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mini location map2020-09-29
21 by photographer avatarJohn10s
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Boynton's BackyardSedona, AZ
Sedona, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 29 2020
Hiking11.24 Miles 1,927 AEG
Hiking11.24 Miles   8 Hrs   8 Mns   1.73 mph
1,927 ft AEG   1 Hour   39 Mns Break
1st trip
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Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
I took a random Tuesday off work to hike during the week so I could avoid the crowds at Boynton Canyon and the increasingly obnoxious weekend traffic on I-17. Even early on a weekday morning, there were quite a few cars in the parking lot. The plan for the day was to hike Boynton's Backyard and, time permitting, hike down into Hart Well Canyon and hopefully check out the cliff dwellings and pictographs. I'd hiked a short portion of the Backyard trail last fall but didn't have time to get to the saddle between Boynton and Hart Well that day because of some other exploring in Boyton's side canyons. This time I created a route based on Joe and Bruce's Boynton's Backyard/Hart Well loop, though I planned to keep it out-and-back and avoid the long hike along the roads, knowing that time might keep me from seeing as much of Hart Well as I hoped.

I've visited many of the Boynton cliff dwelling sites on previous trips and hoped to check out a few up close that I'd heard about or only seen from a distance. For the sake of time, we didn't detour off the trail to any of the cliff dwelling sites, but I'd brought a larger camera on this visit so I could get some zoomed-in shots from the trail. In total, we saw nearly 15 individual cliff dwellings, not counting many of the others in the side canyons...some in better condition than others. I had a general sense of where a new (to me) dwelling was located but couldn't really see it from the trail, so I shot a bunch of zoomed-in pictures of the canyon in that area and realized only after I was back home that I'd found it in one of the pictures...a good reason to go back and explore soon.

On the way to the Backyard turn off the main trail, I got sidetracked and ended up exploring along one of the canyon walls but didn't find anything of interest this time. The Backyard route is fairly well-defined early on, and the rock formations in that area are spectacular. On my last visit, I'd marked two coordinates where I thought I saw faint remnants of ruins, and photos confirmed it this time--two more spots to add the growing list of destinations to explore around Boynton.

The Backyard trail led into a dry creek bed, which was relatively open at first but became increasingly rocky and brush-choked farther back in the canyon. It was a relief when the trail briefly opened up into a meadow, and the sheer white walls of Secret Mountain and Lost Mountain were fantastic. Then it was back into the brush, with about 600 feet of elevation to gain to reach the saddle dividing Boynton from Hart Well. That last stretch of the trail is steep and full of branches and brush, so the pace was pretty slow at times.

I'd brought a pair of handheld hedge clippers and trimmed back the foliage as I hiked, and I saw trimmed branches where others before me apparently had the same idea. Despite the landscaping, we picked up a lot of scratches along the way, but the views looking back down Boynton as we gained elevation were every bit as good as advertised. With our relatively slow pace, I could tell we weren't going to have time to explore Hart Well, but we reached the saddle and ate lunch under a juniper tree and enjoyed the stunning view looking back down Boynton--one of the best views in Sedona, in my opinion. We hiked up on top of Secret Mountain a few weeks ago, so it was interesting to see some similar views from another perspective on this hike.

I would have loved to hike down into Hart Well and spend some time exploring there, but I may try hiking in from the other side another day. Not surprisingly, we didn't see anyone along the Backyard Trail, but (also not surprisingly), the last mile or two of the main trail on the way back to the Boynton trailhead had quite a bit of traffic in the late afternoon. By the time we finished, Route Scout said we'd hiked ~11.6 miles, though the total is a little overstated because the GPS lost the signal a few times back in the canyon and added some "fake" mileage...I suspect the total was closer to 11 miles. The original plan was a little ambitious for the amount of time we had today, but still a great hike and plenty of interesting areas to check out on the next visit to Boynton.

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