Hiking the Vultee Arch Trail, Sedona


After lunch I decided to devote my entire afternoon to one trail.  The Vultee Arch Trail looked promising: 1.5 miles one way, ending at an arch eroded out of the mountainside.

Just getting to the trailhead proved difficult, though.  The road to Vultee Arch branches off from Forest Road 152-C (the same road you take to reach Boynton Canyon, Doe Mountain, and several other trails).  However, once you cut off from the main road, the roughly 6 miles to the Vultee Arch Trailhead is extremely rough.  It was almost too rough for my rental car, and had I not driven slowly, I could have caused some serious damage.

The drive to the Vultee Arch trailhead made me wonder if I had made a mistake, and as I started out on the trail, I questioned my choice once again.  The trail was almost entirely tree-covered, so I only had an occasional view of the nearby canyon walls.  Also, the path was a bit difficult to follow in places, as it crossed back and forth over a shallow stream (13 times — I counted on the trip back!).

Despite my concerns, I continued.  There were just a few places where a break in the trees allowed me to see my surroundings.

This puddle (at one of those 13 stream crossings) seemed perfectly placed for a photo.

Another rare break in the trees.  Actually, the heavy tree cover helped in a couple of ways: one, the vegetation provided shade, and two, it blocked the gusty winds that had followed me around Sedona.  I could hear the wind blowing, but couldn’t feel it.

This sign is a very welcome sight.  Not only is it the first marker on the path for more than a mile, it also lets you know that you’re almost at your destination. (If you turn to the right, instead of the left, you will cross over Sterling Pass, and eventually end up back at Rte. 89A north of Sedona.)

There it is: the Vultee Arch, named for a pilot and his wife who crashed near here in 1938.  Surprisingly, though, the trail’s namesake arch is but a side attraction.

When you emerge from the trees, you probably won’t notice the arch at first, but you will notice this huge red rock spire.  The trail ends at its base, allowing you to climb up the wide, round, gently sloping rock for a fantastic view.

On the face of the rock you’ll find a plaque that provides a history lesson.  It explains how Gerard and Sylvia Vultee crashed about a mile away from this point, back in January, 1938.   The plaque has been in place since 1969.

It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t get a good picture of the valley (the same valley through which I had just hiked).  I tried my best to block the afternoon sun (you can see the brim of my baseball cap at the top of the photo!), however, the light was too bright, so I’ll try to describe it.  The view reminded me of looking down into Yosemite Valley from the Tunnel Viewpoint.  Granted, everything was on a smaller scale, and there were no waterfalls, but the various shapes of rock along the canyon walls was similar.  Any doubts I had about whether I chose the right hike were gone.

There’s plenty of room to walk around and explore at the end of the Vultee Arch Trail.  A few trees and small plants are scattered around the base of the red rock spire.

Around the side of the spire, I noticed the moon starting to rise over the hillside.

The rounded rock at the base of the hill is stained with white stripes from the water runoff.

The rounded rock base provided a great place to stretch out in the sun and rest.  It would also make a great place for a picnic, if you’re willing to carry the food all the way in (and of course, the trash all the way out!).

Sunset in Sedona

Sunset in Sedona can be a magical time.  On this day, the sun was falling behind the horizon just after I finished my trek to Vultee Arch.  At the same time, low clouds were rolling across the sky.

I wandered around the forest roads above West Sedona to find the best views.  There were plenty to choose from.

Here are a few more shots taken at sunset.  I believe the mountains in the above photo are directly behind the Boynton Canyon trailhead.

One more shot before sunset.

For my second night in Sedona, I once again tried some after-dusk photography.  Again, I know it’s not the best, but I think it does convey the mystical feelings of this area after dark.

After this, I headed back to Cottonwood for the night.

Note: This trip was first published in 2005.  I have spent much more time in Sedona on more recent trips.  You can check them out here.

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