Hiking into Carroll Canyon
On a recent cool clear December morning a group of Sedona Westerners assembled at Posse Grounds Park to share rides to the Old Post trailhead on Shelby Road to hike into Carroll Canyon.
This trailhead location has a series of interconnecting trails including the Ridge, Carroll Canyon, the Post, and the Herkenham trails. They all lay within West Sedona, are mostly out of sight of developed areas and are closely connected at the Shelby Road trailhead located across from the recycling center. We entered here following the Old Post trail a short distance to the Carroll Canyon trail. This trail system is well marked with maps at each trail intersection. Some of the trails pass through groves of Arizona cypress and junipers and the area is rich in a variety of plant life native to Sedona and the Verde Valley. These trails have easy to moderate grades with little overall elevation change. Hikers can create their own hike distance and time by checking the US Forest Service map at the trailhead.
Around 1900, Tom Carroll homesteaded land in this area. Unable to make a go of it, he sold the land to Henry Schuerman who planted peach trees and irrigated them from Oak Creek. He became known for his peach wine making. A portion of this land became Red Rock State Park. When we entered the Old Post Trail we were treated to spectacular views early in the hike, plus a slice of Sedona History. This trail once served as a mail route in the horse-and-buggy days, thus the name Old Post trail.
After we left the Old Post trail, we continued on the Carroll Canyon trial and crossed the Carroll Canyon Wash. The wash was very serpentine, and the trail crossed it a number of times. At the fifth crossing we left the trail and made a left-hand turn onto the streambed, and followed it into the Canyon. As the Canyon rose up on both sides, the streambed turned into a bit of boulder-hopping. It had a continuous series of terraces and drop-offs that needed to be carefully circumvented because of ponds and pools left by recent rains. A good presence of mind was needed.
In monsoon season, the canyon has some dramatic and exciting scenes as the streambed swells and plummets toward Oak Creek creating waterfalls, cascades and pools. We could see the canyon deepening with craggy cliffs on both sides further down, creating many beautiful spots for picture taking. This hike also takes hikers up on some high sections giving a chance for scenic picture taking, so don’t forget to bring a camera. As the streambed works its way out of the Canyon it intersects the Herkenham Trail where it crosses the wash. A rock cairn is on the slope to the right.
We exited the streambed on the left side and continued onto the Herkenham trail. We were greeted with beautiful views of Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, The Pyramid and Napoleon’s tomb. We crossed Chavez Road and continued for several hundred yards onto a visible saddle and overlook that had panoramic views of Red Rock Crossing and the Crescent Moon picnic area. We took advantage of this sunny resting place had lunch and enjoyed good conversation. After lunch we continued back a short distance to a junction of the Ridge Trail we had passed earlier while coming into the trail. It forked off to the right and took us back across Chavez Road and up an easy gradient onto Table Top Mesa. This trail paralleled Carroll Canyon and had great views as it zigged-zagged back in the direction of Airport Mesa. There were two forks along this section of the trail and we stayed to the left on both. We continued along the Table Top Mesa and the Ridge Trail, formed a loop back to the Carroll Canyon trail and then to the trailhead and parking lot.
This is a very exposed hike and even on a cool day the temps can feel hot, making it necessary for hikers to wear hats and bring plenty of water. Plus, having snacks is a good idea.
With a little planning and care, this is a most enjoyable and beautiful hike for both the seasoned hiker and novice. The Carroll Canyon area offers a number of trails, long and short, that rewards hikers with panoramic views representing the entire Sedona landscape. One can have a five hour hike, or a short relaxed morning hike and be back in time for lunch in Sedona.
If you are interested in joining the club, please go to our website at http://sedonawesterners.org 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.