The Mustangs Knock on Devil’s Door
April 08, 2022
By Dick Williams
Normal views of Devi’s Bridge show hikers standing on top of the iconic landmark. The tranquil view from below offers a completely different perspective.
Given it was deep into Spring Break, the Mustangs of the Sedona Westerners decided to get up early and try to beat the crowds this beautiful spring day. We met at Posse Grounds at 7:30 AM, hoping to go through our COVID and hiking safety reviews, form carpools, and head out in time to snag some of the coveted parking spots near the trailhead for the day’s expedition.
This morning, however we found many more cars at Posse Grounds than we normally see. We were excited about potentially having many new members, but alas, they were actually here to catch the first Sedona Trailhead shuttles of the day. It was great to see folks taking advantage of this free service that the City and the Forest Service worked so hard to get up and running.
So off we went up Dry Creek road. Although our destination was the environs of Devils Bridge, it was decided we would head to the Long Canyon trailhead and start our adventure there, using pieces of Mescal and Chuckwagon trails to get to Devil’s Bridge trail. Dry Creek Road was already jam packed with early bird hikers, and Mescal parking facilities, both new and old, were closed for final construction activities, but we handily found parking near the spot affectionately known as the mud puddle.
Jim Sweeny and Patrick McNabb were our leaders for the day, and after splitting into two groups, to put less stress on the trail, we headed up the hill. There was still a little chill in the air so in the shade it was cool, but soon the sun was higher and folks started to take layers of clothing off. The trail was pretty quiet today, with only a few hikers. We could see bicycle tracks in the dirt, but there were no bikers to be seen.
The recent rains had done several things to the trails. First, although not muddy, the ground was damp and offered a soft feel under out boots, which was a welcome respite from the normally dry and dusty conditions here in Sedona. Secondly, there was still water in numerous washes, with pools forming rippling reflections here and there. Add to that the emergence of beautiful lavender wildflowers, and cameras were working overtime taking pictures.
As we approached FS 152 there were many hikers coming from Dry Creek Road, making the right hand turn up the Devils Bridge Trail. Our two columns of hikers merged into the ribbon of backpacks and water bottles and headed towards the main attraction. As always, it was great to see families with kids out on the trails.
Our intent, however, was not to go up top on Devil’s Bridge, rather, we would go see it from below. Following the trail, we exited the crowds and went below the arch to see the sun peeking through the south side.
Leaving there and eventually heading back to FS 152, we were treated to great views of the surrounding area. From another vantage point, we were able to see the snaking line of hikers on the final set of steps below the top and the very long line of folks waiting to go out and get that prized picture standing on the arch. Armed with a set of binoculars, I was able to count 92 people in line, with another large number about to get in line. Although it is an interesting feature of the area, I feel bad for folks who come and wait upwards of 2 hours at the top just to get out on the arch. There are so many other wonderful experiences in the area that could be enjoyed in that long wait.
Heading onward, we had a great overhead view of Earl’s Cabin which was the subject of a recent excursion. A few short steps past FS 152 found us on Gunslinger Trail for a direct route back to the infamous mud puddle and our cars.
Today’s hike was over 6 miles long and had just about 1000 feet of cumulative elevation gain. Although everyone agreed it was a strenuous hike, the elevation changes came in a series of ups and downs, albeit some very steep downs, which is a very different experience than trails like Bear Mountain that just seem to keep going straight up a hill.
The drive back revealed that during our hike the construction barriers for the road parking at Mescal trailhead had been removed, and half of the newly painted spots were filled. Looking across the road and up the hill, the new parking area was getting the finishing touches of a new kiosk and general clean up. Although the path to the approval of this work at Mescal was very long and arduous, the actual construction seems to have gone quite quickly. It will be nice to try it out when it opens.