This seems to be my go-to trail in Sedona. I'm not sure why, as the first time Justin and I were on this trail Justin barely stepped on a fat Mojave green rattlesnake, which reared up and hissed at him and sent us flying down the trail. The second time I ran this trail I did not pack according the the weather (pushing high 90s) and ran out of water, making the experience miserable the last half hour to the car.
The Sedona trail system is vast and wherever you choose to go will not disappoint. This trail doesn't have a crazy amount of elevation gain; it's an easy path to wander while enjoying the scenery. This particular trail system is also easy to figure out with maps at each junction. Our starting point was also close to town, which was convenient for me since I always hang out at a cafe while Justin tacks on an extra couple hours to his runs.
I started at Midgley Bridge which has a nominal parking fee. I then ran up the Jim Thompson trail which connected me to the Brin's Mesa trail. The Jim Thompson trail has a small climb, and afterward the trail comes back down and is nicely shaded until you reach Jordan Road which is where you will find Brin's Mesa about 3 miles from the bridge. The trail is rocky (but run-able) so watch your footing. The views from Brin's Mesa are stunning with dramatic red rock formations as you can see in the pictures. Once on Brin's Mesa trail there is a short climb of about 600ft over 1.5 miles. I continued over the hill and ran through what felt like a meadow on the top of the trail and then back into a shaded area that felt canyon-ish. It was 14 miles round trip which made for a decent long run with ~1500 feet of elevation gain. If you are a traditional road runner breaking into the trails then this is a good route to start on. I also saw a family of javelinas on Brin's Mesa trail which was a huge highlight for me! There were about 10 javelinas total - a rare sighting during the day as they are nocturnal and generally avoid people.
A nice thing about this run is that there are bathrooms at Midgley Bridge and Jordan Road - but no water, so plan accordingly. When I finished my run I hung out by the river under Midgley Bridge and then drove into town to sit on the patio under the red rocks at Canyon Breeze. The town of Sedona is small, but hopefully you will go there to explore the trails rather than the shops!
Jim Thompson Trail: Connect at Midgely Bridge
Brin's Mesa Trail: Connect at Jordan Road
Total distance: 14 miles
Total elevation gain: 1500 ft
We ran this trail about a month ago when school had not yet consumed the majority of my life. I look at back to this day and it was as if I was in a state of naive bliss - not yet knowing what would slam me against the wall academically. I knew something large was about to swing at me, but sometimes life can feel so much sweeter when you look at it retrospectively. I've been in grad school before so I wasn't blind to the experience, but academia always takes adjusting, especially at the graduate level.
I'm very lucky to say we have still made the time to leave most weekends, mostly to Flagstaff, so we can escape the busy streets of Phoenix and run in the desert mountains of the Kaibab National Forest.
Fossil creek is a gem. It has been widely discovered so there is heavy traffic on the weekends, especially in the summer months when the entire state is overheated and deprived of water. We decided to drive here on a weekday with a couple of my peers, which was a great way to kick off the semester. We didn't get an early start, but given it was a Wednesday we were lucky to arrive at a relatively empty parking lot around 9am. We accessed the trail from the Strawberry side, which is a bit longer than the Camp Verde side. The trail is 4 miles one way and was very run-able for our standards. The trail descends about 1000 ft on the way down, so keep in mind that the way out may be tough in the afternoon heat after swimming in the creek and laying out.
The Arizona summer sun was in full force but luckily this trail offers some shade. The first mile is relatively smooth and then the trail becomes riddled with rocks as you can see above, which makes for some fun skipping around if you're descending quickly. The trail opens up into a canyon before following a single track along the upper creek - and then - BAM - There's a big gushing waterfall in the middle of the desert.
The picture in the above left shows the open canyon around mile 3. The trail is a little tricky to follow, but if you veer right you will eventually find the single track that takes you directly to the waterfall. We got a little lost on the way there and ended up on the other side, but the upper creek is easy to cross as you can see in the above right picture.
You would never think there was a crystal clear waterfall at the end of this hike because there is no sign of water until you reach the upper creek. The landscape was stunning when we reached the falls, to say the least, and we spent a good chunk of the afternoon swimming, cliff jumping and rocking climbing the sidewalls.
This trail is less than 2 hours from Phoenix, so there is no excuse not to make a weekend out of this place! There is plenty of camping in neighboring areas, as well as on the trail itself.
Fossil Creek Trail: Strawberry, AZ
Distance: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: ~1000 ft
We thought July was our last time this summer to savor the pacific northwest and the towering Evergreens that join, but from the unfortunate events with my dad we were graced with another trip back to Seattle.
The weekend was harder than I could have ever anticipated. I was depleted emotionally by the end, but I felt an ounce of closure. Time hasn't been on my side this summer, and each day seems to be harder without my dad. I badly want to call him and talk endlessly about running and the new trails Justin and I have discovered. I want to talk about my race schedule, my workouts, my weekly mileage, and all the little things that no one else understands unless they are an overly obsessive runner like my dad. And I really need him to edit my grad school papers because he always had the patience for my fleeting thoughts. My professors are now at the mercy of my writing, riddled with typos.
I couldn't come back to Washington without going to the mountains. Running and nature, my two sources of healing, were melded together in beautiful form by running a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail with Justin, Trisha, and Uli Steidl. I have been reading about Shinrin-Yoku, the Japanese term which literally translates to Forest Bathing, or taking a visit to the forest to improve one's health. Studies have shown that Shinrin-Yoku positively affects the nervous system, particularly by reducing stress hormones. Without the outdoors, I would be at a standstill with grief. Every day spent outside is a step forward in healing the pain of losing my dad.
This was my first time running to Kendall Katwalk, but we chose this route because it is an iconic section of the PCT. It has about 2,500 ft of elevation gain over 13 miles from the pass to the Katwalk, and is very steady in its climb, making for an enjoyable run down the trail. The Katwalk itself is stunning. It looks like the trail was literally blasted out of the side of the mountain with a sharp drop to the side. There is a 360 view of the cascades that is hard to beat on other nearby trails.
Once we reached the parking lot Uli knew of an area off Alpental Road with a flowing creek. Washington is notorious for its Alpine Lakes, which never disappoint. We soaked in the pools until hunger won us over and then we headed back to Seattle.
Arizona has a lot to live up to, but we are finding our place in the desert. Once the temperature reading dips below 100F I can stop constantly dreaming of Washington's cool mountain weather and sky-high pines whose shade I am in dire need of.
I am an outdoor and travel junkie who is currently completing my doctorate in occupational therapy overseas in rural Fiji. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of my life with my husband, the communities we serve, and the many adventures we take.