Wet Beaver Creek

HikingYavapai by Stan Bindell

Perenially flowing Wet Beaver Creek and its tributaries, scenic canyons and variety of trees make Wet Beaver Wilderness a slice of heaven.

The best known section of the wilderness is Bell Trail, 7.7 miles round-trip, as most hikers go the 3.5 miles into the hike to get to the natural pool known as The Crack.

Wet Beaver Creek flows at high levels through this area, nourishing a great riparian area, surrounded by rock ledges going down to the creek. Visitors swim, dive, fish and sun themselves at The Crack when it's warm enough. This area is so busy during the summer that it has an overflow parking lot.

A less known gem in the Wet Beaver Wilderness is Weir Trail. Hikers find it 2.7 miles down Bell Trail, where the Wet Beaver Wilderness sign appears. Weir Trail is only 1.5 miles round-trip, but it's well worth the time as it descends to the creek. Just above the creek is a US Geological Survey gauge station that measures stream flow.

There are plenty of trees here, including sycamores, cottonwoods, Arizona black walnut and ash. This riparian area supports canyon grape, blackberries and poison ivy, and trout, bass and native roundtail chub live in the cascading waters. Sitting just above the creek is mesmerizing, and while I met a runner on my way out and someone with a fishing pole on nearby Bell Trail, the spot is usually people-free.

Bell Trail starts at the canyon bottom with juniper and mesquite. A number of unnamed trails branch off down to Wet Beaver Creek, which parallels much of Bell Trail.

After resting at The Crack, hikers can ford the creek, which must be done carefully to not fall in. Then the climb up the trail begins. The top offers wonderful views of Sedona red rock and the San Francisco Peaks. The juniper, prickly pear and catclaw tell us we’re at higher altitude here.

The canyon offers red sandstone, shale and basalt.

Wet Beaver Wilderness was established in 1984 and covers 6,000 acres, and it holds four main trails: Apache Maid, White Mesa, Bell and Weir.

Bell Trail is named after Charles Bell, a rancher who constructed the route in 1932. It is among Arizona Highways’ 52 Best Day Hikes, and once you get down to the creek you understand why.

The elevation goes from 3,849 to 4,600, but there is hardly any elevation change until you reach the wilderness sign. Then it starts climbing, and most of the climb occurs after you cross the creek at The Crack, which is where most hikers turn back.

The wildlife of Wet Beaver Creek include elk, deer, brown bear, mountain lion, bobcat, skunk, coyote and javelina, plus a wide array of birds, bullfrogs and reptiles, including the occasional rattlesnake.

Wet Beaver Wilderness is easily accessed in an ordinary car. Dogs are allowed, but should be leashed.

For more information, telephone the Red Rock Ranger District at 928-282-4119.

Directions: Take I-17 North to the Sedona exit 298, then turn right onto Forest Road618. Take FR 218 two miles, turn left and it's a quarter mile to the trailhead parking lot, which has a restroom. Parking at the overflow lot, adds a quarter mile each way.

Stan Bindell is always looking for a good hike. If you have one, contact him at thebluesmagician@gmail. com.Photos by Stan.


Perenially flowing Wet Beaver Creek and its tributaries, scenic canyons and variety of trees make Wet Beaver Wilderness a slice of heaven.

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