Hikers Grin and Bear It

March 11, 2016

John Losse
By John Losse

The Thursday (Mustang) hiking group of the Sedona Westerners set off one winter's day to hike the second - highest mountain in Sedona's immediate area: Bear Mountain. This "peak" (it is pretty flat on top) is geologically part of the Mogollon Rim, but seems to stand alone because of eons of erosion. Bear's in-town sister, Wilson Mountain, is approached through forest and some grassy areas, but a hike to the summit of Bear Mountain is steep and offers almost no shade. In other words, it is a great hike for burning calories after the holidays.

To reach the trailhead, go out Dry Creek Road in West Sedona, turn left at each of the two stop signs, and look for a parking lot on the left, about a mile past the second stop sign. The trail starts on the right, across the road from the parking lot. A sign warns you to plan about five hours and take a gallon of water per person. While a bit less water is needed in cold weather, the hike is the same length 24 / 7 / 365.

A beautiful day and a beautiful view of Bear Mountain, the Mustangs destination this week.

The length is listed at 2.4 miles one-way. Plan on five hours because it climbs. There are some short downhill sections, meaning you have to do some of the vertical gain twice! A GPS would show the sum of the uphill sections to be 2200 feet, for an average percentage grade of about 17%. An average hiker in good condition is going to need every one of those five hours, even without stopping to enjoy the views.

And talk about views! After quickly crossing three arroyos in what was once cattle land, the trail's climb began, and so did the scenery. Across the way was Doe Mountain, to the left were the openings of many of the Dry Creek area canyons, and in the distance to the right was Mingus Mountain and, perched on its side, the town of Jerome. A little less than one mile in the hike emerged the second of two "step up" slots in red rock. There laid a flattish area that offered a great perspective back over what was accomplished, as well as distant views of Sedona icons such as Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Butte.

Between 1.5 and 2 in miles the trail offers sensational views across Fay and Boynton Canyons, and eventually all the way to Wilson Mountain. Much of this section of the trail crosses slick rock and is marked with small cairns and white blazes. In one section the trail crosses what appears to be corrugated Coconino sandstone, evidence of how this formation was created and then eroded away.

Sharing leader and tailgater duties on the hike were Bob Taylor and Bob Bareuther. They had the responsibility of scouting the hike in advance and judging whether recent snows had created any dangerous conditions. Fortunately, the route went up the south-facing side of The Bear, and any ice that remained was easily avoided.

Some hikers new to this hike believe they have reached the summit when they have not. There are some false summits along the way, and if you cannot see the San Francisco Peaks, we regret to inform you that you must keep going! In addition to seeing the Peaks, the Westerners were able to find lots of good seating for lunch before heading down. If you do this hike, you would probably need as much time to get down as you did to get to the top, so plan accordingly. You need to watch your step, and take time to enjoy those great views.

If you are interested in joining the club, visit the Sedona Westerners website or just come to one of our monthly meetings. The next one will be on Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 7 pm at Saint John Vianney Parish 180 St. John Vianney Lane in Sedona.


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