Red Rock State Park, a 286-acre nature preserve located on the southwestern edge of town, includes 10 developed trails, daily guided nature walks and a plethora of monthly activities. Oak Creek runs through the park, and iconic Cathedral Rock rises in the distance. Most of the trails are fairly short and easy, but on a recent cold afternoon, we decided to try the Eagle’s Nest loop, which climbs 300 feet to the highest point in the park.
We began our hike on the paved Bunkhouse Trail, which begins at the park’s visitor center. (From the visitor center, turn right on the trail.) We quickly came to the junction of Bunkhouse and Sentinel Crossing. Turn right on Sentinel Crossing, and you’ll leave pavement behind. The trail crosses Oak Creek via two wooden bridges. After you’ve been hiking for 0.28 mile, turn right on the Kisva Trail. Follow Kisva Trail until it ends (ignore the first sign for Eagle’s Nest just 0.08 mile after you’ve been hiking on Kisva Trail). You’ll hike past stands of cottonwood and sycamore trees – bare at this time of the year – and clumps of poison ivy. The trail follows Oak Creek, so you’re treated to the sounds of running water the entire way. After you’ve been hiking for 1 mile, Kisva ends at the Armijo Ditch, which was built by Juan Armijo to irrigate his homestead. Turn left, and you are officially hiking Eagle’s Nest Loop. The trail makes a steep climb through a series of switchbacks and reaches the Eagle’s Nest Overlook. Two benches allow you to catch your breath and enjoy expansive red rock views while interpretive plaques tell you about the area’s geology and rock formations.
From the overlook, the trail becomes more level, meandering through a forest of juniper trees and cactus. You’ll come upon Red Hawk Overlook 2.9 miles from the start of your hike. The last overlook you’ll encounter is Coyote Ridge; from here, the trail makes a steep descent until it ends at Kisva Trail. Turn right and follow Kisva to Sentinel Trail and then Bunkhouse Trail to return to the visitor center for a short 3-mile loop through one of northern Arizona’s most educational state parks.