What do you do on a cold day in Sedona? Stay in bed? Drink a lot of hot tea? Sit in front of your fireplace and brood? No, you pile on the layers and join the Sedona Westerners and hike the best cold weather hike this side of the Mississippi and its located on Sedona’s Bear Mountain. Preferably, after a hearty breakfast and armed with a lunch and two liters of water, a small number of hearty or deranged hikers, Dogies (as we call the Tuesday hikers) carpooled at 9 AM from their usual rendezvous at the Posse grounds several miles out dry Creek road to the Doe-Bear Mountain Trailhead.
Surprise-plenty of room in the parking lot on this brisk morning, and we should have this usually popular hike to ourselves. A few yards across the road and into the sun, it soon became evident that dressing for subfreezing temperatures was entirely unnecessary in Sedona that day. Even before our leader marched us up the first of many steep inclines, we stopped to make a much-needed clothing readjustment. This became a common excuse to enable us to remain sufficiently oxygenated to keep pace with our trim and athletic leader, Robert Paterson. The trail entrance tests your pretzel making ability immediately (agility and flexibility) as you squeeze through a metal opening in the fence that is a little larger than your head. We are then reminded of the serious challenge that hiking on many Sedona trails offer as we note a sign erected in memory of one of our favorite past Westerners who completed his final hike here on this trail several years back,
For what this hike lacks in length, it makes up in steepness. This day we decided to go to the second bench or the first large drop off before the next major rise. This was high enough to gain expansive views down the valley to sycamore Canyon and across it to the Mingus mountain chain and the quaint mountain town of Jerome. We started, around 4500 feet, sea level for Sedonites and travel about half way to the summit at about 5900 feet. This trail is mostly in the sun, a problem in the summer, but perfect on this cool day. A small amount of snow was beginning to show up when we stopped, guaranteed to increase with increasing elevation as the summit is approached on the shady northern facing portions of this trail. This can be one of the more rugged hikes in Sedona, but well worth the effort, especially if you like getting close up and personal with the famous Sedona red rock. We finished our four-mile trek with the same number of Westerners all in one piece in around four hours thanks to our tailgater for the day, Phyllis Eliot. If this seems too much of an effort, there is Doe Mountain at the same trailhead, and much shorter in length and elevation. If you want more, go to the summit of Bear. No special equipment needed for our hike, but probably best to include instep crampons in your pack for a summit push until spring arrives.