Sedona Westerners Hike Abineau and Bear Jaw Canyons

December 01, 2017

By Mikki Hirschfeld

View from the top of Abineau Canyon. Fir and Spruce forest can be seen in the foreground, while cinder cones from the San Francisco volcanic field can be seen in the distance. The haze in the background was caused by forest fire smoke. Photo from Jeff Fargo

The Rough Riders group from the Sedona Westerners hiking club recently enjoyed the fall beauty on a hike in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area named the Abineau -Bear Jaw Loop. The hike started at a spacious parking area near a meadow of grass and wildflowers. After a short, level hike through the Ponderosa Pine forest, the trail splits and you need to decide to turn right or left. The left-hand trail follows Bear Jaw Canyon and the right-hand trail follows Abineau Canyon.

The Rough Riders chose the right-hand trail and were rewarded with a steep climb of 1800 feet in two miles through huge, old growth Ponderosa Pine trees and a trail covered with multiple-colored fallen leaves. Halfway up Abineau Canyon a dramatic, violent scene unfolded before our eyes; thousands of trees were piled on top of each other, filling the entire canyon floor. This was due to an avalanche in 2005. New growth Douglas Fir trees are beginning to grow in between the dead trees.

At the summit of the Abineau Canyon trail, we were treated to an amazing 360-degree view. The view to the southwest was the summit of Humphreys Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona, weighing in at 12,633 feet above sea level. The view to the northeast was the Painted Desert, which extended all the way to the Echo Cliffs.

The trail then became a narrow, level forest road with a rusty, abandoned water pipeline running down its center. This road is part of the Flagstaff watershed project that was built to tap the spring in Abineau Canyon. The road is part of the non-wilderness corridor, open only to authorized vehicles and rarely used (Northern Arizona, Guilford, CT, Morris Book Publishing, LLC.).

After two miles of hiking on the forest road, a trail sign directed our group to make a left turn and descend to the bottom of Bear Jaw Canyon. Here, unbelievably tall Aspen trees ascended to the blue, cloudless sky. All the leaves had blown to the ground in a recent windstorm. The day of our hike, the air was still and the views pristine. The ground glowed with the golden Aspen leaves and crunched beneath our hiking boots.

Along this part of the trail, the Aspen trees were decorated with carvings, both recent and old. The older carvings date back to the Basque Sheepherders, who camped in this area with their sheep. The carvings are outlined in black, caused by a tree fungus known as Aspen Canker. When the carvings are made in the soft bark of the Aspen tree, the cuts allow this fungus to enter the tree.

Our hike leader, Brad Bell, told us that these tree carvings are called dendroglyphs. Our tailgater, Gini O’Brien, made sure that all the Rough Riders hikers arrived back at the parking area safe and sound.  Such an enjoyable day of fellowship and beauty was had by all the hikers.

If you are interested in joining the club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at  You are invited to our next monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, January 11, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road.  Sedona Westerners, written this week by Mikki Hirschfeld, appears every Friday in the Sedona Red Rock News.


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