R2R Training Hike in Sedona

Training hikes are hard to do in the heat of the desert summer, but escaping up to Sedona provides a nice opportunity to get some distance in with slightly cooler temperatures.

People often say the summer weather in the desert is a “dry heat” and is more tolerable than in the humidity. They are not completely wrong on that point, but when the average temperature sits above 110°F, it is just plain hot. I often respond to that statement with, “Yeah, it’s a dry heat, just like the blast when you open the oven!” Humidity or not, it is really hard to get in training over the summer.

To offset this challenge, I decided to head up to Sedona to get in a training hike with one of my fellow upcoming Grand Canyon rim to rim (R2R) buddies. Sedona is only 2.5 hours up the road from Phoenix, so with an early morning start, I was able to get up there right around sunrise getting us on the trail early enough to beat the heat… or so we thought.

The temperature was around 60°F when we started the hike which is perfect hiking weather. The city of Sedona is up around 4,350 ft (1,330 m) in elevation, which added a tiny bit of challenge to the hike at a higher elevation than I am used to in Phoenix. The original plan was to get in a long hike that was challenging, so my friend planned a few different routes we could take depending on how we were feeling.

The hike was full of spectacular views. The red rocks of Sedona glowed as the sun rose eventually revealing clear blue skies. Sedona is definitely one of my favorite places to hike. So much beauty.

Moon Gazing

Not long after we started the hike, we saw a woman standing on the trail with her dog looking off into the distance. As I always do along the trail, I wished her a friendly good morning with a smile. She then said, “Look, the moon is so beautiful today,” as she pointed up into the sky. We turned to look and the moon was shining brightly against the bold blue skies. In that moment, without hesitation I said, “Did you know that today is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing?” She looked at me and gasped with a joyful expression on her face. She thanked me for sharing that with her and wished us a good hike as we continued down the trail. That moment was such a pure and friendly interaction and serves as a nice reminder to always be open to sharing a moment with a stranger.

The hike took us on the following trails: Sugar Loaf trailhead  > Teacup trail > Sugar Loaf Loop > Sugar Loaf Summit > Sugar Loaf Loop > Teacup Trail > Jordan Trail > Brins Mesa Trail > Soldiers Pass Trail > Jeep Road > Teacup Trail > Sugar Loaf Trailhead.

As the day went on, the temperatures began to rise. When I was preparing for the hike, I had planned against 8 miles, packing 2.5 L of water, and a few snacks for along the trail. About 1 hour before the end of the hike, I had run out of water and thankfully my buddy had extra water with them that I could share. The full hike ended up at 11 miles, taking 6 hours to complete, with an elevation gain of 1,768 ft (539 m). By the end of the hike it had reached 95°F and we could feel ourselves slowing down. This served as a good reminder of how truly prepared you need to be to hike in the desert. Even the more experienced desert hiker can get caught in a bad situation if they take a wrong turn of find themselves is excessive heat without enough water and electrolytes.

It was a wonderful hike and I’m so glad we did it. It gave me good insight into my current fitness level and increased my confidence for upcoming the R2R in September.

About the author

Erin Bonilla

I am a curriculum developer, technical trainer, communicator, and adventurer with a passion for human space exploration and training. I am actively involved in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) educational outreach efforts and advocate for the deep connection between the arts and science education.

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By Erin Bonilla

Training Journal


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