Shhh... Want to Know a Secret?

April 8, 2016

Tom Makielski
By Tom Makielski

Actually, I have quite a few secrets to share with you...

I suppose the first one may not be much of a secret to some of you, but to the others... Vultee Arch Road (aka the notorious FR152) is NOT, I repeat, NOT a passenger car road. This story begins with a REQUIRED 4-wheel drive high clearance vehicle. Our vehicles took us, a group of Sedona Westerners, to a seldom visited canyon and its little known arch. The hike was led by Robert Patterson and Tom Makielski.


The view into Secret Canyon So beautiful no wonder it's kept a secret. Photo by Tom Makielski.

The trailhead (TH) is toward the end of FR152. The official Secret Canyon Trail (#121) actually has two distinct sections, each with a unique ecosystem and topography. There is also, what I would consider, a third section (even more secret) after the official end of the Secret Canyon Trail. This section climbs steadily to the north of Secret Mountain, but that's for another story.

From the TH, there's the initial north-south (N-S) big vistas, cactus, shrub oak and manzanita section and then there's the east-west (E-W) shaded canyon, ponderosa and fir tree section. Our destination, the Secret Canyon Arch, is located halfway along the E-W section of the trail, about 1.2 miles from where it turns west at the David Miller trail.

All good secrets should be experienced in solitude and silence. Appropriately, this is what you get out here. It is very quiet, especially the E-W section; no tour jeeps on FR152 out here.

The N-S section has a secret which will cool your aching feet on the return of the hike. This refreshing secret is a short section of an impressive slot in the creek with deep pools followed by an equally impressive slickrock beach; quite a surprise if you can find it (a hint... about a mile from the TH).

The E-W section has a secret too which will massage your neck and aching shoulders on the hike. It is a small 20 foot high picturesque pour-over waterfall. The trail passes nearby and you should be able to hear it.

Interestingly, less than an hour into our hike, we were surprised by a small group of hikers that had started from the TH at 6 AM! They were also Westerners, returning from a photo journey to this waterfall. We did not know that they would be out there. Our group, heading to the arch, was participating in a Mustang hike, done on Thursdays, which does some of the harder and longer hikes in the Sedona Westerners club. The club provides hikes for six levels of physical challenge and interests with the Mustangs as one of them.

After descending the site of the ruins, the Westerners adjourned to nearby Clarkdale to have lunch in the city center park and discuss their journey into the past at Tuzigoot and Hatalacva before returning to the Posse Grounds in Sedona, where they had begun the day.

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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