Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

December 28, 2012

Hiking The A.B. Young Trail


by Kevin O'Connor

Arthur B. Young was a CCC crew supervisor in the 1930’s who reconstructed the former Sand Hole Trail, built by Al Purtymun in the 1880’s. Originally, according to historian J. Kindig, Purtymun shuttled cattle from Oak Creek Canyon to grazing land on the East Pocket of the Mogollon Rim via this trail. The Mustang group of the Sedona Westerners, lead by Doug Reinika & Al Abbott, followed this path on a recent Thursday. Perlina McCombs tailgated to insure no one was left behind.

Now part of the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness area, the AB Young Trail rises through 33 switchbacks to several Oak Creek Canyon overlooks and on to a fire lookout tower. With a 2000ft total climb, A. B. Young is one of the more difficult hikes in the Sedona area, but it can also be one of the more rewarding ones.

Seven Canyon Vista view is as much breathtaking as it is magical. Photo by Kevin O'Connor.

The group met at the trailhead located in the Bootleggers picnic area on the east side of Oak Creek, which meant that they had to cross the creek to reach the main trail. Depending on the local creek conditions, this crossing could have been challenging for some hikers. They came prepared with water shoes and hiking poles, but due to lack of rain, they crossed easily and all but one hiker remained dry!

The climb out of the canyon offered them a continuously changing view southward down Oak Creek Canyon, and soon they had a magnificent view of the East Mogollon Rim and the plateau eastward. Several hikers commented on the startling rise of the western canyon wall over the eastern rim. Once at the top of the rim it was time for a snack break and a chance for the group to acclimate to the elevation. From the trail-top rim edge to the fire watch tower was a leisurely one mile walk.

The watch tower, on East Pocket Knoll, is likely the highest location in the Sedona – Oak Creek Canyon area at 7196ft elevation. Unfortunately, the stairway to the lookout platform was closed to hikers and the ground level view was limited by the dense rim forest.

To get a better view, the hiking group used Forest Service Road 321 as a guide to reach the East Pocket Tank, a hike of about 3/4 mile. From there they hiked another 3/4 mile to the southern edge of the East Pocket overlooking Narrow Canyon. From the rock escarpment they could see the entire Seven Canyons area (actually ten canyons). Since it was about Noontime, the group dropped their packs among the rocky outcroppings and settled down for lunch.

Several of the more experienced members, pointed out the surrounding landmarks and their experiences hiking the mountains and canyons surrounding Sedona. In the distance they could see Mescal, Doe and Bear Mountains, the Grassy Knolls, Cocks-Comb, Chimney Mountain, and Capital Butte among others. Doug, the leader that day, threw out a challenge to anyone who could name the Seven Canyons. The challenge was not successfully answered by anyone at the time!

Following lunch, it was time for the group to pack up and head out for the return trip. There was agreement among the hikers that exploring the more challenging trails in the Sedona area provided a unique and worthwhile experience to temper the difficulties along the trail. One of these occurred back at the bottom of the canyon when many in the group stopped to comfort their tired feet in the cool spring waters of Oak Creek! As often happens following strenuous Westerner hikes, many in the group chose to stop on the way out of the canyon for refreshments at one of the many excellent establishments found along Highway 89A.

The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining, visit You also may join at our monthly meetings. The next one is January 10th, 2013 7:00 PM, at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.