My plan to hike Humphrey's Peak, the highest point in AZ fell through when I discovered it and the area around it are closed due to fire risk, since late May. I can see closing for camping but for day hikers? Anyway, I searched, "Hardest hike in Sedona" a place I had visited but never hiked. Ureka! Up popped "Wilson Mountain". I checked with a local who previously had hiked and it was confirmed it was a worthy challenge. I also checked with Eva S who used to live close to Sedona and she too gave it a thumb's up. I left my home at 3:30am and 3 hours later, driving through Oak Creek Canyon and then through Sedona.
Route 89A, a couple miles north of Sedona, goes past Encinoso picnic area from where the hike starts. The high would be 101, hence my interest in starting early. Had Humphrey's been open a little farther north in Flagstaff and at a much higher elevation, the temperature would have been much cooler. I had plenty of fluids, including a frozen Gatorade which tastes great later as it turns to slush.
The trail ascends steeply through a forest of mostly pine. My destination is above but I have to go 2.5 miles way left then 2.5 miles way right.
The first 2 miles is fairly steep with an average grade of 15% while gaining 1500' of elevation. Soon, the views open up to the northeast. Beautiful.
After that opening 2 mile climb, I reach what is described as the First Bench. The next obstacle is above after a nice walk through a meadow that is in need of rain.
Good sign posts. If you are into Strava, I think this is the end of a segment and later I would discover.....
....I set a record for the climb. Surprised me as I hadn't gone at a fitness pace but there are only 74 attempts so not a deep field. It helps that I don't need to stop and take breaks, just maintain a steady pace. Anyway.....
.....I begin the 2nd major climb and it too is kind of steep. In the distance is San Francisco Peaks with Humphrey's being the tallest. Disappointing I could not do it on this trip although I have climbed it once before.
A fire moved through here a few years ago and the evidence of it is still plentiful. At the top of this second climb......
..... I saw the above sign post. I hung a right to go to the North Canyon Overlook. From this point on the trail actual descends a little so the hiking is easy although kind of boring for about a mile until.....
....no mistaking what I see ahead and after a few more steps am greeted with.....
....this. Awesome! I take a seat, eat a Cliff Bar and enjoy the view for about 20 minutes. Yeah, one of those life is good moments. I got up, found another viewing spot farther south and.....
....it changed the perspective a little. Note 89A winding through the canyon bottom. I packed up everything and began the trek back. Quickly, looking to my left, I saw what appeared to be another viewing opportunity and so going off trail, reached a cliff and saw.....
....this. Another awesome view.
That roughly 1 mile walk back to the sign post, as I said, is kind of boring with few good views. Just wandering through the remains of a pine forest with a lot of new growth. I wonder what keeps some of the dead trees standing as so many have come down.
Hey! If you plan to do the hike, this is important. At the first sign post after the 1st climb, follow the trail about 50 yards towards Midgely Bridge. You won't be disappointed! Wow. In the distance is Sedona.
I resume my hike, back to the parking lot, finishing with exactly 10 miles and 2600' of climbing. I took the north trail but there is also a south trail, starting from the aforementioned bridge, I think. I read the north trail has more shade. The trail is kind of rocky and clearly not smooth, if that matters to you. You may find a hiking pole useful for the return as it is slippery in spots from the loose pebbles.