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Rock climbs are rated on a scale of difficulty from 5.1 to 5.14, where the first number signifies the climb’s classification (in Sedona, they’re all 5’s, or “free climbs”), and the second the degree of difficulty, with 1 the easiest and 14 the most challenging. Glenn says popular Sedona routes include The Overlook at the top of Oak Creek Canyon (5.8) and The Mace (5.9+), a 500-foot-tall portion of Cathedral Rock first climbed in 1957. Other routes rise up the spires behind the Chapel of the Holy Cross, Coffee Pot Rock in West Sedona, and the Rabbit Ears in the Village of Oak Creek. Glenn, a member of the Sedona Fire Dept.’s High Angle Rescue Team, also loves Dr. Rubio’s Wild Ride, a 5.9 climb near Coffee Pot Rock. For details on local routes, see Castles in the Sand by David Bloom (Sharp End Pub., $27.98).
“It’s world-class out here,” Glenn says, “and so much is relatively undiscovered. It’s a challenge, but when you sit on top of one these spires it’s a trip. The top may be as big as a coffee table and you can just sit up there and relax in the sun – you’re still tied-in, of course. It’s exhilarating.”
If you’re curious, the Arizona Mountaineering Club offers classes and group climbs throughout Arizona for an annual membership fee. For more information, visit www.azmountaineeringclub.org.
Cathedral Rock Loop, Submarine Rock Loop
Local mountain biking enthusiasts tout Sedona as one of the top five spots in the United States. Tony Fanelli, manager of Sedona Bike and Bean in the Village of Oak Creek, says Sedona has more than 200 miles of single-track bike trails. Pros including the Trek Pro Mountain Bike Team and the Cannondale Team train here.
Many beginners catch the mountain biking bug at Bell Rock Pathway. Starting on the east side of Hwy 179, it runs four miles to the Little Horse Trail. “Bell Rock Pathway is introductory as far as technical skills because there is climbing and descending,” Tony says. “It’s a good place to start but it’s not necessarily easy.”
For those with more experience, he recommends 13-mile Cathedral Rock Loop, beginning at the Cathedral Rock Trailhead off Hwy 179, following Templeton and Baldwin trails. Apart from amazing views of Cathedral Rock, one of Sedona’s signature landmarks, “the trail is excellent,” Tony says. “There’s not a lot of stuff to stop you up. It’s well-signed, there are a fair amount of climbs and descents, and it really showcases Sedona. Plus there’s some slickrock and there aren’t many places around to experience that.”
Most of Sedona’s trails are multipurpose, so be prepared to yield to hikers or occasional equestrians. Broken Arrow and Submarine Rock Loop off Morgan Rd. in the Chapel area and Soldiers Pass in West Sedona are open to off-road vehicles. For a quieter ride, Tony recommends the un-signed, three- to four-hour Llama Trail, which runs between Courthouse Butte Loop and Little Horse Trail. Sedona Bike and Bean and other outfitters sell maps for these local trails.
Tony says the most important items to bring on your ride are basic: Water – no matter how long you plan to be out – because many visitors don’t grasp the dangerous combination of Sedona’s elevation and heat; and helmets (a.k.a. “skid lids”), for any experience level. Sedona Bike and Bean mechanic Gonzalo Dies also suggests carrying a patch kit, inner tube and air pump – thorny fauna can be rough on tires.