Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Cottonwood, AZ: Yet Another Gateway to Red Rock Country!

From Camp Verde on the east side of the Verde Valley, we moved just 15 miles west to Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood AZ. Cottonwood is about 15 miles south of Sedona, making it the perfect base to explore west Sedona.

We spent a month in Cottonwood in the spring of 2014 and Loved every minute we spent exploring the miles of trails in Red Rock Country (blog posts here). This latest stay was no exception...11 days of hiking, biking bliss! We made an effort to hike some new-to-us trails and to avoid the crowds, not always easy to do in Sedona...starting early (no later than 9am) makes a huge difference.

First up: Long Canyon, trail #122. This lovely, seven mile, out and back hike goes up a forested canyon at a gentle incline with occasional views of the surrounding colorful sandstone canyon walls. This is a great hike for a warm day, the forest is a shady haven and there's supposed to be some ruins and pictographs at the end of the canyon. We searched a little bit but never found them, the forest is quite dense at the head of the canyon.

A vibrant Sedona day in Long Canyon!

Next we hiked Loy Canyon, trail #5. Another gentle incline up a forested canyon for 3.5 miles, the trail ultimately climbs up to the Mogollon Rim and connects to a network of wilderness trails excellent for backpacking. We simply did about seven miles out and back. This time we were fortunate to see a couple of ruins high on the canyon walls above us.

Early in the hike Hans spotted this large set of ruins under a deep overhang.

Some day I'd like to figure out how to get up there!

Later I spotted a small ruin high above us.

One small wall just visible on a small shelf.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park has many miles of trails, both along the Verde River and in the limestone hills that make up much of the park. We biked 12 miles of limestone shelf trails one day and decided it was way too rocky for our tastes! We really enjoyed hiking these trails though.

Tuzigoot National monument can be seen from Tavasci Marsh.

Tavasci Marsh, probably good birding at certain times of the year.

We took the bikes up to Sedona one day, parked along Dry Creek Rd and took off for a twelve mile loop. Chuckwagon trail turned out to be a pretty intense ride for me, but many of the other trails we road in the area adjacent to Dry Creek and Boynton Pass roads were relatively smooth, flowing single track that were fun to ride.

Long distance views from a nice, smooth portion of Chuckwagon trail.

Can't get enough of the colorful views in Sedona!

Creek crossing on Arizona Cypress trail.

We hiked an awesome eight mile loop around Cathedral Rock, with some of the best views we've seen in Sedona. We parked at Yavapai Vista trailhead and took Slim Shady, Templeton, Baldwin, and Hiline trails. Hiline is an intense double black diamond mountain bike trail ridden east to west, so we hiked our loop counter clockwise so we'd see the bikes coming at us.

Cathedral Rock looms over Templeton trail.

Hans at the top of a steep section of Hiline...bikes would fly down this!

Hans watches a bike negotiate one of the gnarly sections of Hiline.

Approaching the top of Hiline the views just get better and better.

Can't get enough of these colors!
Fulltime RVing friend Donna was in town for a girlfriend vacation with her buddy Lynne so we met up one day. Once again parking along Dry Creek Rd we made a great six mile loop following by a delicious lunch at Cafe Paleo Brio in Sedona.

Cloudy and cool along the Ariizon Cypress trail.

I love how the sun comes out of the clouds and colors explode across the horizon!

Happy hikers!

Our final hike was a repeat of a favorite, the Brins Mesa Loop. We parked at Soldiers Pass TH, then took Soldiers Pass to Brins Mesa to Cibola Pass to Jordan trail. Throw in a javelina sighting and an hour of solitude when we took the social trail to the top of Brins Mesa and this was a fabulous seven mile hike!

It adds about a mile to the loop hike, but taking the spur trail to the top of Brins Mesa is worth the effort!

Scotts Oriole.

Exquisite views from Cibola Pass.

So ends another amazing stay in the Verde Valley, I don't think we'll ever get tired of Red Rock Country...


  1. Always amazes us that people actually ride bikes on those double black Diamond trails!

  2. Been going to Sedona/Cottonwood area since I was a kid. Loved it... still do, but don't care for the crowds and traffic they have now. Where's the "Reset" button? :)
    Where next?

  3. We never get tired of those views either. Great posts with some of our favorite hikes and a couple of ones we haven't done yet. Looking forward to a return visit to Sedona one day! Love the ruin sightings!

    Enjoy Prescott...another fave!

    1. I don't think it's possible to get tired of this beautiful country!

  4. This was truly a blast from the past for me. Having lived in Sedona for several years, we have hiked all of these trails. Beautiful images Lisa.

    1. You were very fortunate to live here and be around this gorgeous country for several years!

  5. Great pics! Yes, can't get enough of those colors!

  6. Those look like great hikes! Beautiful country! A place I've yet to visit.

  7. So beautiful, especially against those vibrant blue skies! Love the pic of you guys at Brins Mesa.

    1. Thank you! There are no bad days in red rock country!

  8. Beautiful photos! We think 7-mile hikes are just about perfect for a good day's hike, so thanks for all of the excellent suggestions. The biking looks like fun, too. Nice to know that you can miss most of the crowds by getting out before 9 a.m. That's a reasonably civilized time. :-))

  9. Beautiful hike and you can bet that we will be on that trail one of these days. Love all the red rocks .

  10. Nice that you located some new trails that are less known to the crowds:) We feel the same way about red rock country. Dead Horse is where we stay when in the area. I like that you can walk a trail from the park into Old Cottonwood. Thanks for lots of trail tips! Now that you have found that huge ruin, I definitely must return!