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Airport Loop
January 31, 2021
by Mark Purcell
  GPS Map 
Mark, John, Tom, Li, Tish. [photo by Li]

As we approached the date of the scheduled hike to Robber’s Roost, the weather for that event was perfect—sunny and comfortably cool. However, best laid plans are occasionally not foiled by site execution, but access to the same. This was the case here, as melting snow and steady rain earlier in the week caused the Forest Service to close the unpaved roads to the trailhead shortly before, which is necessary to prevent damage to softened surfaces by large pickups and travel trailers.

Li and Tom by the sign. [photo by Mark]
Anticipating this possibility, I was not surprised when one of my hikers, Tish, called me as I approached the rendevous point off 89A and informed me of the closure. Having a couple options in mind, I awaited the arrival of the rest of the roster, and we mutually selected a short drive into West Sedona to traverse the Airporl Loop Trail, which was about the same distance and difficulty as the Robber’s plan.

The Airport Loop trail is exactly what it seems—a 4-mile trail that completely encircles the Sedona Municipal Airport Mesa. This is one of my favorites for escorting visitors capable of a moderate-intensity experience, as it affords a 360° exposure to almost every notable landmark that makes Sedona such an attraction.

As we parked our vehicles and started our trek, ironically we soon hit one of the feeder routes to the Loop called “Bandit.” So we retained a little flavor of the original plan name. After this ascent, we joined the Airport Loop Trail and started our counterclockwise journey. It is relatively level, but rocky, which necessitates careful steps on occasion, but does offer an advantage, as mountain bikers favor more hospitable surfaces on other local trails. As we reached the other side of the mesa, we ran into more casual hikers, gingerly hoofing from the parking area off of the airport access road, which you humorously periodically note, must find their $150 Gucci loafers are no match for our $150 specialty hiking boots.

Hikers go ’round the bend at airport perimeter fence. [photo by Li]

As you navigate toward our original access point to the Loop, you encounter a popular scenic view rise, also regarded by those who gravitate towards the legend as a vortex site. Having just a group of five, we all climbed the short distance to the summit for a strack break and pics. Generally, any time spent at this location reveals a potpourri of foreign languages and dialects confirming the international renown of the Sedona landscape.

You get a great view from here! [photo by John]
Mark, Li, and Tom. [photo by Mark]
Hikers take a break [photo by Mark]
Mark, Li, Tom, Tish, John. [photo by Li]
Li [photo by Tom]
Tom [photo by Li]
Snow on the trail. [photo by Li]
John [photo by Li]

Crossing the Airport road to rejoin the trail, we headed towards our vehicles. This was on the side of the mesa generally shaded for most of the day this time of year, so there was some residual ice on the trail, leftover from the snowstorm earlier in the week.

I had a small but flexible group of hikers, and I hope the change in plans did not diminish the value of the experience.

→   More pictures, by John
→   More pictures, by Li
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated February 9, 2021