Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars
Recommended supplies and information:
- Bring at least 80 ounces (about 2 liter) of water
- Water Purification System (water locations are seasonally available)
- Small First Aid Kit
Approximate Trekking information:
Total Distance with Bike and Additional Hiking: 16.3 Miles (26.2 km)
Bear Sign Trail Distance Round Trip: 4.3 miles (6.9 km)
Dry Creek Trail Distance Round Trip: 4.0 miles (6.4 km)
Total Hiking and Biking Time: 5.22 hours
Elevation at base 4,488 ft to 5,302 ft: 814 ft Ascension Climb
Elevation at base Metrics: 1,367 meters to 1,616 meters: 249 meters Ascension Climb
Temperature for June 1, 2016: 84.4 F to 99.9 F / 29.9 C to 37.7 C
Access to Bear Sign Trail
There are two ways to access Bear Sign Trail.
- To hike Secret Canyon Trail to David Miller Trail to intersect Bear Sign Trail
- To ride, drive or walk to the end of Vultee Arch Road (Dry Creek Road) and then trek Dry Creek Trail to intersect to Bear Sign Trail
A Great Adventure
In my experience, the best hiking trails in Sedona are the ones that are very difficult to access. The easiest access trails (Boynton, Fay, and Devil’s Bridge) are pretty, but also overly crowded with tons of out of town tourists. Plus, the noise level can be quite annoying at times.
My trip to Bear Sign Trail took some extra planning. I spent quite some time mapping the trails, searching out possible creek water holes, and tuned up my mountain bike. The entire trip was 16.30 miles which was about 8 miles of mountain biking to gain access to the trailhead of Dry Creek Trail.
I began my adventure on bike on Mescal Trail at Long Canyon Road. Snaking through black/blue diamond trails I met up with Chuckwagon Trail meandering me to the Devil’s Trail entrance at Vultee Arch Road. Vultee Arch Road then leads into Dry Creek Road. Passing the Secret Canyon Trail entrance, one more mile down Dry Creek Road the bumpy dirt road ends. The options at this point are to hike to Vultee Arch or hike Dry Creek Trail.
I rode my mountain bike about .25 miles on Dry Creek Trail before the trail became too burdensome. At this point, I hid my mountain bike in some thick brush about 30 meters from the trail. I left my helmet, dawned my hiking hat from my backpack, then removed my water bottle from my bike.
Hidden Water Holes
A few minutes trekking from my hidden bike location on Dry Creek Trail, I came to a large red rock cliff location on the westside of the trail. In the crevice at the base of the smooth rock was a small pool of rain water. At this time, I was getting very thirsty, so I guzzled down all of my water. I drank my water in the bottle water and most of my backpack bladder. In my backpack I always carry a UV Water Purification system by Camelback called, All Clear. Once I finished purifying the water and filling up to 100%, I was on my way.
Dry Creek Trail is anything but dry most of the year. Hidden at the lowest bases near some of the cliffs are pools of water in shaded pockets. It takes a little time to search for the water, but with a keen eye, it can be plentiful and rewarding. The image below is an example of a pool of water about 30 meters from the trail. This image was taken on June 1st, so I am not sure if water will be available in July and August.
Trekking Dry Creek Trail was a great experience. Most of the trail is shaded and thick vegetation is all around. Although there is not much of any incredible and gorgeous views, but canyon peaks and interesting red rock formations are bountiful.
About a mile hiking into Dry Creek Trail is the intersection of Bear Sign Trail. Bear Sign Trail takes an immediate western turn leading deeper and higher up into the canyon all the time snaking along a dried out creek. The two combined trails, Dry Creek and Bear Sign Trail, is a very easy to moderate hike with little exertion required.
It was actually quite beautiful and peaceful. I take into account I never came across another hiker. Sounds of birds, small lizards, and a cool breeze filled the mountain air. Yes, I did come across signs of bear droppings and claw markings along the way, but thankfully I never encountered one.
Another Trail Intersection
Gradually ascending up Bear Sign Trail for about two miles, I must say a feeling of solitude and tranquility can be found here. This is a great trail for trail runners and naturalists.
I would even consider staying over night in a mosquito netted hammock. Reaching my final steps to the end of Bear Sign Trail, the trail splits off once again. One split heads out north into Bear Sign Canyon Trail, and the other split heads southwest along the David Miller Trail.
David Miller Trail eventually leads into Secret Mountain Canyon Trail to complete a full loop back to Dry Creek Road. I would have continued along the loop, but I had to head back and pick up my bike hidden in the bushes.
The Hike Back
The hike back was terrific. Mainly all downhill, when I arrived back at the junction of Bear Sign and Dry Creek Trail, I decided to trek a mile or so into Dry Creek Trail North. As I expected, the trail was excellent and secluded meandering further up into the canyon. After a mile or so, I started heading back. The time was about noon and the heat was beginning to peak. I eventually arrived back to where my bike was along the trail and rode the rest of the way on the dusty Dry Creek and Vultee Road. I went back down Chuckwagon successfully feeling the breeze through the shaded mountain biking trails.
I would highly recommend Bear Sign Trail to anyone. I would also like to mention, I could see larger and deeper pools of water along this trail but much further and in remote areas to access. I would in the future explore these off-trail.
My advice to anyone is to make your wilderness outing a complete adventure. Don’t allow a remote trailhead far from a parking lot to discourage you from exploring. I had to bike, seek water, and travel miles. But it was incredible miles with great and lasting memories. If you’re seeking quietness, beauty, one with nature, and individuality I would highly recommend this adventure for you. Bear Sign Trail… Go for it!
View all images of the trail:
View Complete Trekking Analysis One Way
View GPS Map and photo locations:
Enter into Sedona and travel west on Dry Creek Road which merges into Boynton Pass Road. At the intersection, take a right on Long Canyon Road. The large and free parking area will be on the right in 200 meters. Start on Mescal Trail heading east which runs into Chuckwagon Trail… take a left at intersection.