Cibola Pass and Jordan Trail Loop

April 05, 2024


By John Regalski

The view down into the Devil's Kitchen Sinkhole left after the collapse of an underground cavern in 1989.

It was a Thursday morning in late February and time for another Sedona Westerners Amblers group hike. On this occasion, we planned a three-mile trek on the Jordan Trail and Cibola Pass (SEE buh-luh) loop starting from the Jordan Trailhead at the southern edge of the Red Rock Secret Canyon Wilderness. The hike had a cumulative elevation gain of 589 feet. Mark Antin and I co-lead the hike that day.

The trail took us through a verdant region of smooth bark Arizona cypress and Utah junipers which framed our view of many notable red rock formations, the first of which was the Mitten. Nearby is another rock formation that from the right perspective looks like a cat with its head erect and its tail and haunches raised in a perfect attack position. 

The route was lined with robust manzanitas, which were just beginning to display their rose-tinted white blooms. To complete this lush landscape, the forest floor was carpeted with various lilies and perennial bunchgrasses. Tracing their washed out and thinning stems to the ground, we were treated to a preview of the rich color and foliage to come this season. Luckily, cat claws and cacti were rare which spared my Lulu Lemon stretchy pants from snags. 

The Jordan Trail intersects with the Ant Hill Trail before it meets up with the Cibola Trail. We continued past that intersection on our clockwise loop. After about 1.8 miles on the Jordan trail - two thirds of the way through our adventure – Mark, whose wit is as quick as his stride, suggested that we “spice things up” and take a side trip to Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole. The .6-mile round-trip detour took us out of the woods and onto a level slick rock route. In the foreground directly in front of us stood Coffee Pot, while to our right the Sphinx, another Sedona red rock icon, could be seen eyeing our group. 

Once we arrived at the edge of the sinkhole, the view was quite impressive. The sinkhole measures 150 feet by 92 feet at the rim. The rubble created by the collapse of gigantic underground caverns in the Redwall Limestone in the 1880’s and again in 1989 sits 40-60 ft below the rim. Visitors are warned to remain clear of the edge should additional movement take place. 

Upon our return to the trail, we were treated to views of Steamboat Rock as well as the King and Three Queens formation. Upon re-entering the trail, we began hiking up Cibola Pass. It was there that we ran across a metal signpost that read “Cibola Pass Trail.” This guidepost, as well as others like, it is unique in that they exist only in the National Forest surrounding Sedona. In the early 1960’s, there were no trailhead maps or signs to indicate your location. With over 300 miles of trails at that time, locating a trail was a daunting task. 

In 1965, with the permission of the Forest Service, The Sedona Westerners erected ten wooden trail signs to assist the hiking public. Unfortunately, these signs quickly succumbed to vandalism and theft. Additionally, there was much confusion over the numerous landmarks located in the area. For example, Cathedral Rock was sometimes referred to as Courthouse Rock and Courthouse was called Church Rock. For this reason, the Westerners formed a historical committee to meet with longtime residents, descendants of the early settlers, and other “old-timers” to identify definitive names and bring an end to arbitrary designations. 

Recognizing what a treasure they had in working with these living historians, the Westerners interviewed their new friends and compiled a book from their stories and memories. That book, Those Early Days: A Pioneer History of Sedona and Vicinity, is still available for loan at the Sedona Public Library.  Proceeds from the sale of the book in part helped pay for the metal signs. In 1985, metal signs took the place of the wooden ones.  In all approximately forty-five metal signs were placed at the trailheads by the Westerners. The Westerners commitment to community service continues today with members volunteering and making contributions to help the Forest Service trail improvement projects.

If you are a hiker living in Sedona or just visiting the area, the Sedona Westerners Hiking Club is a great organization to be a part of. Visit our website at www.sedonawesterners.org for more information. With about nearly 30 hikes left in the hiking season, the membership fee of $30 is still a good investment. You can still become a member of the Westerners this season and join us for hikes and fun events now through May 9, 2024.

We continued our hike on the Cibola Pass trail until we ran across an open area with numerous flat stones which served as an ideal location for snack break. The views and conversations in our group were most enjoyable, so much so, that I completely forgot about eating my lunch. When the two-minute warning was announced, I hastily consumed my two packets of Lunchables followed by the remainder of my third donut, left over from breakfast. 

The final segment of the hike was brief, and we were soon back at our vehicles at the Jordan Trailhead parking lot, with plenty of time left to enjoy the rest of our day.

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