The Best Hikes in Red Rock - Secret Mountain Wilderness

2,204 Triplog Reviews in the Red Rock - Secret Mountain Wilderness
Most recent of 902 deeper Triplog Reviews
6 mi • 300 ft aeg
Was looking to get my feet wet and a buddy hadn't been to West Fork before so we decided to skip work on Friday and head on out. The trip up was easy with no traffic and the parking lot was, surprisingly, maybe half full tops. Once past the rock area people like to hang out at about a mile in, we only saw a few other people before hitting the end of the trail and then saw no one else. The sun was out but inside the canyon and in the water it felt fantastic. We made camp at the same location I did before and had a nice evening just hanging out. For the next morning, I had planned a bit of a treat: I packed in a pan, butter, maple syrup, and pancake mix and whipped those up and that was pretty awesome. On the way out, I located to the camp site I had looked for on a previous trip as well and man! It's something. Made our way out back to the car around 2:30 and it honestly wasn't too crazy busy which surprised me for a Saturday; the parking lot wasn't even full, maybe at 75% capacity. Now, the drive through Sedona, on the other hand, was busy as expected... All in all, a fun quick trip with perfect weather. Not shabby!
11.14 mi • 1,835 ft aeg
HS Canyon. Best I can see, Hike AZ has few to no recent entries (I write this in May 2022), so this provides an update. Quick orientation note first. This update covers the section of HS Canyon from the end of the south spur of HS Canyon, to the junction at the north end with Secret Canyon. Now, my GPS route contains other sections, along Chuckwagon, and Dry Creek Road, and Secret Canyon. Those trails and roads are well-traveled and basically established. So I will exclude discussion of those.
Salida Gulch Trail #95 - Bradshaw ...
Salida Gulch Trail #95 - Bradshaw Mountains - Prescott Arizona

Status of HS Canyon. Traversable. The trail can be traversed in its entirety, from its north junction with Secret Canyon Trail to its south junction with the HS Canyon south spur (or in the other direction if one prefers). Now, not a stroll, nor could we consider the trail distinct and easy. Rather, I found the trip quite an adventure in route scouting and cliff scrambling, never really treacherous, but challenging though in an invigorating way. One would want to like that, a modest hiking adventure, but the views throughout, and the solitude all along, add to experience. But don’t bring a dog, or partner not comfortable with route scouting, or even a good hiker but otherwise lacking rudimentary non-technical rock climbing. Do bring patience, and a keen eye, and an expectation of a scrape or two.

Quick interjection about the HS Canyon spur at the south. That spur runs reasonably well-traveled along a wash for a good mile or so. This discussion here takes that spur for granted, as no real issues came up traversing it.

Now, I enjoyed my mini-adventure conquering this trail immensely. While I averaged 20 minute miles on the trails to and from HS Canyon, my effort on the HS Canyon loop ran about a mile an hour. Those slower splits give some indication of the effort involved in route scouting, cliff scrambling and at times of loosing the trail and backtracking. You might go faster, but then if so maybe take more time enjoying the vistas and views.

Now trail notes.
  • Overall, I would say 5, maybe 10%, of the route (I will call it a route more than a trail) involves serious bushwhacking. Now it is important to note what I mean by that. By that I mean the overgrowth has encroached so severely that one needs to use hands to grab aside branches, or use feet to hoist yourself over trees, or bend down and scurry under branches. Much more than 5-10% of the route contains serious encroachment, but while annoying, and more importantly while obscuring the route, one can brush through that encroachment with a good strong stride or a quick twist or sidestep.
  • The route dips into washes. I found some of these just a mess to traverse. Washes, of course, get water, and that trigger thicker growth, so the trail became obliterated, not a trace of a snippet I could find. There, progress required at times strenuous, slow bushwhacking through thick growth.
  • Alternately, in places, the trail ran reasonably nicely, but so nicely I passed important turns in the trail. Only with the help of a GPS route did I come to realize I had gone several dozen feet past the turn, then backtracked to scout out the turn.
  • And that leads me to say a GPS track ranks close to essential. I found that if I strayed too far from the GPS track I had, I couldn’t just wing it, and think I could find a better course. Nope. For me, staying on a GPS track proved the most reliable approach to following the route.
  • The rock climbing sections do mildly challenge. I compare them to elementary bouldering. One needs to find handholds and footholds, and pull oneself up, at times with maybe only two holds. I don’t think one can just walk up the steeper cliff climbs. And I found patience needed, for finding critical holds. If you rely on just boot or hand friction, you really risk a slip. And it looks like in places a slip would send you backward for significant injury. (No bouldering crash pads were around that I could see).
  • In one section cairns appeared. Fortuitously. The cairns lead one around a long diversion which prevents a disastrous cliff out. That diversion can for the most part be walked down (or up), but as I looked around, the cliffs that might provide an alternate path down (or up if going in the other direction) looked sufficiently difficult to require technical equipment to climb or descend.
  • The “trailhead” at the north end actually sits in the bottom of the wash at the junction point. Just proceed down the wash to a point where one needs to climb out. On the south end, the “trailhead” (off the HS Canyon spur) sits off to the right, with a cairn built in the fork of a tree, near the very west end of the spur.
This post accompanies a GPS track. With some editing, I have attempted to remove from the GPS track sections where I had wandered off course. But the GPS track, while I deem that necessary, provides only one item for scouting this route. Patience, a keen eye, some cliff scrambling skills, and some humility to backtrack if one gets a bit off course, also help.
3.6 mi • 541 ft aeg
This trail provides much needed solitude, as it is way less busy than most Sedona trails. There are quite a few wildflowers along the trail and there’s actually a decent amount of shade on the portion of the trail near Dry Creek. Hiking all the way up to the mesa of course gets warm, but I highly recommend if you’re looking for some solitude in Sedona.
4.39 mi • 564 ft aeg
This arch in Sedona is awesome and makes for some great pictures. It was hot, dry, and sunny. The main road from the parking lot is well traveled by the jeep tour companies, but plenty of space to let them cruise on by. This is a really nice hike, and I wish I had hiked it sooner. No running water at the parking lot/trail head, pit toilets were back open. The last part of the trail is pretty steep not sure how a dog would do near the end. A great hike with easy access.
11 mi • 2,700 ft aeg
We hiked the North Wilson trail to the Sedona overlook because the Midgley Bridge Parking lot was already full when we got there. The entire trail was covered in snow but we didn't need microspikes. The shaded canyons got cold but the sections in the sun were nice and warm. It was still a fun hike but was a little slippery and slushy on the descent after some of the snow had melted into mud.
8.73 mi • 1,313 ft aeg
We started at 8:30 and there were still spots in the TH parking lot. Temps were just above 40 and it was great hiking weather. At about 2 miles in, we went off trail toward the subway. We were surprised that we were the only ones when we got there - for 15 minutes maybe before other groups started to show up. Checked out the ruins and had our snack break below on the trail. After getting back on Boynton Canyon Trail, we continued on toward the terminus. At the end of trail after the little climb, we explored the ledge to the east with fantastic views. It was a very crowded trail and we counted 120 people coming in on the main trail during the 65 minutes it took us to get back to our car.
3 mi • 585 ft aeg
Made my way down to Sedona from Flagstaff after taking a day off in between after an exhausting Grand Canyon backpack trip. Didnt really know what to hike and ended up doing Soldier Pass, a trail i had never hiked in all of my years in Arizona and seen some cool pics of the cave at the end of this trail. On this day i took my time taking photos and enjoying the landscape i hadnt seen in over three years since i left. All in all a great day to explore.
1.8 mi • 500 ft aeg
This was a pretty horrifically annoying hike, due to crowds (compounded by covid). It felt like I was at an NFL game, honestly. Like I had just parked in "Lot G" and was tredging toward a common goal--Stadium Entrance F--with 75,000 other people. Parking at the official trailhead was jam packed, with cars lined up along the highway to deal with the spillover. I had a Jeep so I was able to drive past the vehicle crowds in the parking lot. I drove up about halfway to the second parking area for 4x4 vehicles only.

Walking up to Devil's Bridge was even more crowded because of the narrower trail. There was a lot of waiting for large groups of tourists to pass as they came down, again compounded by covid concerns. There was zero semblance of any hiking etiquette or courtesies such as who has right of way.

When I got to the actual Devil's Bridge, there was a massive crowd of people who were sitting auditorium-style and looking at the bridge (and the people on the bridge). To get onto the actual bridge, there was a line of maybe 25 people. As for the bridge: meh. The scenery on this moderate-climb hike is gorgeous, but you really need to appreciate that such scenery is in abundance on *many* Sedona hikes. The bridge would probably seem very cool if you came across it in the wild, with some semblance of privacy. But seeing it as though it's a Disneyland attraction, with huge lines and a crowd-conversation level that is as loud as a popular bar or restaurant, strips away 100% of its majesty.
6.82 mi • 991 ft aeg
Started from the Vultee Arch trailhead shortly before 6am to beat the holiday rush and the forecast high approaching 100 degrees. I wish I had found this loop a long time ago! You get a little bit of everything on this hike: wide open red rock views on the Secret Canyon side, and a cool forest walk on the Bear Sign side. Did not see a single person on the hike, just the way I like it.

Secret Canyon trail is in great shape and very easy to follow. The southern turnoff for HS Canyon is signed, but the trail looked faint at best. I completely missed the northern HS canyon junction and have no idea if it's actually there; just like everyone else it looks like. David Miller west of the pass is a little brushy and faint in areas, east of the pass it's better and looks like there's been some very recent trail maintenance. Bear Sign and Dry Creek are in good condition as well.

It was nice to be back in this area: the Vultee Arch trail was the first "real" trail I hiked in Arizona nearly 20 years ago, and probably what spurred my love of hiking. Then the road turned into what it is today, and there's no way my old 1996 Saturn could make it down here now. High clearance is definitely required, preferably with a short wheelbase. 2WD could probably be done with careful driving and a dry road, but I was definitely a lot more comfortable with 4WD low.
2 mi • 585 ft aeg
Make sure you get there early. Parking is limited to about 10 cars. We didn't start till 11 so had to go to the Jordan Trailhead parking lot (it holds a LOT more cars, has bathrooms and is a nice area). Started off on the Cibola Pass trail to the Jordan trail to Soldier Pass to Brins Mesa trail. It started off hot but by the time we reached Brins trail it was sprinkling. It started thundering halfway through Brins Mesa. The rain really cooled off the hike and made everything smell wonderful. The views were amazing. Love this hike.
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