Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

March 6, 2015

Wilson Mountain South to North - New Sites to Behold


by Alan Gore

Only one Sedona Westerners hike was scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving, Tuesday’s climb to the first bench on Wilson Mountain, this time a small group led by club veteran Al Abbott. They started at the Midgley Bridge parking area, with the Erector-set bridge beams gleaming behind them in the morning sun as they organized a car shuttle for this five-mile hike that was to start and finish at different trailheads.

Overlooking Midgley Bridge and Sedona from Wilson Mountain. Photo by Alan Gore.

The Wilson Mountain trail is ideal for late November, when the almost shadeless climb up the south side of Wilson to the flat-topped saddle below the Flagstaff-altitude summit could still be cool and inviting. As they climbed, the views kept on getting better as Midgley shrunk below: the spired back wall of Steamboat Rock, the distant ranges with a part of Uptown Sedona below them, and the lower section of Oak Creek Canyon. They crossed layers of basalt, representing ancient lava flows, and admired the multiple basalt flows stacked a few hundred feet higher near the summit. Apparently an intervening earthquake fault after the single layer of lava was laid down separated it into the two distinct segments we see on Wilson today.

When the Wilson Mountain Trail flattened out to form the saddle, the climbers paused for lunch. Though the bench is as open as the south-side trail leading up to it, it has a scattering of picturesquely tortured dead trees and a view just above the undulating rimrock of Oak Creek Canyon. At their backs, high up under the summit lava layer, was the most unusual sight of the hike, a dark red bluff with a steeply inclined, curving lighter band of rock running through it. What forces must have been at work in that small area around the bluff to have formed a layer inclined at a totally different angle from the sedimentary layers around it! Or was it an unusually pale intrusion dike, formed by magma squeezing up into the formation through a crack?

After lunch, the group crossed to the north side of the bench and looked down into the straight side canyon where the North Wilson trail ran, leading to Encinoso Campground. The top section of this trail took them steeply down the side canyon wall, into sheltered forest that still held the last remnants of fall’s reds and yellows. On the canyon floor the trail passed through thick clusters of black pine and the occasional ponderosa. Blackened trees started to appear, ‘spottings’ from the Brins Mesa fire of several summers ago, with larger burned areas showing up lower down the trail. Above, banded red-and-white walls closed in as the group neared the intersection with Oak Creek Canyon.

One more oddity awaited just above the end of the trail at Encinoso. Across Oak Creek Canyon, in the middle of a high cliff wall, red rock seemed to be breaking away to expose fresh white limestone behind it. Although a prominent limestone band appeared at the base of the cliff, there was no such layer in the vicinity of the newly exposed face. What could be going on here? As we reached the roadside campground, the leader made a mental note to bring a geologist along next time.

If you are interested in joining the club, please go to our website at or just come to one of our monthly meetings. The next one will be on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road.