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North Wilson Mountain
October 15, 2022
by Li Li
  GPS Map 
by Tom Simonick
Trailblazers ready to hike. [photo by Li]
right to left: Tom, Ron, Anna, Greg, Ken, Scott, Chris, Robin, Barb, Stephen, Deb, Rebecca.
Li is behind the camera.

North Wilson Mountain is the tallest mountain in Sedona. It was named after a bear hunter, Richard Wilson, who was killed by a Grizzly bear in 1885. No more grizzlies have ever been found near the Sedona area since then. It has become a popular tourist town.

Every fall our club has hiked this mountain, so I decided to post this hike. I was surprised by everyone’s enthusiasm, with 13 hikers signing up to join me on this hike, many of whom I had not seen in a long time. I was very happy that I got to see them again.

Red rock wilderness. [photo by Scott G.]
Picnic area. [photo by Scott G.]
We’re going up there. [photo by Li]
Rebecca and Chris are having wonderful time! [photo by Stephen]

When I checked the weather report, I was very disappointed, since there would be a 50% chance of rain that Saturday. I did not want to cancel the hike but I worried that not everyone could finish on time in order to avoid the dangers of heavy rain.

The night before the hike I checked the forecast again, and it said that it would rain in the afternoon, so I felt better. I had planned to cut the hike short if I had to, but luck seemed on my side. Saturday morning, the weather was a clear and perfect sunny day with blue skies, accompanied by highs at 76° and lows at 56°. The forecast predicted that there would be a 50% chance rain would come at 2:00 PM. However, with no sign of any rain at the moment, thirteen enthusiastic trailblazers lined up at the Encinoso picnic area for the North Wilson Mountain hike.

I was happy to see many familiar faces and was glad that two new hikers joined us for this hike. After a short introduction, I informed everyone that our goal was to finish the hike before the rain came, so if fast hikers were able to reach the second lookout before noon they would be safe to go, but everyone else would need to turn around before noon, since the expected rain could create potentially dangerous situations.

Everyone agreed, so we started hiking right away. I was so happy since I had an extremely capable group of people. All the people I knew were fast and strong hikers, and I was extremely impressed by Robin our guest and Deb our new member, who managed to keep up the pace.

The first two miles of the hike involved steep climbing. Only half a mile in, we started to shed layers. Normally by October, the trees in Sedona start changing color, but not this year. Although we saw some red leaves in the lower part of the canyon, the upper part still seemed to be stuck in Spring.

Here it still is Spring. [photo by Li]

A field of yellow flowers covered the ground making the mountain very scenic. Everyone was excited and hiked fast. Within an hour and a half, we reached the First Bench intersection. I was so happy with the timing, since we were on pace to finish all of the hikes I had planned with time to spare.

Fast group at First Bench. [photo by Li]

Ken was in the lead after the first mile and quickly disappeared into the forest. We all admired his ability to hike at such a fast pace. We met another group of people at the First Bench stop that had started ahead of us at the parking lot. After chatting a little, we continued up hills to reach the Sedona lookout.

After 3.5 miles of hiking with over 2600 feet of elevation gain, we finally reached the lookouts’ junction. From where we were, half a mile to the left of us was Sedona’s lookout scenic view, and one and a half miles to the right was the canyon lookout.

Sedona overlook is that-a-way. [photo by Li]
Deb at Sedona Overlook. [photo by Li]
Fast group at Sedona Overlook. [photo by Li]
Breathtaking views. [photo by Li]
Li at Sedona Overlook. [photo by Tom]
Barb at Sedona Overlook. [photo by Li]
Breathtaking views. [photo by Li]
Our whole group is here! [photo by Li]
Stephen at Sedona Overlook. [photo by Li]
Tom at Sedona Overlook. [photo by Li]

We went to Sedona’s lookout first. This place was so beautiful with a 180° panoramic view of the city of Sedona with Oak Creek Canyon, Capitol Butte, Midgley bridge, and the Verde Valley all in the view. Its beauty took my breath away. The magnificent mountains, stunning canyon land, delightfully colorful trees, and vibrant plants, blended together to form the exquisite, unbelievable, jaw-dropping views presented in front of us.

Everyone was thrilled by this heavenly scenery and enjoyed the beauty of Mother Nature’s creation. We took a few group pictures here and took a snack break before heading to the next lookout place. We walked another mile and a half toward the west cliff side to see the Canyon lookout.

Oak Creek Canyon. [photo by Li]
Oak Creek Canyon and the San Francisco Peaks. [photo by Li]
The views from the canyon overlook. [photo by Stephen]

Far in the distance, you could see the San Francisco Peaks. Below us, we could see Sterling Pass Trail and the Vultee Arch. The whitish and red layers of the mountain contrasted with the green trees and yellowish leaves, to form a breathtaking landscape!

Beautiful, colorful, North Wilson Mountain. [photo by Stephen]
Here we come! [photo by Li]
It’s tougher going down. [photo by Li]
On the top of second overlook. [photo by Li]
Two fastest hikers! [photo by Li]

However, dark clouds were gathering over the mountain top, and we knew that the rain would come soon. We turned around and quickly descended the mountain. The descent was much harder than the hike up, since there were many loose rocks on the switchbacks, 1.5 miles from the trailhead. Luckily, none of us fell. Ten hikers safely returned to the trailhead around 5 minutes before the rain hit. Three hikers who were about a quarter mile behind us arrived soon after with only a few drops on them.

It was a clear sky. [photo by Tom]

Everyone agreed that it was a wonderful hike and we were all glad that we finished the hike before the rain came. I was so happy that everyone got back safe and dry. Five of us went to the Javelina Cantina restaurant to toast a good hike!

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated November 2, 2022