Rating: 4.6 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
- Consider a light weight Hammock for overnight adventure
- Trail map of Secret Mountain
- Optional: Trekking Pole for the ascent and descent
Approximate Trekking information:
Distance: Round Trip 10.37 miles (16.7 km)
Total Hiking Time Round Trip: 5.11 hours
Elevation at base 5,385 ft (low point 4,650 ft) to 6,591 ft at summit: 1,941 ft ascension climb
Metrics: 1,641 meters to (low point 1,417 m) to 2,009 meters: 592 meters ascension climb
Temperature for October 18, 2014: 61.4F to 89.8F / 16.3C to 32.1C
Loy Canyon Trail: Gradual Descent with Several Surprises
Loy Canyon Trail was an absolute surprise considering so few hikers attempt this longer trail in the Sedona Red Rock region. Preparation is needed, especially if traveling to Sedona from outside of town. My advice, coming from the Phoenix area, would be to take I-17 North then head west on 260 into Cottonwood. Since I trek very early in the morning to avoid late morning trail hikers, there is a 24-hour Walmart store once entering Cottonwood. If needed, you can pick up extra supplies such as water or trail mix, and use the restroom facilities. In Cottonwood, take Route 89A North toward Sedona.
If you already have a Park Pass, then head west on Forest Road (FR) 525. The Trailhead will be several miles down on the right. Keep in mind; FR 525 is a well-maintained dirt road.
The final two miles of the dirt road becomes much rougher and bumpier. However, I’ve seen standard cars (recommend higher suspension vehicle) making their way to the trailhead.
If you do not currently possess a Park Pass, then head directly into Sedona, head west on Dry Creek Road (turns into Boynton Pass Road), take a left at the “T”, then take another left at the “T” heading to Bear/Doe Mountain on the left. In the parking lot there is a cash or credit card machine allowing you to obtain a 24 hour pass. Once you have the pass, continue down the road, since it runs into FR 525 and take a right.
Entering into the Loy Canyon Trail region, the sights are spectacular. Red Rock mountain formations arise from the scenery allowing for several opportunities to snap wonderful photos.
There are two parking lots for Loy Canyon Trail. One is directly on the beginning of the trail (two parking spots), and the other is across the road with ample parking.
Loy Canyon Trail is broken down into four parts beginning with a:
- Soft sandy desert trail
- Hard packed dirt trail
- Steep ascending rocky path
- Very narrow meandering canyon trail
Soft Sandy Desert Trail
The gradual trail actually descends a half-mile onto private land (permission is given by owners). At 6:30am, I trekked past a distant home with the sound of a black dog barking at me until I was out of view.
Continuing down the path I noticed the trail was not marked very well. Accidentally, I took a slight detour down into a dry wash ravine, but quickly realized I needed to head back onto the correct trail. There are no white blazes to mark the trail, only occasional stacked rocks (cairns) at certain intervals.
As the trail descended ever so slightly, more and more vegetation came into view the deeper I meandered into the woods. I was greeted by a few crested blue jays zipping from branch to branch.
Then suddenly, one area of the path opened up into a beautiful display of short trees with full yellow foliage brightening the trail. The colors were amazing as they accented the jutting red rock formations and deep blue sky. Venturing onward, the trail began to level out then begin a gradual ascent.
Hard Packed Dirt Trail
As the sun was coming up behind me from the east, I noticed it wasn’t penetrating through the dense woods I had now entered. I enjoyed the fact that no direct sun was beating down upon me, however being in the shade early in an October morning was slightly chillier than I had anticipated.
I notice the temperature dropped about 8 degrees 69F to 61F (20C to 16C), so I picked up the pace a bit and warmed up.
The trail was very easy to trek at this point with tall trees surrounding on both sides. Every once in a while, the dense forest would open up giving spectacular views of the distant mountain scenery and red rocks. Pine trees were everywhere leaving their pinecones and soft needles on the ground below. The scent of the pine trees and the visual beauty was most memorable during this portion of the trek.
Approximately 3.6 miles (5.7 km) into the trail, the altitude began to increase sharply.
Steep Ascending Rocky Path
While coming out of the forested region of Loy Canyon Trail, the path slowly turned into a much steeper and rugged pinkish rock colored ascent. This is the most difficult portion of the hike increasing from 5389 ft to 6132 ft (1643 m to 1869 m) in less than one mile (2.54 km). But on most scales it is still somewhat moderate. Furthermore, at this point of Loy Canyon Trail, you are leaving the shaded canyon woods opening yourself up to a full sun exposure.
The trail itself was fairly easy to climb with good footing all around. At this point the trail sharply twisted and turned making its way up the side of the canyon. Breathing heavy and sipping cool water from my backpack bladder, I finally made it to the top of an incredibly wonderful plateau. Amazing views from all sides was well worth the mile effort of the steep terrain climb.
This point along the trail peaks off at 6132 ft (1869 m). On top of this plateau is an excellent location for overnight camping. A circular rocked campfire pit is already setup. Since the view was so awe inspiring, I decided to remove my pack and have a bite to eat and take a short rest. This part of the hike is most memorable due to its elevation, quietness, and incredible forested terrain view from above.
Very Narrow Meandering Canyon Trail
Immediately leaving the plateau, the trail becomes increasingly narrower. Not only does the path twist and turn along the upper elevation of the canyon, but yucca plants, prickly pears, and short stiff branched bushes close in on the path making the hike more of an obstacle course than a leisure stroll.
Although the trail itself is gradually inclining, the meandering portions exhibit very good views of the canyon hundreds of feet below. After a short trek, the narrow path begins widening back up leading to the conjunction of two trails: Loy Canyon Trail and Secret Mountain Trail. Stay left to complete the hike to the summit of Loy Canyon Trail. Nestled along the final few hundred feet of altitude, sparse forests of deep scented pine trees greet the weary trekker.
The Summit of Loy Canyon Trail is awesome. Not only is it tree protected from the elements, it’s flat, and soft pine needles cover most of the plateau area. But also, it is a great place to camp overnight. There is an existing campfire pit and plenty of room for numerous camping tents. Moreover, there are dozens opportunities to hang hammocks if sleeping above the ground is your preference.
The views are obscured towards the northern and western sides of the peak, but the canyon overlook is well worth the time and effort. The entire 10.37 miles (16.7 km) up and back, I only crossed paths with five other hikers. There was one couple, and a group of three overnighters.
If quietness and a tranquil nature environment is what you’re seeking, then Loy Canyon Trail is awaiting. Additionally, I would highly recommend Loy Canyon Trail for “Trail Running” due to its gradual incline and 80% shaded terrain.
View all images of the trail: http://www.arizonatrekker.com/treks/loycanyontrail/
View Complete Trekking Data: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move43318603
View GPS Map and photo locations: http://www.arizonatrekker.com/treks/loycanyontrailgps/
On Route 89A, go north on FR 525. The trailhead is 9.3 miles on right.