Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Recommended supplies and information:
- Leave early in the morning
- Bring at least 100 ounces (3 liters) of water
- Wear a hat that covers neck area
- Small First Aid Kit
- Optional: Trekking Pole for descent
Approximate Trekking information:
Distance Round Trip: 4.36 Miles (7.01 km)
Total Hiking Time Round Trip: 4 hours
Elevation at base 4,629 ft to 6,561 ft at summit: 1,932 ft ascension climb
Metrics: 1.411 meters to 1,951 meters: 540 meters ascension climb
Temperature for October 11, 2014: 71.2F to 93F / 21.8C to 33.9C
Strenuous Ascent but Breathtaking Views!
Bear Mountain can be a real bear if you are not properly prepared for this trek. On Saturday, 11 October 2014, I pulled into the trailhead parking lot at 7:45am. Just a few cars were there and found ample parking spots. Additionally, there is a parking fee pass machine that appeared to take cash and credit cards. Fortunately, since it was Columbus Day, a sign was posted that no fee was required so I did not notice the cost of the pass. Keep in mind the same parking lot is also used for Doe Mountain trail leading toward the east.
I checked my camera, GPS, and water supply then crossed the street where the trail for Bear Mountain begins. My first impression heading into the trail was simply beautiful. The trail was extremely clean and void of any trash leftover by visitors. It’s red rock trails complimenting the green trees and bushes were amazing. The trail gradually begins ascending and winds to and fro through picturesque terrain. Every minute of the trek, I wanted to snap a new photo. Every turn along the trail seemed like a painting on a canvas you wanted to take home.
About a quarter mile into the trail, the gradually ascending hike quickly becomes much steeper. The meandering soft trails then transforms into large rocky paths with narrow openings making it a little difficult to squeeze through at some points. Some portions of the trail are very steep and adjacent to hundreds of feet drop-offs. So if you have severe issues with heights, you may consider trekking a more moderate and less steep trail. Also, keep in mind to follow the ‘not so clearly marked’ WHITE ARROW PAINTED BLAZES along the trail. There are tricky offshoot paths that lead to great photo-op vantage points, but guide you into the wrong direction fast. You will also see PILED ROCK INDICATORS along the trail. Some follow the right path and some don’t. Just remember to follow the “clearly” white arrow blazes painted on the rocks. In some areas, white paint marks were no more than smudgy blobs, confusing, and incorrect trail markings.
Bear Mountain trail is very deceiving. From the parking lot it seems you are viewing the whole mountain. But in fact, the mountain you see is only plateau no. 1. There are three peaks that make up Bear Mountain. Once reaching the first two peaks a gradual decent of a hundred feet or so is required to begin ascending to the next peak. Breathing very heavy and anticipating the next view, I was pleasantly in awe at the sights before me when reaching the top of the first peak. I felt a sense of accomplishment and peace. The height and scenery were exhilarating. I spent some time taking in the grand colors and amazing views while snapping photos along the way.
Moving toward plateau no. 2, I ran into a 70-year-old hiker and former Tri-Athlete named Robert Hill, a Sociology Associate Professor from Memorial University, located in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. He was in incredible physical condition. Since I grew up in Massachusetts in the Northeastern part of the country, Bob and I had much to talk about and decided to continue to the summit together. We had great conversations and stopped several times along the way for inspiring photo opportunities and rest.
Moving from Peak no. 1 toward the second peak was by far some of the finest views I’ve seen to date. Descending, traversing, and then ascending across beautiful rock formations, words can’t describe the vivid color and design of the terrain.
When Bob and I reached Peak no. 2, we noticed a hiker slumped over, tucked up under the shade of a low-lying bush. He was clearly disorientated and after speaking with him, we learned he was completely out of water. This hiker with no hat was on vacation from Pennsylvania, appeared to be in decent athletic condition, but did not take into account the rigors of this climb. He had been carrying two-one liter bottles of water that were now completely empty. He was feeling both queasy and dizzy. The temperature was only 82.5 (29.2 metric) degrees with a moderate breeze. He felt he climbed to the top too fast and had exerted too much energy. The other issue he was dealing with was his body wasn’t acclimated to the altitude. At this point we were approximately 5,960 feet (1816 meters) above sea level. This is a little over one mile in elevation. So we shared our water with the hiker, refilled his bottle, and I gave him a banana for some extra energy. He eventually did make it back to the parking lot.
From the top of Peak no. 2, the summit of Bear Mountain was majestically standing before us. This portion of the climb is most memorable considering its unbelievable views and picturesque landscapes. Colors of deep red, blue skies, brilliant green bushes and trees, and smooth Coconino sandstone formations jutted from the surrounding cliffs.
One final short descent through a narrow ravine then the winding trail shoots straight up to the top of Bear Mountain Summit (1951 meters or 6,401 feet in altitude). Bob was doing amazing and led the hike most of the way. His GPS watch was indicating approximately 50 feet higher than my Suunto Ambit 2 and Garmin Oregon 650t, but give or take, the weather was perfect and a wonderful breeze blanketed the flat summit.
The summit view of Bear Mountain was not as spectacular as we had predicted. Other hikers in various blogs commented on this as well. The reason is once on the top, short trees obscure the view in several directions. The southern and eastern sides of the mountain are exposed with great vast open panoramas. However, if you want to get spectacular views on the western and northern sides of the mountain, you will have to fight your way through thorny shrub bushes and scattered yucca plants. I was determined to get some well-deserved photos, so I worked my way though the dense and sometimes forsaken narrow animal trails.
Coming down the mountain we ran into several hikers along the way. Mostly everyone was carrying Camelbak type knapsacks with an ample water supply. Most of the hikers were in very good condition and ages varied from early twenties to mid 60’s. Bob was the exception at 70 and clearly was in better condition than I.
The trek down was very steep and certainly was taking a toll on my thighs and knees. Both Bob and I were carrying a trekking pole which aided in relieving pressure on our knees and giving us balance in some sandy slick rocky areas. I would recommend bringing a lightweight collapsible hiking pole with you to be used at least for the trek down the steep mountain trail. Descending down Bear Mountain was slightly faster and less exerting breathing wise. However, keep in mind, concentrate on sure solid footing since the deceiving rocks can be loose and slippery from fine sand in some locations. Bob took a slight fall only once but regained quick balance with his pole.
On our hike down nearing the end of the trail, we came across a few hikers starting to work their way up. It was already nearing 90F degrees (32C). One hiker, carrying a heavier backpack, was already profusely sweating and exposed by the sun. His girlfriend indicated she was wearing his hat.
Most of the hike is along the eastern side of the mountain. Knowing this especially on a clear sunny day, the sun will be beating on your back and neck most of the climb. Keep this in mind so take a hat that also has neck protection as well.
Climbing Bear Mountain was an amazing experience. I would highly recommend anyone in decent physical condition to attempt the full summit climb. This climb is difficult (not for young children), but taking your time and carrying the right supplies will sure to be, as Bob so elegantly stated, “A very memorable experience!”
Enjoy Trekking Bear Mountain!
View all images of the trail: http://www.arizonatrekker.com/treks/bearmountain/
View Complete Trekking Data: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move42781651/
View GPS Map and photo locations: http://www.arizonatrekker.com/arizonatrekker/treks/bearmountaingps/
From Sedona on Route 89A, go west on Dry Creek Road. Go. 2.9 miles to a “T” and turn left on Boynton Pass Road. Go 1.6 miles to another “T” and turn left onto FR 152C. Continue for 1.2 miles to the trailhead parking area on the left. Cross the street to the trailhead.