After 3 days in the Grand Canyon, I’d covered just over 60 miles on 4 different trails, yet I felt that I only scratched the surface. I could have easily spent my last day exploring more of the Canyon, but I also wanted to spend some time running in the Red Rock region of Sedona, AZ. My adventure to the Canyon was only for 5 days and one of those would be spent travelling. I felt that I discovered enough of the area and trails of the South Rim to know what trail I’ll explore when I come back. After day 3 and running/hiking almost 15 miles I was ready to hit the road and head to Sedona.
Sedona, Arizona is rated as one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. Like the Canyon, the scenery around Sedona is beyond description and if you like the outdoors it has everything to offer. One could easily spend a week there and not come close to experiencing all it has to offer. I would only have a day and my plan was to search out the best trails with the most spectacular scenery and a swimming hole. My flight out of Phoenix was at 11 p.m so I needed a place to cool and rinse off after my run and before heading to the airport.
I drove into Sedona on a Saturday with no reservations for camping, but thought if I couldn’t find a spot to camp, I’d find a place somewhere out on a trail to pitch a tarp. I stopped at one of the National Forest Campgrounds, that had a “Full” sign out front, to ask the camp host where I might find a spot to camp out for the night, or park my car if I had to sleep in it. I got lucky though, after I asked, he said he had one spot open up, due to a last-minute cancellation. The campground was the Pine Flat Campground , located in the Oak Creek Canyon, with several miles of hiking trails leading down along oak creek, or up to the top of the mountain with spectacular views. I ran the trail the first thing in the morning before breakfast, a perfect start to the day!!
At the edge of the campground there was a stone structure with two pipes coming out and water flowing continuously. The water was being piped from a mountain spring and there were locals stopping to fill up large 5 gallon water bottles for their weekly drinking water. After my hike, I filled up my water bottles with the delicious cold spring water. One local told me that the county tests the water each year to ensure it’s still pure and he told me that it is some of the cleanest and purest water around. It was perfect, as I sat and drank from my water bottles, I was able to talk with the locals and find out where the best trails were around the Sedona area, that had a place to swim. Considering I only had 5 hours or so, the consensus for the best all around trail, was that of Cathedral Rock. I got directions to a secluded parking area on the backside of the mountain that the locals use, exactly what I was looking for. I headed back to my camp to eat, pack up my tent and head out.
The campground was located about 14 miles up the beautiful winding mountain road, 89A. I stopped in Sedona just long enough to take a few pictures and a quick look around. It’s a beautiful little tourist town, with a picture perfect backdrop to it, but there wasn’t much I wanted to see in town, I was anxious to get out to the trails leading out to Cathedral Rock. I headed out-of-town to find the parking lot at the trailhead on the backside of the Cathedral Rock.
After pulling out-of-town it didn’t take me long to find the parking area that the locals directed me to. As soon as I stepped out I could see Cathedral Rock and I was starting to get excited. There was a map posted at the trailhead which showed the two main trails that circled the Rock, the total mileage including the climb to the top was around 5 miles. I was hoping to get in more mileage if I could, so I carried with me a trail map of that whole region. I would get out to the top of Cathedral Rock then from there I could connect to a whole other series of trails. There are miles and miles of trails all connecting, if I had all day I could cover some distance. From the time I pulled into the parking long to when I had to leave was only about 4 hours. The day was flying by!
As I headed out onto the Templeton Trail I could understand why this region is called the “Red Rock Region”, every bit of the ground is red from the iron. It was starting to heat up on the trail, but with the slight breeze blowing around the rock it was perfect.
Starting out I didn’t see one person on the trail and I was feeling good and picking up the pace, coming around the first bend on the trail the Rock appeared in the distance. I was so excited to be out on the trails, I was laughing and carrying on like a kid on the playground!! I was in my element!
It didn’t take me long and I was standing looking up at the Rock and ready to get up to the top.
I ran around to the front side and found the trail heading up, as I approached the 1/2 way point I turned around for some spectacular views.
Just like in the Grand Canyon I was immersed in awesomeness, every direction that I looked, I was treated with mind-blowing views!!!
When I made it to the top, I took the time to take a break and enjoy the sights. Close to 30 minutes later, which seemed like 5, I decided to head back down.
I had only been out for 2 hours and covered maybe 6 miles, I decided to come down off the Rock and cross over onto another series of trails. I would cover another 9 miles of trails before heading out to the airport. The beauty and solitude of my run was one to remember, I totally enjoyed this last day of my adventure in the Red Rock Region of Sedona.
I wanted to hit the road to Phoenix by 5 p.m, by 4:30 I was back at Oak Creek, which is a half mile from my car. Maybe it was because I was smack dab in the middle of a Vortex, or maybe it was the wind blowing through the trees, but I could have sworn I heard the creek calling my name…….”Joooeee, Joooe, come innnnn” I couldn’t resist the cool waters after a long run on some dusty trails, I jumped in!!
It was time to end this adventure and head back to the Airport, I was cooled off and refreshed and although sad it was coming to an end, I was elated to think of all the adventure that I had in my short time out west. I will definitely be back!!
I got back to my car, changed into some dry clothes, ate some food and hit the road to Phoenix.
I made it back to the airport with the car and the attendant scanned the return at exactly 8 p.m, when the car was due back. The man said “you sure cut it close, you must have had a good trip”, that I did, I replied with a smile “It was one awesome Adventure”!!!”
As the plane took off and sailed into the night, heading back to Michigan, I closed my eyes and drifted off into sleep, dreaming of all the beauty that I took in over the past 4 days. This trip will be another awesome memory, burned into my mind, that I’m sure I’ll retrieve many times on those days when I’m stressed by life’s demands, like an aspirin for a headache. Just what the doctor ordered!