May 3, 2013

Schuerman Mountain Trail, Sedona Area, Arizona

Looking for a nice, relatively easy, family friendly hike to do while visiting Sedona that is actually almost completely devoid of the crowds and pink jeeps you have come to expect? Schuerman Mountain may be just the hike for you.

Located over in West Sedona right next to Sedona Red Rocks High School is a neat little hike that will take you into a rare Desert Grassland habitat and offer beautiful views of Bear Mountain and other scenic areas of the Sedona area.  The trail leaves from a small parking lot just behind the high school and near a large area of solar panels. The trail climbs up the slope through typical semi-arid scrub vegetation of the area. But, reaching the top of the mesa, the ecosystem shifts into a rare desert grassland.

Desert grasslands used to be one of the most abundant ecosystems of the region, fueled by light winter rains, but heavy monsoons in summer. However, ranchers long ago overgrazed these areas, resulting in bare ground or a conversion to hardier shrubs, cacti, and yuccas in most of Central Arizona. Where cattle still run, there is virtually no grass to be found and the soil has been so degraded and eroded they probably will not return. This is obvious off I-17 on the way past Cordes Junction until Camp Verde.

While I do not know the history of this particular mesa, there was no evidence of cattle grazing I could see, thus is appears as though this site has avoided the wrath of so many hooves and teeth. As you hike across the summit you approach some interesting columnar basalts associated with the House Mountain Shield Volcano, located not far away across the Oak Creek basin. That hike is detailed here.

As you head out to the edge of the mesa, you can look out across the area including down into the basin where Oak Creek winds its way around various red rock mesas and pinnacles. In spring, the lime green colors of cottonwoods and sycamores contrast greatly against a backdrop of dark gray-green junipers and brownish-red rocks.

As you down and out into the Verde Valley realize that the summit of this mesa would have been near the shoreline of a great lake that filled the entire basin a few million years ago. On the way back and just before you descend back down to the high school, be sure to take the short side to the left to another view point. 

From here you can look across most of West Sedona, including down into Dry Creek, out across to the summits of Mount Wilson, with some of the canyons dissecting into the Mogollon Rim also visible such as Long Canyon, Brins Mesa, and the Teapot.

This is a great short family hike to do almost any day of the year while visiting Sedona.