Distance: About 5 miles (8 km)
Elevation: 5046 - 5202 feet (1538 - 1586 m)
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Time of Year: Any Time
|Hilina and Sophie on the Cow Pies|
Located up the Schnelby Hill Road, just east of Sedona, is a really interesting area of slick rock platforms and high cliffs called The Cow Pies. The Cow Pies are three rounded platforms with concentric rings that superficially look like cow pies from the air. They are also supposedly one of the "vortex centers" of Sedona. So, it is likely you will see rocks lined up on the platforms by folks to represent various things. But, in addition to the interesting features and spectacular views, this hike also has a wonderful surprise over on the saddle of Mitten Ridge you have to check out.
To get to the trailhead, head on Hwy 179 south from Uptown Sedona and at the traffic circle directly south of the Oak Creek Bridge, turn up Schnebly Hill Road. Follow the road up until it turns into dirt. Then, follow it up 3.6 miles of rough going to the trail with a small sign saying "Cow Pies" on the left and a large rock platform parking area. I do not recommend trying to get up onto that platform, unless you want to scrape bottom; but rather park on the roadside.
|A dried up vernal pool|
The trail heads about 1/2 miles through Arizona cypress and juniper until arriving at an open slick-rock area. There, the routes split with straight ahead going to Mitten Ridge and the left turn out to the Cow Pies. There will be rock cairns to show the way. First head out to the Cow Pies. There are three of them and the most spectacular view is from the last one.
|View from the last Cow Pie|
These Cow Pies are covered with depressions which fill with water after rains. They look just like the type to contain tiny crustaceans that live efemerally in seasonal pools. I would love to go back after the monsoon rains in August and see what hatches in the pools.
|Almost to the saddle with spectacular views awaiting|
Now, backtrack and look for the way-trail heading up to the edge of Mitten Ridge. Here you will see a trail heading along the side of the cliff-face out toward the saddle on the western-side of the ridge. The initial access to this trail is a bit dicey, as it goes along the edge of a ravine, but then levels out and is quite safe after a hundred feet or so.
|Approaching the top of the saddle and the views are appearing|
As you follow the Mitten Ridge route, the trail will follow several slick rock platforms and then comes up to the edge of the saddle. This last section is the trickiest as you must ascend the last 50 feet or so up steep rock. There is a trail in the bushes at the right edge of the steep rock and is much easier than trying to scramble up on all fours. Once at the saddle, there is a spectacular view down to Oak Creek Canyon and the entire Sedona Red Rock Country!
|Wow, look at Oak Creek Canyon below|
Be aware that Mitten Ridge is apparently popular with mountain bikers. I ended up walking this as quickly as they cycled it and even beat two cyclers who passed me earlier to the top of the saddle, because it is really technical stuff for them. There is a little trail that goes down the otherside and I overheard a bike rider saying it goes all the way to the bottom of the canyon.
Just backtrack the way you came and the trail will quickly take you back to your vehicle.