Sedona’s White Mesa Trail

The lava-rock-studded top of White Mesa.

What this trail lacks in red rock views, it makes up for with some hard-core exercise and profound peace and quiet.



Sometimes you hike for the beauty and the views, while other times you hike just to get a bit of exercise in the great outdoors. White Mesa Trail, located southeast of Sedona in the Beaver Creek area, falls into the latter category. Don’t expect heart-stopping red rock views along this trail, but do expect a heart-pounding workout.

Your hike begins along Bell Trail, the starting point for numerous trails in the area. Bell Trail was built as a cattle trail in 1932 by Charles Bell. It’s wide, flat and surrounded by mesas studded with pinion pine trees and black lava rock. As you walk, you’ll hear the soothing sounds of Wet Beaver Creek meandering below you. After hiking for one mile, look to the left for one of those aforementioned lava rocks. This massive boulder is covered with interesting petroglyphs and pictographs. Continue hiking, and 1.4 miles from the trailhead you’ll come across more petroglyphs on your left. (We’ve hiked Bell Trail countless times, and this was the first time we’ve noticed this rock art.) You’ll reach the junction of Bell Trail and White Mesa Trail after you’ve been hiking for 1.75 miles. Turn left and make your way up the mesa, which is covered with rocks, prickly pear cactus, grasses and pinion pines. The narrow trail climbs relentlessly, and we aren’t talking about switchbacks. It goes straight to the top of the mesa, offering up views of Casner Canyon (more green trees than red rocks, though you will see some peeking out every now and then). The trail climbs more than 1,000 feet in one mile. You’ll finally level off when you reach a cattle gate after hiking 2.76 miles. We spent a little bit of time exploring the top of the mesa, which offers up a lot of solitude and stillness without many views. Nonetheless, if you’re looking to burn some calories while enjoying some peace and quiet, White Mesa Trail is worth the effort.

Return the way you came, but watch your step on the way down. The trail is rocky and slippery. Our hike totaled 6 miles round trip after our explorations on top of the mesa. You won’t encounter a lot of shade in this area, so if the weather is warm, hike this trail early in the morning or late in the evening. And keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, especially at this time of the year.

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