The Amblers Venture Into the Canyon of Fools

February 24, 2023

By Bea Hanks

Although most of the time the views from the Canyon of Fools is of a high muddy wall and tree roots, if you hang in until the end you are rewarded with a beautiful view of Mescal’s amphitheater.

The Amblers hike on Thursday, January 12th was called the Canyon of Fools.  In reality, it only used the Canyon of Fools trail as a starting point for a lollipop hike that visited Mescal Mountain and the Yucca Loop. Our 3.5 mile adventure had a modest elevation gain of about 300 feet.

After parking at the pull-offs on either side of Boynton Canyon Road, we broke into two groups.  One was led by Jim Meade and the other by Jon Petrescu. The tailgaters were Sarah Stiffler and Teri Petrescu, respectively.  Although the hike was pretty straightforward, the leaders always do a good job of scouting it several days before to insure it is safe and passable. The tailgaters, well their job is to make sure we arrive back to the trailhead with the same number of hikers we leave the trailhead with.

The ”Canyon” (apparently only fools call it that) is more like a gully with high sides with tree roots sticking out.  We’re told this used to be a cow path. As the cows tromped it down, the waters came and worked their magic.  By the looks of it, the erosion is still going on. It had been muddy, but was mostly dried up by the time we got there.

We headed down the gully and after a while walked across several drainages from Mescal Mountain. They looked like mini-washes, or maybe gullies, but drainages will do. As Matt Roberts, founder of Flagline trails advised at that night’s Sedona Westerners’ monthly meeting, the drainage crossings formed a little down and up, to let the water through without ruining the trail.

From the Canyon of Fools trail we saw Doe Mesa and the other side of Cockscomb, which did not look like a cock’s comb, because all the spires were visible from another angle. A beautiful view of Mescal Mountain loomed ahead.  On the trail we were headed to the big concave section, the “Amphitheater”, which looked like, well, a natural amphitheater.

Sure enough, the Mescal Trail took us up to the Amphitheater, where we followed the path along the rim. Although the view of the ledge from the distance showed a pretty formidable incline, it was not that narrow and provided a wonderful walking path. In one spot was a forest of ocotillos, which must look spectacular in the spring with their orange and sometimes red and yellow blooms. Not much else was blooming on this hike, as it was winter. We found a lovely break spot in the bowl of the Amphitheater, with room to spread out, and lots of rocks on which to perch and enjoy the views of Thunder Mountain in the distance.

Oddly, we encountered no bikes on the trails, although they bore signs of recent traffic (tread marks in the hardened mud) and the trail had been prepared for mountain bikes.  The signs “difficult” and “moderate” were meant for bikers, not hikers. Accordingly, on the Mescal Trail, we took the “difficult” path.

After traversing the Amphitheater we joined the Yucca Trail, heading down the hill down to rejoin the Canyon of Fools and returning to our vehicles.

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