10/10/2009 3:24:00 PM Munds Mountain: High visibility,
The Jacks Canyon Trail splits the heart of Munds Mountain Wilderness Area between Munds Mountain and Horse Mesa. Keep in mind the trail is about six miles long and considered moderate to strenuous.
Bell Rock, a symbol of the Sedona area is perhaps the single most visited landmark in any wilderness in Arizona. Although lacking in the truest sense of wilderness, Bell Rock is easily accessible from State Route 179 and offers a simple and elegant way to taste what the Verde Valley's wilderness areas have to offer.
In sorting through valley nine wilderness areas we have apparently seen to many red rocks. On Friday we accidentally ran a photo of Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte in a story about Red Rock Secret Mountain wilderness Area. Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte are actually in the Munds Mountain Wilderness Area, the subject of today's stoy. We apologize for the mistake.
The third and smallest of the three Sedona skyline wilderness areas is Munds Mountain, one of five Verde Valley wilderness areas celebrating their 25th anniversary.
The legislation that created the 18,000-acre wilderness area, the 1984 Arizona Wilderness Act, also created Red Rock Secret Mountain, Fossil Creek, Wet Beaver and West Clear Creek along with additions to Sycamore Canyon.
In all, the act created more than 150,000 acres of wilderness surrounding Sedona and the Verde Valley.
As a wilderness area, Munds Mountain defies some of the criteria set forth when wilderness areas were first created, not the least of which is its proximity to a major highway.
The Munds Mountain Wilderness Area boundary comes within feet, instead of miles, of State Route 179. When the area was being considered for wilderness status, many residents within the greater Sedona/Big Park community felt it was important to include both Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock.
It is estimated that more than 250,000 people visit Bell Rock every year, making it the most visited landmark in any wilderness area in the valley, if not the state.
Climbing around on Bell Rock is not exactly the ideal wilderness experience, given the development that surrounds it, but it does serve as a majestic gateway to the larger wilderness area.
And don't be fooled by what you see at Bell Rock either, there are plenty of great back country trails that will lead you to hidden treasures. Upper Woods Canyon and Jacks Canyon have some seldom-visited riparian spots well worth the effort to visit.
Speaking of places worth visiting, try the top of Munds Mountain. A lush grass covered mesa, Munds Mountain affords one of the most spectacular views of the entire red rock area and one few choose to visit.
If you d,o though, here is a hint, enter it from the north off Schnebly Road, via the Schnebly Hill and Munds Mountain trail, its shorter and a lot less strenuous than coming up Jacks Canyon Trail from the Village of Oak Creek.
The wilderness area, as well as its highest peak, are named for pioneer rancher James T. Munds, who in 1883 homesteaded a clearing not far north and east of the mountain, known as Munds Park. He ran cattle from summer pastures in Munds Park to winter pastures in the Verde Valley.
As with most of the wilderness areas surrounding the Verde, Munds Mountain has its fair share of ancient ruins. Please feel free to check them out, let your imagination run free but leave them as you found them.
Also keep in mind that some of the trails, especially Hot Loop, cross expanses of red rock with no distinguishing footpath. Watch for and follow the rock cairns.
And, as with all wilderness areas surrounding the valley, spring and fall are the best time to hike in comfort. Dress in layers. Take lots of water, a camera and field glasses if you have them.