Between coronavirus anxieties, self-isolation, gym closures and working from home, it’s normal to want to curl up on the couch and binge-watch Netflix for days on end—but that doesn’t mean regular exercise should take a backseat.
With Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order exempting outdoor exercise, exploring one of Arizona’s many natural playgrounds is the perfect remedy to ease stress, break a sweat and soak up some sun.
Not to mention, June 20 is National Hike with a Geek Day, which serves as a reminder for STEM professionals to step away from their computers and labs and head outside. So, grab your best geek friend and check out our must-see list of hikes to conquer during this isolation.
As a disclaimer, many Arizona State Parks and Trails are following precautions outlined by the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Center for Disease Control to promote responsible hiking.
The agency is encouraging visitors to avoid group gatherings, maintain social distances of 6 feet apart, use hand sanitizer and pack out all trash.
Now go chase those endorphins!
- Doe Mountain
Our first hike is a 1.5-mile trail tucked inside the Coconino National Forest. Doe Mountain, rated as a moderate trail, climbs a sheltered ravine to a 400-foot plateau top.
Painted by dancing wildflowers, the picturesque ascent follows winding switchbacks up the north side of the low flat, top mesa. With no competing peaks nearby, the destination boasts panoramic views of some of Sedona Red Rock Country’s most prominent landmarks.
The east rim looks out over the wide, bushy valley of Dry Creek, toward Capitol Butte and Downtown Sedona, while the north edge has views toward Bear Mountain, and many cliffs, ravines and pinnacles in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness.
The dog-friendly trailhead takes about an hour round trip and sits along Boynton Pass Road, 5.7 miles from Sedona’s State Route 89A via Dry Creek Road. Parking is available at the base of the trailhead.
- Fay Canyon Trail
Fay Canyon, stemming from a large parking area along Boynton Pass Road, offers an easy introduction to Sedona hiking.
Following a short and scenic ravine, the 1-mile hike is a good choice for hikers seeking minimal elevation with camera-friendly red sandstone cliffs and towering pinnacles.
The partly shaded path crosses into the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness, entering the wooded surroundings of the canyon floor. Staying near the seasonal stream, the trail showcases a selection of cacti, like yucca and opuntia, wildflowers and shrubs, while enclosing red-and-black stained rocks display impressive arrays of forms and texture. Many have eroded into buttes and pinnacles, especially along the east side of the canyon.
One of the route’s top attractions, though, is the Fay Canyon Arch. Viewed by a short and steep side trail, the dramatic 130-foot-span feature offers long distance southern views across Dry Creek Valley toward Sedona and Chimney Rock.
Fay Canyon’s trailhead, another Coconino National Forest treasure, sits 8.5 miles from US 89 in Sedona.
- Sandy Seep Trail No. 29
This next one is for the bikers—or anyone who doesn’t mind traveling by (literal) horsepower.
The Sandy Seep area, located on the eastern slopes of Mount Elden, is characterized by its rich history, marked by a 1977 fire, and awe-inspiring terrain. But as a vital winter range for mule deer and a valuable recreation resource for the Flagstaff area, the Coconino National Forest closed the trail to entry by motor vehicles—or saddle-horse—to protect its wildlife habitat.
The access trail follows an old jeep track that meanders through open grasslands dotted with ponderosa pines, Gambel oaks and clumps of cliff rose. Pioneer sprouts of oak at lower elevations and aspen higher up carpet the slopes, providing a nourishing browse for the area’s deer herd.
Dead-tree remains from the disastrous fire pepper the 1.4-mile hike. Throughout the ascent, burned-out snags and debris of old fire breaks plowed into the landscape become more prevalent.
The Sandy Seep Trail has a maximum elevation of 7,270 feet, with stunning views of Sunset Volcano Field, and is accessible a half mile beyond the Townsend and Winona Road intersection (a little over two miles north of the Flagstaff Mall). Forest Road (FR 9139) turns west of Highway 89 and leads to the trailhead.
- Ranch Trail No. 62
An easy-to-navigate trail, Ranch Trail No. 62 is part of a 10.1-mile loop about 20 minutes away from Prescott. A fan-favorite among mountain bikers, the difficult hike is perhaps better suited for more experienced hikers—thanks to its steep elevation gradient. But the lush scenery is rewarding nonetheless.
Located off Walker Road, the trail winds through manzanita plants, pinyon pine, mountain mahogany and low-growing oak. It climbs considerably to its junction with Boy Scout Trail No. 126, where Government Canyon lies to the west. As the ascent continues, panoramic views of Lynx Lake, Prescott Valley, Bill Williams Mountain and the San Francisco Peaks dominate the surroundings. Mule deer, Albert’s squirrels and wild turkeys can be found meandering around near the hike’s higher elevations.
Diving into Ponderosa Pine, Ranch Trail comes to a stop at Seven Mile Gulch Trail No. 9854.
The eastern portion of No. 9854 travels back down to Walker Road, while the western end connects with Watershed Trail No. 299. Hikers can then travel roughly 3 miles before reaching Senator Highway.
The trailhead has generous parking, as well as an outhouse and picnic table.
To reach the trail’s entry point, travel east on Highway 69 to Walker Road. Turn right and travel 0.6 miles to find the signed trailhead on the right.
- Thumb Butte Trail
Due to its proximity to Downtown Prescott, Thumb Butte Trail is one of The Prescott National Forest’s most popular hiking trails—and it’s no secret why.
The 2.5-miles trail serves as a great resource to learn about the area’s native wildlife and cultural history, how humans impact natural ecosystems and the importance of protecting such natural places.
Open only to hikers, Thumb Butte can be traveled as an out and back or in a moderately intense loop around the Butte’s gentle western slope to just below its craggy crest.
Signage identifying vegetation and outlining forest ecology decorates the trail, while a steep climb leads to a ridge just below the rocky crest.
The ridge boasts spectacular panoramic views of the Prescott area, as well as the Bradshaw Mountains, Sierra Prieta Mountains, Granite Mountain, Mingus Mountain and, on clear days, the San Francisco Peaks.
The steeper eastern portion is paved to control erosion and increase safety. Climbing is not recommended at the top of the butte.
The trailhead sits across the street from its picnic area, off Thumb Butte Road (3.4 miles west of downtown Prescott on Gurley street).