First Bench of Wilson Mountain
Wilson Mountain P1K RS

Fri, Oct 7, 2022

With: Iris Ma
Tom Grundy
Tom Becht
Eric Smith

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


Visiting Sedona in Arizona had been on my todo list for a number of years now. I was first intrigued by the number of summits in this area that found their way to Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles, but continued to hear good things about the sandstone wonderland from other sources. Several earlier attempts to visit were squashed by weather or other factors, but things finally aligned on this trip. Having camped the previous night to the north between Flagstaff and Sedona, we made Mt. Wilson our first stop since it was on the way south. This P1K is the highest in the Sedona area and fairly popular. We did not use the more well-known route from the south at Midgley Bridge, but rather the North Wilson Trailhead at the Encinoso Picnic Site. There is nothing arduous or challenging on either route, as they're both well-maintained trails leading to the Wilson Mtn Overlook, with views looking down on Sedona and some of its storied sandstone features. The trail does not actually go to the highpoint, but it comes close, leaving about 1/3mi of cross-country to reach the highpoint.

On our way up from Oak Creek and the TH, we marveled at the sandstone cliffs above us, part of the Red Rock Secret Mtn Wilderness. After the initial climb out of the canyon, we stopped off at the LoJ-only "summit" of First Bench of Wilson. This is really just a moderately-sized bench about 2/3 of the way up the mountain. LoJ picked the only closed contour in the area for this point, an easy, moderately brushy hike to the east from the trail. While it is lacking in most respects in terms of a highpoint, it does have a very impressive view looking down on the beautiful Oak Creek Canyon to the north and east. Back to the trail, we continued to the junction with the Midgley Bridge Trail. There is a sign here for "First Bench Wilson Mtn", higher than the LoJ point. This is the "summit" found on PB. Take your pick on which you prefer.

After climbing to the summit plateau, we left the trail at another junction where the trail goes over a saddle south of the summit. We headed cross-country from here, through more open country, but somewhat brushy and some downfall. The highpoint is not at the spot elevation of 7,122ft shown on the top, nor at the higher point just south of there. The highest point is at a rock outcrop about 300ft south of the spot elevation. No register, but some pretty nice views over the greater Sedona area. Once back to the trail, we made paid a visit to the overlook another half mile to the south. This is the first really good view we had looking into Sedona, a far, far better view than the highpoint affords. After a suitable stay to take in the scenes and have some snacks, we reversed our route back off the mountain, about four hours and 20min for the 7.5mi effort with 2,600ft of gain.

Done before noon, we headed to town for supplies, then to the west side of town in search of dispersed camping options. We came to find that "dispersed camping" is just a name in Sedona, as there's nothing spread out about it. Instead, legal free camping has been restricted to a few congested camp areas along dirt Loy Butte Rd. Additionally, one must first drive about 5mi of the dusty, washboarded road to reach the camp areas. After finding a suitable spot to hold our four vehicles, we spent the middle part of the afternoon driving one of the OHV trails in the area to keep TomB happy. I can't say I really enjoy the very rough conditions some of these trails entail, but it seems to put a smile on Tom's face...


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