Savoring Sedona

Find solitude on two winter red rock hikes

Melissa Castleman

It takes a patient person to drive into Sedona, Arizona, during the spring or fall, when all of Phoenix seems to descend at once on State 179, the road that leads to town.

Not so in January ― downtime for the tourist board but prime time for hikers looking for a day of solitude on one of two seasonally popular local trails.

Before setting out, get to know the lay of the land at the Institute of Ecotourism (10–6 daily; free; 91 Portal Lane; or 928/282-2720), where interactive displays introduce you to local animals, plants, and topography. Morning temperatures tend to dwell in the energizing 40s, so there's no need to hurry.

Stop for a prehike cup of cocoa at the Black Cow Café ($; 229 N. State 89A; 928/203-9868), where you can also stock up on sandwiches for a midday picnic. And if you forgot to pack an extra layer, backtrack to Sedona Sports (251 State 179; 928/282-1317), which specializes in all things sporty and fleece.

You should find plenty of sunshine along Munds Wagon Trail, a gentle 4-mile climb that delivers jaw-dropping views of the jagged, paprika-hued canyons. To reach the trailhead, continue south on State 179, turn uphill onto Schnebly Hill Road, then drive 1 mile to the parking area ($5 per vehicle).

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