Sunday Hikes: Devil’s Bridge Trail

Possibly the most popular hike in Sedona, Arizona is the Devil’s Bridge Trail. This is the largest sandstone arch in the Sedona area. There are multiple hiking routes to get to the Devil’s Bridge, but we took the most direct route. Tip: get here early to beat all the Jeep tours.

We walked the high clearance dirt road to the final leg of the hike, but our Jeep Patriot could have handled it easily. This made it a 3.7 mile round trip. If you drive out the high clearance road then you can hike as little as 1.8 miles round trip. There are alternate routes that are over 5 miles round trip and are less crowded.

The final leg is mostly up and has a few fun scrambles. It was pretty icy while we were there so we had a little more fun than usual. The views of the Sedona area are amazing from up on high.

One of the interesting things about Devil’s Bridge is that you get to go on top of the arch. Most arches are not that way. As you can see from the pics that is is pretty exhilarating on top, especially when icy.

This is a great fun hike, but again I caution to get out there as early as possible to beat the crowds. Thanks for reading. rk

Picture of the Day: Red Rock State Park

Red Rock State Park is located about 5 miles from Sedona AZ. There are 5 miles of interconnected trails throughout the park. Josh and I did several of the loops including the Javalina Trail and Yavapai Ridge. We were hoping to spot some Javalinas but they were hiding from us. rk

Sunday Hikes: Blue Mesa Trail

The Blue Mesa Trail is a one mile paved loop trail in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park. The trail takes you through blueish-gray badlands littered with petrified logs and a couple signs about the areas history. According to one of the signs this area was once a swamp filled with dinosaurs but now it’s a unique and beautiful desert filled with Dino ghosts. Petrified Forest is one of the most fossil filled places in the country and Blue Mesa has some of the most fossil discoveries in the petrified forest. So keep an eye out while hiking and maybe you’ll spot a prehistoric giant alligator skeleton sticking out of the ground (probably not though).

I woke up early in the Kaibab National Forest 15 minutes from the Grand Canyon’s rim where I had spent the previous day. I made some coffee and hit the road for Petrified Forest National Park. I got to petrified forest around 9am and I spent my whole morning in the southern end of the park where the majority of the petrified logs are. Around noon I arrived at the Blue Mesa area and set off to hike.

The trailhead has great views of the surrounding desert and it looks like the perfect western landscape looking out at the rugged terrain while a train chugs along in the distance. There is a “sun shelter” at the trailhead which is a nice spot to make a little lunch before or after the hike. The trail is paved for the entire mile but is very steep at the beginning as the trail drops from the top of the mesa to the bottom. I loved the views from here as I descended into the ancient dino swamp.

After the steep descent the trail is mostly flat as it makes a loop through the bowl shaped area created by the walls of badlands around. My favorite part of this trail was how the badlands looked completely different from every angle making it feel like there was always something new to look at and examine.

The park’s namesake petrified forest of logs also inhabits the Blue Mesa reminding everyone that there used to be trees in this now empty desert.

I made my way around the loop, taking pictures along the way and then found myself at the bottom of the steep incline back up to the trailhead. I was surprisingly winded once I reached the top so I took a second to drink some water and enjoy the badlands once more before I departed from the area.

The Blue Mesa Trail was one of my favorite hikes I did that day and I would gladly return to hike it again!

Thanks! – Josh

Picture of the Day: Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam is awesome! It is an American icon of ingenuity in the west and the history behind it is enthralling! The scale of it is enormous and the canyon it sits in is beautiful making me wish I could go back in time to explore it pre-Dam. I love taking pictures here and was happy to visit recently and get some pics. Here are a few I took while the water was a vibrant blue-green popping in contrast to the canyon’s tan and brown walls.

Thanks! – Josh

Picture of the Day: Santa Catalina Mountains

This is a picture of the Santa Catalina Mountains northeast of Tucson, Arizona. I took this picture from Saguaro National Park in the spring. The Sonoran desert get very green and full of life in springtime as you can tell from the lush landscape of saguaro cactus and other desert plants leading up to the mountains.

Thanks! – Josh

Camping: Alamo Canyon Campground

Organ Pipe Cactus are a type of cactus that grows in the rocky Sonoran desert with many tall stems that grow from one short stump resembling a pipe organ. Their territory falls within the Saguaro’s territory and just like their iconic cousins the Organ Pipe Cactus only grow in southern Arizona and Northern Mexico. Out in the remote Arizona desert on the Mexico border is Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This is one of the best places to explore these plants limited range and just like any remote National Park the best way to explore is by camping. The monument has two campgrounds, a larger one with running water and showers and RV hook ups, and a primitive one with a vault toilet and only four campsites out in a remote part of this already remote area. Naturally I chose the small remote Alamo Canyon Campground over the larger Twin Peaks Campground in my recent visit.

To reach the campground you must drive south on Highway 85, just before you enter the National Monument you will pass a border patrol checkpoint on the north side of the road, once you enter the Monument the campground is located down the unmarked dirt Alamo Canyon Road at mile marker 65.5. The road goes for 3 miles before dead ending at the campground and is suitable for most cars.

While driving down this road late at night I noticed a flashing blue light in the direction of the campground. I thought perhaps it was a police car or park ranger but as I got closer I realized it was a tall 30 foot pole with a large box bolted on. The box had a large red button with simple instruction above: “press if you need help”. This vague button with the combination of signs in the park saying that known smuggling routes exist in the park was a little disconcerting.

We arrived at the campground around 10pm and quickly set up and spent some time watching the stars. Having only seen this area at dark at this point I couldn’t help but feel a little spooked from the tall Saguaro silhouettes and the looming rocky mountain behind us but at the same time it’s hard to feel too spooked with the stars unfolding in the sky.

In the morning the place felt peaceful and quiet and we enjoyed our coffee among the tall cactus before departing. I really liked the Alamo Canyon Campground and will go back as soon as I can! There’s nothing like camping out alone in the desert wilderness!

Thanks! – Josh

Sunday Hikes: Wasson Peak

I visited Saguaro National Park for the first time a few years ago and loved it! I visited the west side of the park (or Tucson Mountain District) for the first time in April this year. Saguaro is unique among the National Parks because of its proximity to a fairly large city. The Park is cut in half by the city of Tucson and each side has its own special features. On the east side (or Rincon Mountain District) the park’s namesake cactus that only grows naturally in southern Arizona and Northern Mexico are older and larger (meaning they are often 100+ years old and can reach astounding heights close to 50 feet tall). In contrast the west side’s Saguaros are younger but more densely populated. The east side also provides the opportunity for backcountry camping along the Tanque Verde Trail in the Rincon Mountains. While the west side doesn’t have backcountry camping it does boast the highest peak in Saguaro National Park, Wasson Peak at 4,687 feet above sea level.

So out of desire for great views and a great hike Erin and I set off in the early afternoon to take on the 7.8 mile hike up to the peak and back with 1,800 feet in elevation gain. Before setting off we decided it would be smart to ask a ranger for the best route since there are many intermingling trails in the park that can take you up to the top. The park ranger said he thought it would be best to hike up the King Canyon Trail and back down via the Gould Mine Trail. He also recommended to go up the wash that runs parallel to the first section of trail because the terrain is a bit easier to traverse and there would be more shade. We thought that all made since so we headed out towards the trailhead excited for our hike! I quickly filled my water bottle up and above the water fountain I noticed a sign warning of “Africanized Killer Bees” in the park. It warned how painful their sting is (though not really deadly) and that if you disturb them they will chase you for up to a quarter mile. I showed Erin and we both agreed that we didn’t want to run into any killer bees.

Finally at the trailhead we started our hike from the King Canyon Trailhead. You can either go straight and up along the old jeep road paved with loose gravel or you can go left and down into the wash that has nice rocky footing and more shade from the Arizona sun. I recommend the former and here is why. We went in the wash just as Mr Ranger Man has suggested and it was all great and dandy. Their were lots of Saguaros to take pictures of along with the blooming ocotillo and lizards galore hopping about.

We hiked for about half a mile and then the trail began gaining elevation via a slight incline but mostly through small cliffs that we climbed up with ease while picturing the waterfalls that form here when large rains fall.

In the next quarter mile we encountered a couple more of these small ledges before coming to the largest one that was a little taller than me. I began climbing up and as I poked my head up above the top my ears were filled with the buzzing of bees and my eyes took in the terrifying sight of a hundred killer bees that had taken up residence right in the middle of our wash. Without much thought I hopped down from the cliff and we started back to take the jeep road. Luckily the bees were busy bees and didn’t pay us much mind but we didn’t want to risk trying to go around the bees since it felt like the permeated the entire airspace above the trail. And so we hiked back 3/4 of a mile cursing that ranger for sending us into the hornets nest.

By the time we returned to the trailhead the sun was right overhead and gave us a typical springtime temp of 90°F with no wind chill. The jeep trail gained elevation much steadier than the wash and we quickly were treated to great views of the desert and mountains behind us and our mountain top destination in front.

Pretty soon we had finished the first mile of trail (not including the wash detour) and were at the first of many crossroads. To the left you could go to the hike-in picnic ground and connect to the Gould Mine trail (where we would later descend) or continue straight and upwards to Wasson Peak.

That is what we did and with most of our elevation gain ahead in the next 2.5 miles. As the trail steepened the view widened and the sun beat down harder on us. In the most strenuous parts of the trail with no shade whatsoever we would use the thin shadows of the Saguaro to hide from the suns insidious rays. (I say “we” but I really mean Erin did that while I poked fun at her even though I knew it was a brilliant plan). Anyways we kept on upwards while the sun shone down and we cherished every time the occasional breeze would blow by to keep us going.

After another 1.5 miles we created a ridge that then gave way to our first views of Tucson and the eastern mountains. The view to the west was great too and we took a moment to take it in. Here we met our second crossroads with a right turn on the Sweetwater trail that goes around Wasson Peak and meets with the northern end of the park and a left turn leading to our summit.

Soon after the left turn we crossed over a fallen Saguaro in the trail that seemed like before its downfall was one of the larger cactus around.

After a horseshoe of a turn in the trail and before the next we spotted a fenced of area to the right and went to investigate! The fence blocked off entrance to a cave where miners once dug for iron. With rusted iron bars obstructing the deep blackness of the cave it made me think two things, one being that I wish we could take advantage of this cave’s shade and secondly that somewhere in that blackness could be the den of a cougar which I shuddered at the thought of and decided to continue on hiking.

After another mile from our last split we reached the third crossroads. A left turn which began descending back to the parking lot and a right going another third of a mile to the top.

The homestretch was upon us and forgetting the heat we rushed to the top and were treated to 360° views of the beautiful Arizonan landscape. There are many reasons why I love the desert and a big reason is it’s lack of obstructions. In our home state of Georgia we are at all times surrounded by forest and even atop our highest mountains the trees cloud the earth below (not to say it isn’t pretty. I love Georgia’s mountains). Out West in the desert though the landscape rolls out and unfolds forever only interrupted by large mountains or the limited sight distance of the human eye. Sadly though no matter how many carrots a human eats their eyes reach a limit and there’s no way around it. There is a way around the mountains though and that is to climb them. From atop a mountain in the desert the earth shows its form and what looked like a hill or a ditch from the bottom becomes a part of a landscape that no man could create that despite being dirt and rock comes alive and fills me with excitement and awe.

Anyways after taking all that in it was time to start back on our 4.3 mile return trip. Back down from the mountain we went and along the rest of the trail the views were great as the sun went from it’s piercing position up above to meet the horizon. After a quick two miles of downward hiking and all around enjoyment of our surroundings we came to our next crossroads with four directions all shooting of in different directions to different corners of the park.

Our turn was left and so we went left to connect to the Gould Mine Trail. The crossroads sat atop a ridge and the trail went down the side and turned back east to cling to the canyons side that led us back to the trailhead. We turned a corner and noticed a deep orangey red dirt ahead that stood out greatly from the tan dirt we were used to. Turning the corner more we saw another fence and larger iron grate that covered a deep mineshaft whose bottom must have been in the earths core. I assume the redness of the dirt was either because the miners accidentally came across some artifact that cursed the land and made it red or because of the iron they were mining.

There was also an old stone miners hut here.

After we passed the mine we came across a lot of old rusted metal from the miners lunch boxes and tools. We passed another mine shortly after that one and kept on down the trail that now took us through the valley’s floor. The sun was setting quickly now and as the changing light gave a golden hue to the desert we were suddenly back at the parking lot after crossing the wash that we had started in so long ago.

With a bit of a drive ahead of us to our next destination we made some coffee and got rolling but not before taking some pictures by the entrance to the park as a classic Saguaro sunset unfolded before our eyes.

This hike is one of my favorites and I’m very glad we hiked up to Wasson Peak and would encourage anyone else that loves a good hike and great views to do this hike as well!

Thanks! – Josh

Picture of the Day: Pronghorn Antelope

The pronghorn antelope is a creature that would fit in perfectly in the African savanna. They are native to North America’s plains and deserts though. I have seen them running across the badlands of New Mexico, playing around the high altitude plains of Wyoming, and grazing in Bryce Canyon National Park.

I spotted this pronghorn while driving through Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. It was hanging out on this hill all alone which is strange since they are typically herding animals. It was exciting to see this animal and made my afternoon in Petrified Forest even better!

Thanks! – Josh

Throwback Thursday: Josh at Saguaro National Park

Fellow blogger, Josh, returned to Saguaro National Park this week. Unfortunately this time without yours truly, It looks like he had as nice of weather as we had 2 years ago.

Spring 2018 (like yesterday!)

Spring 2016

Friday Favorites: The Grand Canyon

I love the Grand Canyon. It is God’s creation at its finest. Most visitors see the iconic views from the edge of the canyon, but never see the Colorado River that formed it. This video was taken from the South Kaibab Trail where you can see the foot bridges crossing the river. If you can see in the distance downstream, there is a second foot bridge that takes you back to the top via the Bright Angel Trail.

read about this hike here:

https://bighorntravelblog.com/2016/09/18/sunday-hikes-south-kaibab-and-bright-angel-trails/