Brins Mesa Trail, Sedona


In the weeks before a trip to Sedona, I spend quite a bit of time selecting potential trails to hike, once I arrive.  Like Goldilocks, I want to pick the ones that are just right — not too long, not too short, not too strenuous, and not too popular.  Once I have identified the ones with the most potential, I print out the information, then carry a big stack of papers with me into Red Rock Country.  Every time I’ve done this, Brins Mesa Trail has been in that stack, and every time, I’ve ended up missing it.  On this trip, I was determined to neglect it no more.

Brins Mesa Trail has two trailheads, with one of them conveniently located near Sedona’s downtown district.  It’s steep, but not a killer, and its views are highly rewarding.

I chose to access Brins Mesa Trail from the Jordan Road Trailhead.  Jordan Road splits off from Arizona Route 89A in the middle of downtown Sedona (in the middle of the shopping area, it’s the road that turns off at an angle).  Drive to the end of Jordan Road, then turn left and drive to the end of the pavement, and you’ll find the trailhead and parking.  You’ll find the other end of Brins Mesa Trail along FR-152 — the same road that leads to Vultee Arch and Devil’s Bridge.  Take Dry Creek Road from West Sedona, then watch for FR-152 to split off to the right.

From the start of the trail, the nearby red rocks still seem somewhat distant.  There are plenty of trees surrounding the trail, although it doesn’t feel closed in.  Many of the trees are evergreens, which is nice in winter, since everything still appears alive.

The elevation gain is gradual at first, as you find opportunities to take pictures of the red rocks that sprout up on the right side of the trail.  The biggest feature in this direction is Wilson Mountain (we’ll have a better view of it in just a moment).

As the climb begins to grow more intense, the beauty of the views also multiplies.

There’s about a 600 foot elevation gain from the trailhead to the top of Brins Mesa, and this is one of the most intense parts. Take plenty of time to stop and rest…

… just so you can take in views like this one, of Mount Wilson’s craggy cliffs.

Nearing the rim of Brins Mesa, the landscape in the foreground changes from trees to small brush…

… and the view opens up, to reveal the entire valley, leading back to downtown Sedona.

The top of the mesa isn’t completely flat — it slants downward, as the trail continues northwest.  Many more incredible mountains loom in the distance, as you look towards the Secret Canyon area, beyond FR-152.

I only walked a short distance down the sloping mesa, purely for the purpose of taking a picture, looking back towards the rim, and Wilson Mountain.  The trail continues on to the other trailhead, with a total length of about 3 1/2 miles.  It would be a good hike, if you had a car waiting for you on the other end.

In addition to backtracking to the Jordan Road trailhead, and hiking all the way to the FR-152 trailhead, you also have other options.  You could continue northwest to the trail’s intersection with Soldiers Pass Trail, then follow it back to town, using the Jordan Trail to complete the triangle.  You can also hike north along the rim of Brins Mesa to a good overlook of the valley, and a viewpoint for Angel Falls, a seasonal waterfall.  The excellent HikeArizona website has plenty of details.

On the way up to the top of Brins Mesa, you can’t always see the rim.  For a while, there’s a rounded red hill that dominates your view.  On the way up, I thought that hill might be “the top”.  But, as you can see from the rim, that little hill is still a good distance from the high point.  On the way back down, I decided to check it out.

There are no official trails that lead out onto that rounded hill, and in fact, I think hiking out there is somewhat discouraged.  So, I decided to tread lightly and carefully as I made my way out onto the hill.

The only reason to walk out here is for the view to the south.  It’s hard to see in this picture, but in real-life, you can definitely make out Bell Rock, and the valley which Route 179 follows towards the interstate.

On the way back down the trail, take time to look for more photo opportunities…

… as you pass by some great scenery.

Heck, you can even enjoy the view from the trailhead.  Where else but Sedona is a parking lot so spectacular?

Note: This page was first published in 2008.

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