A beautiful trek into red rock canyon country that keeps a slow but steady climb, Long Canyon is a great mid-length day hike near Sedona. You’ll pass some surprising riparian vegetation and head into ponderosa pine country. The keen-eyed may spot Sinaguan ruins and petroglyphs, while the vibrationally-tuned may tap into the storied Long Canyon Vortex.
The trail to Long Canyon begins just off Long Canyon Road on the remains of a wide fire road. Much of the trail is on similarly wide track, making this a great choice for a leisurely group stroll, especially near sunset.
This broad, open trail continues meandering to the north, staying relatively flat along the way. To the west, the frame of Mescal Mountain rises in telltale Sedona white and red layers, as small but surprisingly dense pinyon, juniper, and cypress provide swaths of green in the foreground. Also keep an eye out for manzanita, especially if it’s showing off its delicate blooms.
In 0.9 mile, stay to the right to continue heading north at the junction with the Deadman’s Pass Trail, which heads west toward Boyton Canyon. Here, the trail skirts the western edge of the Seven Canyons Golf Club, but at 1.5 miles you’ll leave behind the views of development as the trail enters into the bed of the seasonal arroyo that runs through Long Canyon. This is also where the trail enters the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness, so be sure to follow standard wilderness regulations (Leave No Trace principles, no music or noise, no bikes or mechanized transportation, etc).
Here, the vegetation around the trail becomes even more dense, and depending on the time of year you’re hiking, you may even get to see some grass! Views of the red rock mountains in the distance get a little tougher to come by with all this extra greenery, but the trail will get nice and close to some of the rocks themselves, where you can see the effects of erosion up close and personal.
If you look back down the canyon the way you came in, though, you may still be able to get some of those big Sedona red rock views — but it seems the true draw of this trek is its ability to somehow make you forget about the overwhelmingly predominant landscape in the region and just pay attention to the little details in front of you instead. When you can spot the towering formations alongside you, keep your eyes peeled for Sinagua ruins and petroglyphs hidden among the rock folds.
By 3.4 miles, Long Canyon narrows considerably, and in the last half mile or so the trail climbs steadily upward, narrowing even more along the way. The trail requires a little bit of scrambling and squeezing through narrow spaces here, but there’s nothing that requires any sort of technical skill or gear. If you’re uncomfortable using your hands to hike, you can always just enjoy the dense shade of oaks, sycamores, and even maple trees up here in the higher reaches of Long Canyon.
The trail stops abruptly just past the 3.7 mile mark, tucked away into a narrow fold just west of Maroon Mountain.
A very much non-maintained and at-your-own-risk scramble / climb route can bring you farther than this point if you have the necessary skills. Please do note two rules beyond the standard issue safety stuff: 1). Do not touch, move, alter, or vandalize ANY ruins or artifacts you may find hidden in the ridges here and 2). As much as you can (and this applies throughout much of the region) stay on the established trail to avoid damaging any fragile cryptobiotic soil.
But for most of you, just enjoy this quiet, hidden space for as long as you like, then return back the way you came. Keep your head up, and you’ll have more great views of the red rocks on the way back to the trailhead.
Tags: Arizona, coconino national forest, long canyon, red rock-secret mountain wilderness, sedona