Mustangs - Hiking Munds Mountain

March 05, 2021

By Ernie Pratt

Photo courtesy of Ernie Pratt This panoramic scene is visible from the top of Mund’s Mountain looking Northwest across Sedona towards the Mogollon Rim. In the foreground are clearly seen downtown Sedona, Sugarloaf, Thunder Mountain, and other iconic Sedona f

At 6838 feet Munds Mountain is the second highest of the peaks that surround Sedona.  However, Munds Mountain is first in providing extraordinary views of Sedona and has a better than average exposed geology. The mountain is named after William Munds, an early pioneer and cattle rancher who moved his cattle through this area from Verde Valley to Munds Park. Climbing Munds Mountain is not for everyone. The journey for our small hiking bubble of Sedona Westerner Mustangs starts with a rough jeep ride up Schnebly Hill Road in order to get to the trailhead which is just past the Merry Go Round, a well-known red rock formation. The hike to the top begins with the Schnebly Hill Trail which climbs moderately and steadily up the west face of Schnebly Hill, following the original alignment of wagon road that at one time was the main road between Sedona and Flagstaff. 

Our hike began on a beautiful sunny day and soon we were looking down on the Merry Go Round and its cluster of multi colored jeeps.   As we climbed this narrow track with sharp drop offs we can’t help but picture Ma sitting on the high wagon seat beside the driver, and kids piled on goods in the back chanting “I think we can, I think we can” as they laboriously climbed this hill.  Eventually the trail enters partial shade and turns sharply to the left following the upper rim. It continues to climb moderately through a pleasant forest with several overlooks offering great views of Munds Mountain, Bear Wallow Canyon, the Cow Pies and Sedona beyond.  Coming out of the trees the trail levels for the next quarter mile eventually descending to a saddle separating Schnebly Hill and Munds Mountain at the head of Jacks Canyon.  The trail at this point is covered by a fine, white, calcareous enriched powder.  Since stratigraphically we are roughly at the base of the Kaibab Formation it is a possible erosive source of this odd covering.   But it also looks like a reworked remnant of the Verde Valley Lake deposits.  This would result in a geological mapping surprise if that is the case?

The Munds Mountain Trail proper begins here with a steep, switchback ascent, climbing 500 feet in a little over a half-mile. There are fine views back over Jacks Canyon and the rim country all the way to the San Francisco Peaks.  The trail flattens out as it emerges on the broad, open, expanse of mountain top.  As we tiredly climbed, struggling with the footing and peered back down over the sharp drop offs we wondered how the ranchers got their cattle up here.  A mantra was developed, “If a cow can get up here then so can I” and up we went.

Having officially reached the top we now called ourselves “Mundsters” and headed south across the plateau.  Reaching the vista was well worth conquering Cat’s Claw and other scratchy things.  We looked down at Sedona’s miniature icons, the airport, downtown, Sugarloaf and Chimney rock clustered against the Mogollon Rim.  From here we could easily relive the various hikes we have long struggled with in the Sedona area; Soldiers Pass, Brins Mesa, Thunder Mountain and Chicken Point.  They looked very easy to hike from this height.  The vista held another surprise as our small group had now hiked through the Hermit, Schnebly Hill and Coconino Formations and up onto the Kaibab Formation. These are different rocks than what we normally hike and the formation is full of fossils.  Most common are the large silicified Thalassinoides Shrimp burrows that prominently erode out of the limestone matrix.  It is a geologist’s playpen.  We tiredly returned to the jeep and the bouncing ride home having hiked 8 miles and climbed 1700 feet.   On a reputable hiking scale the hike measured in at least 2 beers and ½ hour in the hot tub, a much deserved end to a good day.

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