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Airport Loop Sunset Hike
November 4, 2017
by Mark Purcell
Chuck, Dave, Biljana, Carl, Janet, Lin, Chris, Mark, Monika,
Michael, Debbie, Michelle, Mark, Dan, Ken, Terry, Barbara

After the positive feedback received after the first Sedona sunset hike (Diving Board) in 20l6, I elected to seek another venue to provide a similar experience for those who were unable to go or simply wanted to participate again. Although the views and vistas are impressive any time of day, sunset is particularly awe-inspiring and more so from an elevated viewing area.

As a Sedona resident, I occasionally am queried to recommend better hikes. Although several come to mind immediately, Airport Loop is generally on the list as it provides a good workout, not crowded, and offers a 360-degree presentation of most of the prominent Sedona landmarks. Therefore this was devised for the Trailblazers. Hikers met at Sunset Park which offers sufficient parking, facilities, and trail access. To extend the distance, I added sections of Old Post and Carroll Canyon Trails.

Yes, we had some cloud cover. [photo by Carl]
The trail starts out well. [photo by Carl]
Why not go for it? [photo by Carl]
Taking a break. [photo by Carl]
Don’t fence me in. [photo by Carl]
Red rocks of Sedona. [photo by Carl]

In planning, two priorities came to mind. Firstly, even though the initial estimate of distance was ten miles, time needed to be allotted at several points along the route to allow a relaxed pace. Also, with a later start, it was important to maximize safety by ensuring we concluded the hike in sufficient natural light with the rocky and uneven trail surface.

On the schedule bucket list, the Airport Overlook was the intended scenic climax. On average, hundreds of visitors congregate towards dusk to view the unique colors offered. However on my scouting hike, departing that location at official sunset, there was not enough time for the 1½ mile final leg to the trailhead to accommodate lighting preferences. Consequently, the plan was to depart the Overlook about 20 minutes before sunset, facilitated in part by shortening the opening Old Post and Carroll Canyon segment.

Let’s stick around. [photo by Barbara]
Feathery cloud. [photo by Carl]
What’s this? A cable-car hike? [photo by Carl]

After the 9 AM start time, we warmed up on the first two trails and then returned to Sunset Park for lunch. From there, we proceeded to a short connecting trail (Bandit) for a steady climb to traverse counter clockwise on Airport Mesa. Although cloud cover would periodically mute their magnificence, majestic views offered included Cathedral, Bell, Courthouse, and Coffee Pot Rocks.

The best of Sedona! [photo by Chuck]
Why not go for the top? [photo by Chuck]
Top of the world—well, of the red rocks, anyway. [photo by Lin]

Later, time was spent at the viewing area variously named (most commonly the Sedona Airport Vortex) and then on to the Overlook. By this time, the cloud cover has dissipated and the customary geological icons were provided. Departing at the interval previously described, the bonus was a less harried pace and opportunity for varieties of views. And indeed, the group did return to the trailhead just as natural light faded.

The red rocks take on fantastic colors. [photo by Carl]
The red rocks take on fantastic colors. [photo by Carl]
Red rocks at sunset. [photo by Barbara]
Clouds at sunset. [photo by Lin]
Clouds at sunset. [photo by Carl]

Our hiking distance was 8.5 miles. Thanks to Lin for coordinating the Phoenix meeting.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated February 16, 2018