Circling the Airport on Foot for Fabulous Views of Sedona

January 12, 2024


By Jon Petrescu

One of a trio of deer spotted along the Sunset Trail during a Rustlers’ hike to the Airport Loop Trail.

On a brisk morning in early December, the Sedona Westerners Rustlers hiking group gathered at Sunset Park. With a temperature of 34 degrees, it was the coldest start of a hike thus far for the Rustlers this season. There was even frost on the ground. Despite that, we had a large group that morning and everyone seemed well-prepared for the cold. One brave soul, who seemed to be immune to the cold, was just wearing shorts and a short-sleeved T-shirt. Though later, during the hike, he did admit that his hands were a little cold.

After the reading of the club’s hiking rules, we split up into two groups. From Sunset Park we headed up the Sunset Trail to join the Airport Loop Trail. The uphill section of Airport Loop gave us great views of West Sedona from the Cockscomb to the Steamboat formations. Before reaching the Airport Road crossing we were pleasantly surprised to come across three deer grazing in the brush. Of course, this was a great photo opportunity and the deer patiently waited and watched as several of us took out our phones and took a few pictures.

We crossed the road near the Airport Mesa parking lot and continued on the Airport Loop trail, taking it clockwise around. It had rained off and on the last couple of days and the sky was still overcast. The air was cold and damp, and the trail was somewhat muddy. But soon the sun broke out and suddenly it was warmer – or it felt that way after our uphill climb. We took the first of a few clothing adjustment stops to remove a layer of clothing. 

On the other side of Airport Mesa, views of Oak Creek and the 179 corridor opened up. Because of the low sun angle and the red rock formations being in shadow, we agreed a photo could not do justice to the beauty of this area. It would be best to come back in the afternoon to take western sun-illuminated pictures.

We met several small groups of hikers on the trail - some going in the same direction and passing us and some doing the counterclockwise loop. We helped a few with directions on how to get back to their cars so they could enjoy their next Sedona activity. Many of the hikers made comments on the beauty of the views though a few times we felt like ducking down as the helicopters and airplanes flew low overhead. We were near the end of the runway after all.

A major clothing adjustment stop was made before the climb up to the western end of the mesa. At the top, we met four Forest Service Rangers brushing along the trail and performing other trail maintenance work. It is due to the efforts of workers like these and other volunteer organizations that our trails are in good condition. We thanked them for the work they were doing.

About two-thirds of the way around we took a 20-minute snack and water break in a sunny area with rocks for us to sit on. The rocks on this side are all volcanic basalt. The Airport Vortex area is all red rock sandstone. We noticed the mud was a little slipperier in the volcanic area.

A little further along the mesa the Table Top Trail forks off the main Airport Loop Trail. We polled our two groups, and a small set of hikers chose to split off and take the extra trail. The rest of the group headed back to the Sunset Trail fork and back to their cars. Though we had warmed up from the hike, the temperature had only gotten up to 46 degrees and most folks were ready to go home.

For those who decided to take the Table Top Trail, it was a nice addition to the scenic hike. This was a short half-mile mostly flat trail that led to the southwestern edge of the mesa. The view of the Pyramid rock formation from this vantage point gave credence to its name as the angular slope of the visible sides has the distinct shape of an Egyptian pyramid.

Heading back down to Sunset Trail, the expansive views of Thunder Mountain and Coffee Pot to the north completed the 360-degree panorama offered by the Airport Loop Trail.

The Sedona westerners always welcome new members. 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 a few minutes to sign up and start your new adventures here in the Red Rocks.

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