Hiking Carroll Canyon Trail

March 11, 2022

By Deb Hicks

A close-in gem, the Carrol Canyon Trail offers remarkable vistas with many of Sedona’s iconic formations.

On a chilly, sunny but windy morning in early February a group of Sedona Westerner Amblers, some new faces and some regulars, met at Sunset Park in west Sedona. The plan was to hike the Old Post, Carroll Canyon, and Ridge Trail loop, which is approximately 5 miles and rated as an easy to somewhat moderate hike.  This easy to access loop is a good introduction to the many trails available to hikers in the western end of Sedona and provides excellent views of most of the iconic Sedona vistas.

We started out on the Old Post trail which for the first mile or more runs behind the neighborhoods south of 89A between Shelby Drive and the Upper Red Rock Loop road.  These neighborhoods have easy access to Old Post and since I live in one of them this was the first trail I hiked after moving to Sedona.  Since it’s my go to trail when I want a quick hike, I’ve probably done it a hundred times and have had multiple wild life adventures along it, though no sightings were had on this day.  

Shortly after that initial mile we do our first of many wash crossings and start our first gradual but steady climb to get to one of the best views along it.  At the top of the first climb we can look north to view Thunder Mountain, which dominates the views from this part of Sedona.   Next the trail dips down a bit and then climbs again to a point where you can take an adjoining trail called Sky Walker, which climbs higher up for some 360-degree spectacular views.  A nice feature of the Old Post trail is it has multiple trailheads along it to many different hiking destinations in this part of Sedona. 

We stay on Old Post descending now for another quarter mile to reach our break stop and our turn off to the Carroll Canyon trail.  We stop at an outcropping of rocks overlooking the Canyon with views out to the back of Cathedral rock.  Although it’s sunny where we stop, the rocks we’re sitting on are still cold so we hastily eat our snacks and start up the Carroll Canyon trail.  

Hiking upward again to regain the high ground we had just lost we eventually come to another level viewing spot that gives us wide views across Sedona to Court House, Bell Rock and Cathedral. At this point we start descending along the rim of the canyon.  Today’s wind and sun give us clear weather and great distance view, but that being said my favorite time for viewing down into the canyon is in late afternoon before sunset when the light is soft, showing off the walls’ deep shadowy colors.  Today we can only enjoy them in the bright sunlight.

Eventually we’re down on level ground again and start crossing the washes at least a half dozen times. Most crossings are wide and shallow, and presently dry, but eventually we get to a crossing that takes us to the canyon entrance.  Here we go down the wash for a way to get a sense of being at the bottom staring up at the steep walls surrounding us. It’s a different type of view looking up instead of down.

As we continue, we come to where the Carroll canyon trail merges with the Ridge trail, which when continuing east takes us back to where we started but by turning south goes up along the ridge. We turn east to end our hike back at the Shelby road parking lot and cross Shelby to Sunset Park and our parking destination. We thank our hike leader before going our separate ways until the next time.  

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