17-19 March 2021
West Fork Trail, Cathedral Rock loop, scramble to The Fin
(20 miles, +3,800/-3,800 feet).
After our trip to the Grand Canyon, we wanted to spend a little time in civilization with our friends. So we decided to head down to Sedona where we stayed in a very nice AirBnB and did a morning day hike each day.
Half Cookie and I drove through Sedona last summer and the red rock scenery was stunningly beautiful but also incredibly hot. So we decided to come back some time when we could get out and explore the trails.
But now that we’ve been there, let me just say….. Sedona is very weird! It’s like someone built a suburban sprawl right in the middle of your favorite National Park. And it’s not just any sprawl. It’s Disneyland, Duck Dynasty, and Deepak Chopra all rolled into one. And to make things even stranger, the roads both in town and in the forest are crawling with Pink Jeep tours stuffed with middle-aged women from the Midwest.
Don’t get me wrong. Everyone seemed to be having fun (ourselves included!) but I couldn’t help wishing that the natural environment got more priority when the town was built.
Anyhoo, we definitely enjoyed ourselves in spite of it all.
Our first hike was on the West Fork Trail, which was still covered in snow from the recent storm. It’s a there-and-back hike with 13 stream crossings both ways (we counted them!).
The next day we did a big loop around Cathedral Rock, first on the Templeton Trail and then back on the Hiline Trail.
The Templeton Trail crosses the trail that heads up to Cathedral Rock, but it was already swarming with people so we kept to our loop around it. It always amazes me how easy it is to find solitude if you just walk even 100 meters away from the most popular routes.
I was not expecting the middle part of the hike to take us by such a lovely stream. It was already getting warm and the shade was much appreciated.
Then we climbed up the Hiline Trail on the south side of Cathedral Rocks.
There weren’t too many flowers or animals, but we did encounter a couple. I’ve just started using iNaturalist and it is fun to be able to identify what we saw!
For our last hike, I found a trail on GaiaGPS that I thought would make a nice loop for us around Soldier Heights. We started at the Brins Mesa Trailhead.
It was kind of pink jeep hell around the Devil’s Kitchen and the “Seven Sacred Pools” so it was nice to get off the main track onto an unmaintained mountain biking trail that headed up the side of Coffee Pot Rock. We didn’t cross paths with a single person for 3 hours!
Alas, one problem with following unmaintained trails is that sometimes they peter out. From a saddle between Coffeepot Rock and Soldier Heights, we followed the 5,000 foot topo line along a bench with lovely views of the Devil’s Bridge area across the way. But eventually the bench narrowed to a point where there was class 3 exposure with a 200 foot drop. None of us were comfortable continuing to follow the route, so we turned our loop into a there-and-back
I looked for another route over to Soldier Pass to create a different loop, but we faced the same problem.
So we kept heading back the way we came until we found a wash we could use to get back over to the Soldier Pass Trail.
Once we found the main trail, it was quite crowded, especially at the Devil’s Kitchen, a natural sink hole with some tumbled red rock cliffs.
Soon we were back on the Cibola Trail and headed back to the car.