Hiking Mojave Heights with the Sedona Westerners Rough Riders

January 22, 2021

By Dr. Kelly-Leigh Thomas

Photo courtesy of Dr. Kelly-Leigh Thomas On a gorgeous autumn day in November 2020, some Rough Riders ascended a steep red rock slope with a beautiful hoodoo (fairy chimney) rock formation in the background. This giant red rock hoodoo, seen on the Mojave Heigh

On November 7, 2020, prior to the suspension of the Sedona Westerners hiking season due to Covid19 concerns, our Saturday group, the Rough Riders, enjoyed the Mojave Heights Hike. This hike was one of the Rough Rider’s more strenuous hikes with a distance of 7.5 miles and a vertical climb of 1500 feet! We limited the size of our hike groups to help us maintain the recommended 6 feet of social distancing.

The prep work for our guided hikes have always included a pre-hike by the Westerners Scouts to be completed 1-2 weeks before the scheduled hike. This pre-hike by the Scouts included the official Rough Rider hike leader Kelly-Leigh Thomas, myself, and co-leader Marisa Combs and followed the intended official route to assess any changes to the trail such as obstructions: Branches, fallen trees and the rotting javelina in the wash.

Our beautiful autumn hike started from the Boynton Trailhead parking lot where two groups were needed as a result of our enthusiastic hiker turnout. With help from my co-leader Marisa Combs, we started our 4 ½ hour hike. We left the parking lot and followed the Boynton Trail past Enchantment Ranch and enjoyed the red rock views of this beautiful box canyon that was in full autumn colors. While looking down at the trail is imperative to avoid stumbling, we did not forget to stop and look up at the views. There were pueblos nestled into the red rock that could be seen from the trail, just before reaching the back of the resort. While most local wildlife were quick to hide from all the foot traffic and chatter that happens on the trail, we did see a Spotted Towhee pecking for breakfast and soon after a squadron of javelinas crossed our path.

When the Scouts first developed this hike, a beautiful Mojave rattlesnake was spotted basking on the heated red rock - thus the name ….Mojave Heights Hike. The Mojave rattlesnake is native to Arizona and has one of the world’s most potent rattlesnake venoms that is neurotoxic-hemotoxic.

We followed the slowly climbing Boynton Trail that led to an amazing slick rock formation with beautiful canyon views. Here we took a snack break that included time to appreciate these sights. This enjoyment was often interrupted though as we spotted toilet paper, graffiti and rock cairns littering the landscape, an all too common sight. Along with an increased interest in hiking, a seemingly increase in litter has been observed this year by many of us who frequent these trails. One of our dedicated scouts has never failed to have a garbage bag with her, and sadly it has often been filled by the end of the hike.

Our hike was a loop that included two slots that provided a challenge for many to descend. There were some narrow ledges that had to be crossed that caused vertigo for some. Next came a climb where we gained over a thousand feet to a saddle that finally took us on the long walk back to the cars. After a hike like this, it was easy to understand how the Rough Riders got their moniker! If you want to experience this exciting hike, you’ll need to join the Sedona Westerners.

If you are interested in joining the Westerners club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at www.sedonawesterners.org/membership. Monthly meetings are only facilitated via Zoom at present until the Covid 19 restrictions are lifted.

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