Nature sculpts its own fantastic shapes in Long Canyon. Photo by Cheryl Hartz
The Red Rock Ranger District's backcountry trails around Sedona couple easy access with outstanding scenery and a feeling of remoteness, even though they begin barely outside of town. It can be a tad toasty this time of year, so start early and take plenty of water. Also, be mindful of summer thunderstorms.
The Long Canyon No. 122 and Deadman's Pass trails meet in the Coconino National Forest. Deadman's Pass borders and Long Canyon extends into the Red Rock/Secret Mountain Wilderness - 43,950 acres of colorful and unique formations including bowls, pinnacles, arches, windows and slot canyons.
Shades of red define the hike, which begins on an old Jeep trail. The route soon narrows to a fine red dust footpath through shaggy Arizona cypress and thick manzanita, with its mahogany-colored branches. Red sandstone cliffs beckon in the distance.
The temperature drops noticeably as hikers enter a fairytale forest of scrub oak, alligator juniper, ponderosa and piñon pines that winds through the deep canyon. Along the way, don't be surprised to see tourist helicopters hover often near a cave in the cliffside, the site of ancient ruins.
Long Canyon trail extends nearly four miles and officially ends at a red sandstone cliff with a few Indian ruins and primitive pictographs. Game trails continue into a slot canyon, where the intrepid can do some rock hopping up a steep slope if they desire a sweeping view from the top.
As always, the forest service asks visitors to observe the "leave no trace" philosophy of hiking. Stay on marked trails, don't disturb archeological sites, and whatever you pack in, pack back out.
Hint: You'll need to purchase a Red Rock Pass, available at convenience stores, the ranger station, and many other locations in and around Sedona, to display in your vehicle.
Directions: From US 89A in Sedona, turn north on Dry Creek Road and drive about 1.5 miles to Long Canyon Road (FR 152D). Turn right at the T intersection and go about half-a-mile to the Long Canyon trailhead on the left.
For more information, call the Red Rock Ranger District, 928-282-4119, or visit www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/recreation/red_rock.