About half a mile into the hike, you will notice a path leading across a dry wash and zigzagging up to the cliffside to the right. This path may be marked with sticks and branches if you’re lucky, or even a cairn (rock pile) if you’re luckier!
If you take this side trip you’ll huff and puff up the hillside until you reach a natural arch in the cliff. Go inside the arch and you’ll see that part of the cliff has fallen away making a natural slit for sunlight to shine through
Back in the canyon, along the main trail, you’ll reach a point where the trail begins to climb gently. Shortly after this point the trail will divide. To your left you’ll see a large red rock butte. If you take the left fork of the trail, you’ll climb up to the butte to discover a whole separate branch of the canyon.
Beautiful vistas are available here but if you’re not in shape, take it slow. I have wandered way, way back into this side canyon and never quite found the end of the trail. It turns into a deer trail near the point where it descends back into the forest. If you stop at one of the earlier viewpoints you can get some spectacular photos.
Back on the main trail (if you kept to the right instead of climbing up to the red rock butte, you will continue on through the forest. Shortly however, the trail will climb up to the right and hug the cliffside. It will take you over some large rocks, and around to the right where it begins a short but steep ascent through the forest. It is a bit of a challenge to find this – I still get lost sometimes! With luck you’ll end up at the entrance to a big side canyon on the right.
Hug the canyon walls to the right. It takes some scrambling, but if you find the trail it will climb up through the woods to a spot where you have to hoist yourself up to a ledge about 5′ higher than the end of the forest path.
If for some reason you get lost and can’t find the semi-trail I’m describing, just head back down the dry creek bed where you’ll intersect with the main trail once again.
You’ll find yourself on a ledge beneath a great big rock overhang. Go right for views and a place to rest, or go left and hug the canyon wall where a narrow trail takes you around the U-shaped canyon and leaves you on a perch overlooking all of Fay. Gorgeous! There are no guard rails here so watch your footing.
From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Hwy 179 (exit 298). Turn left onto 179 and follow it past the Village of Oak Creek to the Sedona (Burger King) “Y.” There will be a big roundabout here with the Hyatt Pinon Pointe on the cliffs directly across from you. West 89A forks off to the left, and 89A is the right fork of the “Y.”
Go around the roundabout and exit onto West 89A. Take this past most of the town until you see Dry Creek Road. This is just a little ways past the Giant Gas Station to the right. Turn right onto Dry Creek Road and take it until it dead-ends.
Turn left here onto Boynton Pass Road. (The signs may point you to the Enchantment Resort.) Take this road until it dead-ends into another road. Turn left here (E. Boynton Pass Road/FR 152C) and follow it for about 0.5 miles where you will see a large parking lot on the left. The trail head is right across the street marked “Fay Canyon #53.”
Easy if you stay on the main trail. Moderate if you go up onto the viewpoints.
Things to bring:
Wear comfortable hiking shoes or sneakers. Bring water and a camera. If you want to take advantage of the beautiful overlooks you might want to throw in lunch and a book as well.
Check with the US Forest Service for pass and fee information before your trip. A Red Rock Pass is required for parking in most locations.
Notes from the journal
Late April, 1999: Talk about magic. . . I thought I’d seen it all until today. I joined a friend for an afternoon hike in Fay even though the clouds were dark and gloomy. We were the only ones on the trail. Other than the sound of the wind whistling through the trees and the crunching of leaves on the forest floor, there was dead silence. Just as we turned uphill toward the back of the canyon the snow began to fall. Snow! In Arizona! In April, nonetheless! Can you imagine our luck to be only three minutes away from a sheltered rock ledge? Surreal.
We sat high and dry watching the magical scene unfold before our eyes. Snowflakes pelted the rocks until the water began to run down then in dark quicksilver streams. The normally-orange spires turned a deep brick red and the forest hummed with a vibrant life force. For two hours the snow fell, until finally, getting cold, we did a prayer ceremony and kindly asked the weather angels to let up on us. The snow quieted down a bit and I whispered a prayer of gratitude.
We left our sheltered spot and, as if on command, the sun broke through the clouds and shone like diamonds on the wet forest and snow-coated buttes. I think I stood there with my jaw hanging wide open gasping at the beauty and the wonder and the synchronicity. Surely I have been walking in a dream today. Amazing.