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Chuckwagon to Secret Canyon, AZ
mini location map2021-05-15
26 by photographer avatarJohn10s
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Chuckwagon to Secret Canyon, AZ 
Chuckwagon to Secret Canyon, AZ
Hiking avatar May 15 2021
Hiking16.12 Miles 1,224 AEG
Hiking16.12 Miles   7 Hrs   43 Mns   2.30 mph
1,224 ft AEG      43 Mns Break
1st trip
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Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
I always enjoy exploring new spots in Sedona, and this was my first visit to Secret Canyon. We weren't sure about the road conditions on FR 152--it sounds like it's deteriorated a lot in recent years--so we planned to park at Long Canyon Trailhead and hike Chuckwagon/Brins Mesa/FR 152 to the Secret Canyon Trailhead, which would add ~3 miles each way to the hike. It was sad to drive down Dry Creek Road in the morning and see the predictable mass of Insta-tourists already swarming toward Devil's Bridge at 7:30AM. Every time I visit Sedona, it seems like the crowds grow exponentially and show up earlier and earlier...more cars lined the street than I'd ever seen there, and most of the parking was taken near Mescal and the alternate routes to Devil's Bridge. How people find it appealing to "hike" in what is essentially a four-mile line to get the same "unique" Instagram photo that hundreds of people take every day remains a mystery...

We were lucky to get a spot at Long Canyon--that's becoming overrun by Birthing Cave Insta-tourists--and we had relative solitude on Chuckwagon once a few groups of mountain bikers passed us. It was fast, easy hiking to Brins Mesa and on FR 152, and the Secret Canyon parking lot was empty as we started on the trail. The scenery along the first few miles was fantastic, with classic Sedona views of red spires and towering white cliffs. The geology along the first part of Secret Canyon Trail looks a lot like Boynton and Long...not surprising, I guess, since they're right next door.

We encountered a little water near H.S. Canyon, but that was one of just a handful of spots we saw any along the route. Once the trail turned west at the intersection with David Miller Trail and the canyon walls closed in, the landscape changed and looked more like West Fork with the dense foliage. There was a lot of poison ivy as we got farther back in the canyon, to the point that avoiding it entirely was impossible, and all we could do was minimize how often we came into contact with it. We needed to keep a good pace if we were going to reach the narrows in the back of the canyon beyond the end of the trail, but the poison ivy and general overgrowth in the canyon slowed us down. Even with the GPS, there were spots where it was tough to spot the trail, and it looks like there's been little to no maintenance done recently, with downed trees and logs completely obscuring the path in some spots.

There were a few informal campsites with fire rings in some of the clearings, and those spots tended to have more open views of the red canyon walls. We passed the smaller narrows area but didn't hike back in there since time was going to be tight. Further in, Secret Canyon Arch looked impressive high up on the canyon wall, and we decided we'd look for a route up there on the way out. We ended up coming up short the narrows and the official end of the trail when we reached our turnaround time--by that point, we were just following the creek bed and couldn't see the trail. Or maybe the creek bed was the was tough to tell with the overgrowth.

We headed back and spent a little time looking for a path up to the arch. One map we'd looked at actually showed a numbered trail leading up to it, but we didn't see any sign of a route. It looked like the best option would be to follow a drainage in that direction, but it was choked with boulders and brush, and it was clear that getting up there was going to take more time than we had today, so that'll have to wait for another visit.

We saw two other hikers on the way out, but those were the only people we saw along the trail all day aside from mountain bikers on Chuckwagon. We came up a little short on the goals we'd set to reach the narrows at the end of the canyon, to make it up to the arch, and to find some cliff dwellings we'd heard about, but it was a very enjoyable intro to Secret Canyon. We could've done without all the poison ivy, but the weather and scenery were fantastic, and the trail offers a nice variety--a combination that feels like part Boynton, part West Fork...definitely worthy of anther visit to see some of those specific landmarks we didn't catch this time.
Named place
Named place
Secret Canyon

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max H S Canyon Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
water report recorded in the field on our app Route Scout One small, stagnant pool just off of Secret Canyon Trail

dry Secret Canyon Dry Dry
water report recorded in the field on our app Route Scout

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