The Sedona Rough Riders Hike Beautiful Long Canyon
February 03, 2023
By Harold Brockwell
Although the Long Canyon hike is mainly along the canyon’s floor, some of the real vistas are up above. Here is a view of the iconic Ice Cream Cone formation.
Saturday November 26 was a perfect Sedona hiking day as the Sedona Westerners Rough Riders met at Posse Grounds for their annual hike in beautiful Long Canyon. Important club safety rules and regulations including special Covid 19 guidelines were read and acknowledged. Spirits and enthusiasm were high as the large turnout was divided up into two smaller groups.
Both groups loaded up in a minimum number of vehicles for the short ride to the Long Canyon Trailhead, so that parking places would not be and issue. The Long Canyon Hike was a typical Rough Rider hike and included about 8 miles of hiking and 1300 feet of elevation gain. Harold Brockwell (Author) and Trisha Travis were hike group leaders and Jay Mackey and Linda Archer were the tailgaters.
I was excited. It was most appropriate that Long Canyon be my first hike to lead as a Sedona Rough Rider. Long Canyon is one of the most classic and beautiful of the many Sedona Canyons. In support of its name, Long Canyon is over four miles long and it has so much to offer; many side canyons, red rock cliffs and ledges galore, red and white surrounding peaks and ridges, iconic rock formations, and the whole gamut of trees, desert plants, and flowering plants.
Long Canyon also has much historical significance as it was one of the major canyon systems inhabited by the ancient Sinagua cultures as much as 900 to 1200 years ago. During that time period, the Sinaguas were mainly an agricultural society, growing corn and cotton and agave but also hunting wild animals for meat. Their homes consisted of small groups of single and multi-roomed houses built of stone blocks and mortar and located high on the red rock cliffs and ledges for protection. The arable parts of the canyon floor would have been characterized by small fields and gardens of corn, cotton and agave.
The first couple of miles on the trail were easy going with the clear trail zigzagging through a large Manzanita grove. From this section of the trail, where Long Canyon was wide and shallow, we had clear views of the more distant ridges and iconic rock formations. Some of these surrounding scenes included Wilson Mountain, Maroon Mountain, Steamboat Rock, and well-known rock formations including Ice Cream Cone and the three nearby slender rock hoodoos that I call Three Fingers. Walking along parts of the trail we were looking almost straight up in awe at these gigantic towering cliffs and rock formations.
Soon the canyon began to narrow, and we entered groves of juniper trees including the huge stately Alligator Juniper with their rough bark resembling an alligator’s scales. Next, beautiful Arizona Cypress trees began to appear with their beautiful smooth purplish colorful bark. Arizona White Oak trees were also scattered throughout this area. They are truly evergreen deciduous tree. Their leaves turn beautiful fall colors and drop off in the springtime. A grove of these trees can make the forest look like autumn in the springtime.
Further up the trail in the higher elevations, the huge Ponderosa Pines were magnificent. In this upper end of Long Canyon the wooded areas were interspersed with some open red rock ledges and rock formations and some large flat areas of desert terrain.
Excellent monsoon rains in 2022 resulted in much new, lush growth all along the trail including Prickly Pear Cactus, Agave, Yucca, and many beautiful desert wildflowers, some so tiny that you would miss them if you were not paying close attention. For snacks breaks and lunch, we found some beautiful open red rock areas where we could look up and down the length of Long Canyon at the incredible and seemingly endless array of beauty. The most incredible part was as far as you could see, there was no sign of other people!
The Sedona Westerners always welcome new members. Although today’s article is from the Rough Riders, our most advanced hiking group, we have hikes multiple days of the week for all abilities. If you are interested in joining the club, please visit our website at sedonawesterners.org. You will find an interesting history, the whole season’s list of planned hikes, and a handy membership link. It only takes five minutes to sign and start your new adventures here in the Red Rocks.