The trail less travelled. I might have been amiss in not doing a bit more research on this particular hike. We had driven out to church in Cottonwood, roughly a 20-minute drive from West Sedona, for the morning and decided to do a late afternoon hike at Bear Mountain. We arrived to the trailhead around 3pm.
Doesn’t look so tough does it? The wispy grass, almost white in colour, cut by the reddish trail which, at this point, looks inviting. And Bear Mountain, peaking out behind the tree, almost as though it is waving a friendly hand. Come on up, I thought I heard it say.
As we approached the mountain we came across many clusters of cacti bordering the path. We had to be careful here. A misplaced stride could become very painful.
But soon enough, the early warning system of the cacti gave way to more rocky ground.
Lorraine is still smiling at this point in the hike. We were both blissfully unaware as to what lay ahead.
Okay. The elevation gain is beginning to kick in a little. Nothing too severe but following the trail was not all that obvious and we had to be mindful of our footing as we began the climb up the mountain.
Amazing views from the ascent.
Steps in the stone. This hike is really straightforward. We’ll be up the mountain in no time.
What a minute! What’s this? A 20-foot vertical climb? This was only the start of what turned out to be an exceptionally challenging hike.
Sedona draws you in with its spectacular landscapes. You think you can scale mountains without a strenuous climb but not on Bear Mountain. If I had done just a tiny bit of reading about Bear Mountain, I would have learned the following:
The strenuous hike to the top of the mountain is mostly unshaded, steep, and difficult in places. The trail ascends over 1,800 feet in elevation over the 2.3 mile hike to the top of Bear Mountain. The trail begins at a broad path at the parking area, crosses two washes and then starts a gradual quarter-mile ascent to the wilderness boundary at the base of the mountain. The trail narrows and begins a steep and rocky section of switchbacks, climbing 450 feet. It levels out following narrow plateau area and then begins a steep rocky 500 foot climb in a narrow side canyon to a broad plateau. It crosses the plateau gradually ascending, dips down, and then climbs another 400 feet to a false summit.
This was our second hike in Sedona. We are still acclimating to the altitude and, being seniors, we need to stay within our limits. After 90 minutes or so of hiking the trail, we elected to return to the trailhead.
Looking down you can see cuts in the land where the water flows after the spring melts and during significant rainfalls.
We finally made it back to level ground. When we were up the mountain, we lost the trail. For about 20 minutes we were panicked as we tried to find a way back down.
And there it stood. Bear Mountain. Not looking quite so friendly now. Perhaps chuckling a little at our attempt to ascend the trail.
As we closed the gate at the trailhead, muscles sore from the three plus hours of hiking, we were thankful to make it back to the car safe and sound.