... The peak rising west of the saddle has a beautiful wall. The photo didn't capture the beauty of the formation. This might be a good point to turn around too. I continued... There may be ten-foot sections of trail here and there. Otherwise, you're in scramble-city. The slope gets ridiculously steep. We're talking a 66-degree angle. That's a good pitch for a slide, not a trail. I worked up higher to gain a ledge. I did spot a cool wall a little further on. It's more of an anvil in a saddle. Do yourself a favor and turnaround here! I continued... I walked across what I thought was a ledge. Then I turned around to look at what I'd just walked across. At that point, I decided to turn around. It was a little frightening. Probably no big deal in Teva's, but I opted for boots on this trail for some stupid reason. If it wasn't for the heat, I might have gone barefoot. You could venture on, but I'm not sure if it's worth it.
By the way, avoid this trail in June, or you'll understand the true meaning of "Taunting Cicada". I'm not sure if it's the 13 or 17-year locust. One thing for sure. They have no control of flight. I was hit in the head four times. Most notably in the ear while I was crossing the steep slope before turning around. It just happened to be bad timing, and I nearly bit the dust. You'll be glad to know they're only a nuisance for a month. They live underground for thirteen years or so, feeding on sap from the trees. Then they come out to mate. The females lay up to six hundred eggs. I guess if you lived underground for so long, you might have trouble flying too. The constant hum is a definite indicator they're in season. I experienced similar swarms on Doe Mountain last June.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.