Red Rocks National Park
Elevation: 3,900 ft
Note: Welcome to the place in every persons imagination where ‘epic Quests’ take place. This is the ‘impossible wasteland’ of mythic tales, like Don Quixote, or The Song of Roland. This is the backdrop that provides ultimate silhouettes, and inexplicable skylines. Colors radiate from both the sky and stones, and these stones are nothing less than solid-rock skyscrapers. People come here to turn monumental pages in their lives, and to leave the East behind. Nearly every conversation from the local people, from artists and hikers alike, includes the idea that Sedona changes lives. The trails at Red Rocks National Park, where Sedona is located, feels like the natural stage for the places in which Jesus preached, or The Crusades. Precious waterways roll beneath tunnels of reeds, cutting through a universe of rock, looking like miniatures of The River Jordan. The river is actually Oak Creek, which is also the name for the main trail leading from the visitors center. (Image/Below) Their are just so many associations that are possible in one glance, that all you can really do is catch your breath…
Myths: Native to this landscape are the Anasazi, a people that carved their dwellings out of the highest livable portions of the upper canyons, as well as concealed rock dwellings on the Plain. The upper Anasazi dwellings are so elevated that they can only be reached by rope. Why would an entire culture build homes so high above their essential resources? What was roaming the plain that required a great height to steer clear from? Interestingly enough, the Anasazi myths, just like the Celtic ones, are of Giants. Why do all the oldest cultures insist that they experienced Giants? Something to think about, and this is the place to do it. As it is with so many places in the American West, there is a toughness to everything you see, but even with that toughness, a delicate beauty refuses to be ignored, which can be seen in the color of the wildflowers at Oak Creek Trail.
Oak Creek Trail: Red Rocks’ is sprawled-out massively to the east of Sedona. Oak Creek Trail is the best introductory experience here, with about five miles of options that head into ridges where photos can be beautifully made. You cross the Oak Creek Bridge and wander into a rare reality. The amazing thing here, in 105 degrees of heat in July, is that the fauna finds a way, and colorful statements emerge in the landscape. (Image/Below)
After crossing the bridge and heading up a few of the ridges you can turn north and see this epic space. There are hills and rock towers, forests and grand ridges, with miniature canyons, all in one glance. The concentrated ridges truly look like temples. Perhaps that is why one of the more major statements in the park is called Cathedral Rock.
Cathedral Rock Trail: Cathedral Rock’ has its own trailhead, but can be reached by a 8 mile trail from the Oak Creek route. This longer route required preparation and expertise. Any trail passing through the High Plain will require 1.5 gallons of water and food in your pack, along with a small med kit. Respect this wilderness. From the trailhead at Cathedral Rock, which can be reached by a simple and brief car ride, there is a fantastic loop that takes you around the ‘Cathedral’. There is a type of reverence here, with the Cathedral in sight, as if something otherworldly once happened at this beautiful place. Like a meditation center, hikers can be found circulating the massive Rock, and camping out in groups of spiritual seekers. There are trails for biking as well, for those who are prepared for the rocky terrain..There are offshoots of the main trail here that are hard to understand. Some of the bedding of the rocks look as if water once rushed over the stone, obviously in another Era. Amazingly, there are cross section here, delicately etched into the stone, just like in the rocks of the trails back East. This one, pictured on the left, is at Cathedral Rock Trail; the one on the right is at Watatic Trail, 1800 miles away. What is the meaning of these cross sections, which are found in the ancient rocky sites of the world? As described in other articles, I believe they are the “calling card” of a Neolithic Culture, which created cross section of triangles as a utility for building, as well as a tribute to the divine concept, which is The Axis of creation, a philosophical concept from the beginning of Time.
There are deep cuts in the landscape leading away from the wide bed-rock faces. They are tempting to climb into, but beware of snakes, and other wildlife. There are also stones that are clearly cut, and not average debris, but the amount of possibilities as to who may have done this work are too general to specify.
Red Rocks National Park is a place unlike any other in the world. One could spend a life time hiking and researching its epic features and indigenous mysteries. The colors here, the scale of everything you see, is overwhelming. For those first-timers, try these basic trails first, and make time to visit Sedona. There is a vibrant Arts community here, with a social scene to match. Arizona, overall, is a hiking paradise. You can feel that something incredible took place her once, however hard it is to put your finger on. Perhaps the myths are just a hint as to what this place was before the West invaded.
Red Rocks National Park is just one of just dozens of national parks, each one being an absolute gem, like Oak Creek Canyon, Grand Canyon, Hulapai Mountain, and Sunset Crater, just to name a few. An experience here increases your overall ability as a hiker, drastically, as you are moving in 105 degree heat, roughly 4000 feet above Sea-Level. When you go home you will be significantly stronger. The energy is obviously radiant, but purifying and straight-forward, without any room for wasted effort or lazy mistakes; yet in places where the stakes are higher, the value of the experience enters into that realm of spiritual appreciation that makes hiking the very real meditation that it is. Red Rocks National Park is that experience. Give it a shot if you can, and go strong.