If you want a beautiful wilderness hike, try Long Canyon. The trail takes you about 3.5 miles back into a dense forest that is teeming with life. Manzanita, juniper, a ponderosa or two, cottonwood, maples, and massive amounts of wildflowers can be found in abundance once you get farther in. This is a hike you take for the journey rather than the destination.
The beginning of the trail is well marked and wide. You go in about a mile with a golf course on the right but after that the trail divides. Opt for the right fork marked “Long Canyon.” Not too far after, you’re in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness where the views become really gorgeous. Hike past cypress trees with peeling bark that reveals gorgeous browns, oranges, and yellows underneath, and you’ll cross several scenic dry washes.
Because of the washes I wouldn’t recommend the hike anytime the area is due for a thunderstorm. As with any hiking, be aware of weather. Dry washes fill up quickly in Arizona.
Maroon Mountain is to the right with its stark red cliff sides. About two and a half miles into the trail the forest becomes thicker and you’ll find huge oaks and ancient alligator juniper trees with rough scaly bark.
Walk deeper into the forest and the views become even more spectacular! Large red-barked ponderosa pines reach upward and steep sloping canyon walls invite the adventurous to scale them for the gorgeous views they afford. If you go off trail, mark the spot so you can find your way back… and watch out for poison ivy!
When you reach the very back of the canyon the trail runs right up against a rock ledge. If you’re adventurous, you can climb up farther onto the rocks for a spectacular view. Be careful! The rocks are slippery and there are plenty of cacti waiting to grab you. I know this from prior prickly, sliding experience.
Those among you who think more clearly than I did in my younger days will probably want to stop here and enjoy a nice walk back through the woods.
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.
At the dead end, turn right onto Long Canyon Road/FR 152D. The parking lot is on the left just shy of a mile and you will see a marker reading “Long Canyon #122.”
Easy to moderate if you stay on the trail. As difficult as you want it, if you don’t.
Things to bring:
Wear hiking shoes or good sneakers (with traction if you plan to scramble up cliffs) and bring water. Bring water, snacks or a lunch, and your camera.
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
March 20, 1999 – It has been a long time since I did something that could have had a crazy ending, but thank goodness all’s well that ends well. I guess I should start from the beginning. The trail into Long Canyon was gorgeous. After the hot, dry part at the onset, the jaunt through the forest was refreshing and beautiful.
I have to admit, I felt a little nervous only because I was all alone and there were all sorts of critters scrambling through the bushes – mostly birds and lizards, but at one point I swear I heard something larger. Ah well. I didn’t see him or her and they didn’t bother me. Fresh cat prints let me know that something prowled these forests at night but in the mid-daylight I felt fairly secure.
The last part of the hike through the deep canyon and ponderosa pines was incredible. I scrambled up the red-rock cliff side and found an old set of ruins where I could eat my lunch and enjoy the view. So far so good. The crazy part started when I reached the back of the canyon. I climbed up the initial rock ledge that blocked the end of the trail. Not too bad.
I found a faint trail that wound around the rocks and up the cliffs. It got narrower and narrower until it disappeared. I watched a couple that had arrived before me carefully pick their way up the hillside which looked for all the world like sand or silt with sliding rocks and cacti. If they could do it, so could I, or so I thought.
I made it about 100 yards up the hill when I noticed that every rock I stepped on was sliding and I was sliding with it. I got on all fours and looked back over the spectacular view, wondering if a cell phone would have proven useful at this point! I’m not sure who I would have called! I started to laugh feeling both a little sheepish about my current predicament and happy to be free of electronic leashes.
Gingerly, I began a controlled slide down the hill, all the while giving myself a lecture on caution. Once I reached a stable ledge, I laid down and caught my breath. The walk back on the flat well-groomed trail was a piece of cake and I swore to myself that I’d think twice before climbing back here again. Moral of the story? The trails are there for a reason:)