A hiker’s paradise
Neil Wiley

The 200 trails of Sedona, Arizona, offer a wide choice of beautiful, natural environments, with pleasant, streamside strolls, shady forests, and colorful high desert views. But what to see first? It wouldn’t hurt to have friendly, experienced guides.

Lani Christianson has walked these trails for over forty years. Her husband, John Humphrey, has joined her for 25 years. When these good friends and neighbors invited me to join them, I packed my boots, trekking poles, and camera. I was ready, and the trip didn’t disappoint. I can recommend it to anyone who likes walking through beautiful scenery, enjoying good food, and playing tourist.

Fay Canyon was a good first test to see if the old man could keep up. The trail is relatively flat and only a few miles long. We walked through a box canyon with some shade from oaks and junipers as we looked up at red-rock cliffs. At six-tenths of a mile, we spotted the Fay Arch up high on the right. The trail to the arch is not maintained and is steep. We decided to walk a little farther on the main trail, and then go to lunch.

More challenging and beautiful, the West Fork Trail is north on Highway 89A just beyond the child-favorite Slide Rock. The trail is relatively flat, taking you through a narrow canyon with towering red cliffs, 13 perennial stream crossings, and lots of nice shade. You might call this Wet Foot Trail, because the stepping stones across the creek are not always stable. Be sure to bring a hiking stick or poles. While we ate a nice lunch sitting on big rocks by the stream, we were entertained by some young women practicing their yoga moves. One way on the out-and-back trail is 3.4 miles, but I recorded a total of a little over five miles on my FitBit.™

Red Rock State Park offers a five-mile network of interconnecting trails along scenic Oak Creek. Most of the trails are flat and easy, but to see the vista you can climb 300 feet up the Eagle’s Nest Trail. The grassy meadows and creek-side trails are pleasant and relaxing. Narrow bridges make the stream crossings a little easier.

Red Rock Crossing is family-friendly with easy trails (some paved), and nice views of Cathedral Rock. Other features include a water wheel, lots of benches, a rocky Buddha Beach, a bathroom, and some irrigation ditches. If you are more adventurous, hike the 2.2-mile Baldwin Trail loop, or a half-mile up to Cathedral Rock.

You could hike the Broken Arrow Trail, but we saw it on a Pink Jeep Tour. Either way, you’ll see some great rock formations, including the Devil’s Dining Room, Chicken Point, and Submarine Rock. Of course, we got the added thrill of “driving” down the Road of No Return on what we called an e-ticket ride. Don’t miss the exclusive Pink Jeep Tour of Broken Arrow.

Some of the Sedona scenery was made by man. The Montezuma Castle was built between 1100 and 1300 in a cliff recess 100 feet above the valley. A nice walk in partial shade meanders below this amazing twenty-room dwelling south of Sedona on Highway 17. We also toured Tuzigoot, the remains of a village built between 1000 and 1400 on a ridge 120 feet above the Verde Valley. We didn’t visit the Palatki cliff dwelling site. Reservations and a Red Rock pass are required for a ranger-guided tour along a 1.8-mile loop.

You don’t have to fly to see the big picture, but you’ll see Sedona spread out before you at the airport. I didn’t believe it either until we drove up on top of a big mesa, the location of the airport and a vista point that overlooks the town and the giant rock formations to the north. We chose lunch at the Airport’s Mesa restaurant and watched small planes touch down in a strong cross wind, but we could have toured the top of the mesa on the 3.5-mile Airport Loop Trail. As you walk the loop, you can see Schnebly Hill, Munds Wilderness, Twin Buttes, Courthouse Rock, Bell Rock, Oak Creek, and Cathedral Rock. To the west, view Mingus Mountain, Chimney Rock, Thunder Mountain, and Wilson Mountain. After that walk, you’ll be ready to enjoy a well-deserved dinner at the restaurant.

After a week of perfect weather, it turned windy and cold, so instead of hiking, John and I visited the Tlaquepaque arts and crafts village. The art and photo-ops were great, but the relics of extinct animal bones, tusks, and antlers were expensive at five figures.

Lani and John introduced me to many fine restaurants, ranging from the humble Taco Bell to the lovely Takashi Japanese, breakfasts at the Coffee Pot and New York Bagel and Deli, light salad lunches at the Mesa Grill and enormous lasagnas at The Hideaway House. I loved them all, too much.

My sometime nickname is Wiley Coyote, so I bought a coyote pin at Montezuma Castle. On the back, it said, “Coyotes have keen vision, a strong sense of smell, and will eat almost anything.” Guilty, as charged.

For more information about what to see in Sedona, visit the Sedona Chamber Visitors Center, 331 Forest Road or 45 Sunset Drive in Sedona, call 800-288-7336, or email info@sedonachamber.com.

Although we aren’t bikers, this is great country for trail riding. For starters, try the Bell Rock Pathway that runs from north of the Village of Oak Creek back to Sedona. You can also access bike trails uptown at the end of Jordan Road and in West Sedona off Dry Creek and Boynton Pass roads. Trail maps are available at the visitor’s center and mountain bike shops.