Mustangs can take the heat on a popular trail
December 18, 2015
by Michael and Velma Henry
It was hot. It was very hot. But no one was complaining. On October 15, 2015, the Sedona Westerners’ Mustangs group gathered in the parking lot behind the outlet mall in the Village of Oak Creek for their hike along the Bell and Weir Trails. Ms. Trish Travis was the hike leader. Ms. Gini O’Brien volunteered to be the Tailgater and keep the group together during the seven mile round-trip hike along this very popular trail.
The Bell Trailhead is located just over four miles east of the intersection of Interstate I-17 and Highway 179, at Exit 298. Drivers should continue eastward on FR 618 for approximately four miles until a signed intersection directs them to turn left. The trailhead parking is about a quarter-mile down the gravel and dirt road.
At the trailhead, informational signs identify where Bell Trail starts beyond the closed gate. Open the gate, step through and don’t forget to close it afterward. The trail is wide and easy, paralleling Wet Beaver Creek. The trail is also very exposed with little shade for relief on a hot, sunny day. Bring plenty of water.
Wet Beaver Creek's reflecting pool at the swimming hole is commonly referred to as the Crack. The Sedona Westerners Mustangs hiked here from the Bell Trail head.
The trail was named after local rancher, Charles Bell, who purchased the Bar D Ranch in Red Tank Draw in 1931. At the time, the automobile was becoming an increasingly popular mode of transportation and the traditional route for moving cattle was the Blue Grade Road west of Red Tank Draw. However, the increasing number of automobiles on the road as well as its traditional wagon traffic created safety concerns when moving the cattle herds. In 1932, Charles Bell constructed this trail through Wet Beaver Creek Canyon as an alternate route for moving his cattle.
Within the first two miles, several marked trails intersected the Bell Trail, but only one spur trail was to be explored on this hike, the Weir Trail. At two miles, the Weir Trail branched to the right and the Bell Trail continued to the left. A Forest Service sign and map post was located at this branch of the trail.
The Weir Trail led the hikers down to the creek side. Along the way, the Westerners encountered an old U.S. Geological Survey water gauging station. This station was of moderate interest to some in the group along with the small weir, or dam, for which this trail was named. At the creek, the hikers took a break to recharge and recover in the cool shaded opening under the cottonwood trees. The fall’s seasonal colors were starting to show in the foliage. After a brief rest, the group returned to the intersection of the Bell and Weir Trails and continued their trek along the Bell Trail.
From this point, the Bell Trail began an immediate moderate ascent. The Westerners’ hiked along the canyon wall trail which offered spectacular views of Wet Beaver Creek Canyon. After approximately another 1.5 miles, the trail descended toward the creek and a marked spur trail branched to the left. This spur trail was the path to their destination: the "Tongue of the Beaver", aka “the Crack”. After about 100 yards, the hikers saw the rock formation that resembles the beaver's tongue. This was a very beautiful location for the Westerners to take their lunch break. Before returning to the trail head, many of the group chose to explore the area around the creek with their cameras, a few chose to swim in the warm clear water, but no one chose to jump into the water from the rock cliffs. In spite of the heat, the consensus of the group was this was a great hike. The group’s experience in this area of the northern Arizona wilderness speaks to why this trail is a very popular hike.