Friday, April 20, 2018

Sedona - Hiking the Hiline Trail

Sedona's fantastic scenery blew me away.

My trail friends - Hans, Lisa, Steve and Mona Liza

Last August, when blogging friends Hans and Lisa extended an invitation for a March visit, I didn't know much about this popular redrock town smack-dab in the middle of Arizona.  They both glowingly described its scenic attributes, adding "photographers love this place.  Your camera will be busy!"

Approaching Cathedral Rock

I'll admit I didn't do much research about the Sedona area, instead concentrating my efforts on the Grand Canyon.  So when Hans and Lisa drove me towards town on my first morning, I gaped in awe at the giant sandstone formations rising from the desert floor.  It looked like something straight out of a John Wayne western!

Well-signed trails

Hans and Lisa love this area, having visited many times.  They both retired early and live full time in their RV (and blog at Metamorphosis Road), so have had the opportunity to explore Sedona and it's nearby trails in depth.  I was about to be the beneficiary of their extensive knowledge.

Mountain bikers have the same trail ratings as skiers!

My first hike in Sedona?  The Hiline Trail located southeast of town.  We pulled into the Baldwin Trailhead bright and early and bundled up against the morning chill (yes, it gets cold in the desert at night - even in early spring).  Hans and Lisa stay in touch with a large network of RV bloggers and were planning to meet one of their blogging friends, Steve and Mona Liza, at the trailhead.

In my happy place

It was great to meet Steve and Mona Liza.  Also retired full time RVers, they've traveled all over, and had many interesting tales to tell (check out their blog The Lowe's RV Adventures).  I discovered Mona Liza was an avid photographer, and while on the trail we bonded over our shared interest.

Steep climb (can you believe bikes ride down this??)

We started out on the Baldwin Trail, winding through red soil and brushy vegetation.  The surrounding scenery was fantastic from the get-go.  My camera came out almost immediately, and I instantly lagged behind the group (which would become the norm for the entire day).

Wonderful red rocks

After about a mile, the Baldwin intersected with the Hiline Trail, our featured hike of the day.  It wound below Cathedral Rock, an impressive collection of towering red and tan striped sandstone columns.

One can never have too many cameras!

Mona Liza was truly a kindred spirit.  I laughed when I saw her capturing images using not only her regular camera, but her cell phone too.  I just had to get this fun pic of her with a camera in each hand.  Always schlepping around a ton of camera gear myself, I could totally relate!

First mountain biker of the day

In Sedona, hikers shared the trails with mountain bikers.  At each junction were signs giving directions to the bikers (many trails were one way only) and rating its level of difficulty.  I was amused that the ratings used the same symbols as ski trails.  (Double black diamond also meant experts only!)

Amazing view of Cathedral Rock

We climbed up to an flat rock overlook and there spread out before us was the town of Sedona.  What an absolutely stunning vista!

Sedona Valley panorama

And Cathedral Rock didn't look too shabby from here either.

Cathedral Rock was nearly always in sight

Follow the red dirt trail....

The houses appeared to be nestled right up against many of the large rock formations.  Hans pointed out the local Catholic Chapel, an impressive structure that appeared to have been built right on top of the red rock.  (See photos of it here)

Looking down into Sedona

From the viewpoint, our trail clung to the side of a steep cliff.  More fabulous views opened up as we worked our way down. 

Spectacular views!

Some of the trail was so steep and rocky I couldn't believe mountain bikers rode here (and survived!)

Great scenery around every corner

Lisa knew the names of all the rock formations and also the unique (to this Pacific NW'er anyway) desert plants.  Having hiked this trail before, she also pointed out many good photo op locations.  I couldn't have asked for a better guide!

Loved this rock formation (but forgot it's name)

Yeah, I took about a gazillion photos.  It was super hard to narrow them sit back and scroll through the next few.

My photo-buddy in action

Cacti close-up

Picking our way down the rocky trail

Checking out the trail junction

Agave plant

More red rock formations

Finally we hiked down to another trail junction.  Having traveled the entire length of the Hiline Trail, we'd now turn and follow the Templeton Trail on a long, skinny loop back to the parking area.

Bikers zipping by

The  proximity to several trailheads meant we began to see lots more people.  And more bikers too (but the mountain bikers were fun to photograph).  We crossed paths with a few mountain bike trails sporting cool names, like Easy Breezy and Slim Shady.

Loved these red towers

There was no shortage of red rock, or towering pillars.

Trail contours this rocky slope

Good thing I had a large memory card!

Lisa takes in the view

As we headed back towards our beginning point, the trail passed several neighborhoods perched upon nearby rocky slopes.  Some truly stunning homes (with fantastic views!)

Homes perched in the rocks

This mountain biker saw me waiting with my camera and popped a wheelie (which I didn't notice until reviewing the day's photos later that night)

This biker popped a wheelie for me

We passed by a wide flat rock with a bunch of cairns placed randomly.  Not sure why there were so many. 

Not sure why there was so many cairns here

Our return trail took us closer and closer back to the base of Cathedral Rock.  We passed by a trail leading hikers all the way to it's summit.  It was packed with people!

Crowds climbing Cathedral Rock

Having already hiked about 6 miles, climbing up this steep rocky trail didn't appeal to me at the time (luckily, it wasn't on our agenda).

Zoomed out view

One of the great things about the loop hike we did, since the trail circled the base of Cathedral Rock, I got to see it from all directions.  Not sure which view was my favorite but if the sun had been at a better angle, it might have been this one.

Red rock cairn

One thing I try to remember as I hike is to look back.  Sometimes the best views are behind you.

Fantastic view looking back

For our final mile, Hans and Lisa led us down to the banks of Oak Creek.  We wound through an impressive grove of sycamore trees, their gnarly limbs and white bark shining in the afternoon light.  I'd never before seen trees like these!

Silvery new leaves on the trees

Oak Creek was a sizeable stream.  I didn't expect to see such a large water body here in the desert.

Admiring Oak Creek

Hans and Lisa mentioned they'd once seen a pack of javelinas (wild boars commonly found in desert areas) while hiking along this creek.  Although we all hoped for another wildlife sighting, there were none to be found. 

Lovely Oak Creek

The lovely shady creek area and interesting sycamore trees more than made up for any lack of javelinas.  A nice way to end this hike!

White bark Sycamore trees

We clocked in around 8.5 to 9 miles covered (depending upon which gps you looked at).  A great introduction to Sedona's amazing red rock country.

Calm waters

Time to head back to Hans and Lisa's RV for some well earned cold brews!  And plan tomorrow's next adventure.

Check out Steve and Mona Liza's blog (and all of Mona Liza's fantastic photographs) at The Lowe's RV Adventures

Check out Hans and Lisa's blog at Metamorphosis Road


  1.'s not as green as Oregon, but it sure is beautiful.

  2. A alegria de uma bela caminhada por uma zona lindíssima e que a terra tem uma cor muito forte.
    Um abraço e bom fim-de-semana.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa

  3. Hello, Awesome post and photos. The views are just amazing. What a great outing with your blogging friends. I have never been to Sedona, I will have to add it to my list. Happy weekend to you!

  4. Dang you have a good memory for details! Beautiful photos my friend!

  5. I am glad that we got to meet up with you in Sedona and that you got to hike with us on some of our favorite trails.

  6. I've been to Sedona . It's a beautiful place. Unfortunately I only got out of the car to eat lunch! Sad , I know.

  7. Beautiful post, great photography! I would not mind hiking with you again, you inspired me with all that gear you carry. Im too lazy to bring my photogear when hiking, which most of the time I regretted because of scenic hikes such as this. Hope to cross paths somewhere in Oregon should we pass that way. Check my posts from Sedona onwards, you might want to visit the areas we stopped, yet another photographers paradise.

  8. What amazing scenery! I need to add this to my list of Western must-visit areas.

  9. Real cowboy country, very reminiscent of some of Ansel Adams photographs of the South-West.

  10. So beautiful! A lovely way to spend the day. I especially love the photo titled "Homes perched in the rocks". That is stunning.

  11. Amazing how beautiful the desert can be. We lived in NM for 10 years and found beauty among the nothing-ness. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos. I enlarged each one as I read your post. I've heard Sedona is a great to visit. Nice oasis in that creek on your way back to the parking lot. I'll check out your friends blogs too. Glad you had a great time with them. Enjoy your weekend of warmth here in Oregon!

  12. What incredible scenery... and so wonderful that you can spend the time hiking with likeminded bloggers. Really enjoyed all your photos.

  13. That place looks amazing. Don't know how bikers have so much confidence on trails like that as I've had so many crashes over the years on easy stuff- roads, parks, cycle tracks etc. so I'm fully aware of how bad the injuries can be at speed and how easy it is to have one just through the unexpected happening no matter the skill of the rider.

  14. Sensational rock formations and vistas. Wonderful that you have such informed guides in Hans and Lisa.

  15. I love Sedona. A great place to run, too.

  16. Wonderful captures! Sedona was my go-to place, when I lived in Phoenix. I love it there!

  17. Hi! Nice trip to Sedona. It looks all of you enjoyed this one very much. It is said Walt Disney was inspired by the rock mountains and then he made a thunder mountain in Disney land.

  18. Stunning photos of the region and I do love the one of Cathedral rock. Mountain bikers get every where. I posted some yesterday

  19. Oh such stunning photos! Our daughter did this same hike a few weeks ago...she took photos similar to yours! :)

  20. I loved Sedona as well when I visited, thanks for rekindling some distant memories

  21. Wow, beautiful part of the country! Thanks for sharing! And lucky you to get all that sunshine in March!

  22. Whew, that was a long one! Digging that shot with the cairn in the foreground!


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