I was hiking the Hogs in Sedona when a roadrunner sprinted past, disappearing into a cluster of manzanita. As soon as I saw it, I blurted, “beep, beep!”
I couldn’t help myself. I have seen dozens of roadrunners and beeped at them all. I’ve been conditioned by the Saturday morning cartoons of my youth. Yet my many hours of watching Wile E. Coyote’s futile pursuit of a scrawny bird also instilled valuable life lessons.
Here’s what I learned from “The Road Runner Show” cartoons: The desert can be a dangerous place. You can’t always get what you want. Some plans are best left on the drawing board. And, most importantly, never buy products from the Acme Co.
When you’re alone on the trail as much as I am, you have time to ponder such important matters. And the Hogs are the perfect trails to mull things over. It seemed like every few steps, I reached a new overlook, a high sandstone perch with views spilling away in every direction, so I frequently stopped to sit and contemplate.
The Hogs are Sedona’s newest trail system, finished early this month. High on the Hog, Hog Heaven and Hog Wash, along with Twin Buttes, are a short but scenic tangle of pathways that crisscross the escarpment rising behind the Chapel of the Holy Cross, connecting the Mystic and Pigtail trails to the Broken Arrow network.
They show off much of what keeps outdoor types coming back. The trails curve through soft forest that breaks apart against towering formations. While not overly steep, there are a few sharp angles with exposure and big drop-offs. Views are stunning, a skyline of ragged red-and-cream spires and buttes.
Here’s something else I pondered: Mountain bikers are stark, raving lunatics. Why else would they go hurtling along the edges of high cliffs with sheer drop-offs and careening around hairpin curves on a path as skinny as a liposuctioned rattlesnake? Whoever built the Hogs were hard-core adrenaline junkies.
In recent years, a spirit of cooperation has emerged between the U.S. Forest Service and the Sedona mountain-biking community. The Hogs were social trails that had been around for a couple of decades but were technically illegal. Instead of trying to eradicate the pathways, the Forest Service put together a plan to adopt them. Using grant money from PeopleforBikes, a Colorado-based organization, and aided by an army of volunteers — mostly bikers — the trails have been rebuilt and improved, and signs have been installed. It’s a win-win, because these are some spectacular trails.
The easiest way for hikers to reach the Hogs is via the Broken Arrow Trail. I started from the parking area at the end of Morgan Road. Broken Arrow runs parallel to a motorized trail teeming with Pink Jeep tours and off-roaders. It crosses the jeep road and bends left. In less than 200 yards, I reached a ledge at the foot of Battlement Mesa and two new signs a stone’s throw from one another.
The first marks the turnoff to Hog Wash, which will be my return route. I bear right at the second junction, the Twin Buttes Trail, and take the loop clockwise. Twin Buttes (0.7 mile) climbs gently through juniper and piñon pine with ever-expanding views, but they’re just a prelude to what’s coming. The trail ends at a T-junction with a couple of swine-centric options. High on the Hog branches left, and Hog Heaven breaks right.
Hog Heaven is the next leg of my loop, but what kind of hiker would I be if I didn’t check out a trail called High on the Hog? I make the fast side trip. High on the Hog is just 0.3 mile and for most of that length it clings to the cliff edge, a sliver of a trail with lofty views of Munds Mountain Wilderness.
At one point, I meet a group of bikers. I quickly scoot out on the ledge to give them room. We exchange brief pleasantries as they speed past. Bikers may be unhinged, but they’re generally very polite. They’re gone in a flash. I’m sure I could overtake them if I strapped on a pair of rocket-powered roller skates from the Acme Co. What could possibly go wrong?
High on the Hog connects with Broken Arrow atop a slickrock shelf. I sit for a while, soaking in the far-reaching vistas, then backtrack to the junction with Hog Heaven. High on the Hog and Hog Heaven are rated double black diamond for bikers. This is the international symbol to make sure your affairs are in order before you start. Both trails are one-way for bikers, flowing east to west. Hikers are under no such restrictions.
Hog Heaven (0.9 mile) skirts the fringe of sandstone platforms and the views are relentless. This loop pummels you with views. I turn right on Hog Wash and begin dropping through the forest from my high perch.
All these twists and turns may sound confusing, but they’re not. Signs and maps with “You Are Here” indicators are posted at every junction to show all the options for exploration in this fantastic backcountry corner.
I’m not finished with the swine trails yet. I still want to hike the Pigtail and Peccary trails, but I’ll save them for another time. No use being a hog about it.
Hiking the Hogs
Where: Here’s how to hike the Broken Arrow-Twin Buttes-Hog Heaven-Hog Wash Loop. From the traffic circle at State Route 179 and State Route 89A in Sedona, take 179 south for 1.4 miles to Morgan Road. Turn east on Morgan and follow it to the end of the pavement. Continue on a rough dirt road for 0.1 mile to the parking area.
Length: 3.1 mile loop; 3.7 miles if you include High on the Hog.
Details: 928-203-2900, redrockcountry.org.
Sedona bike rentals and repairs
Absolute Bikes: 6101 State Route 179. 928-284-1242, absolutebikes.net.
Sedona Bike & Bean: 75 Bell Rock Plaza. 928-284-0210, bike-bean.com.
What else is new in Sedona
Pisa Lisa: This restaurant offers delicious wood-fired pizzas and gourmet salads in a stylish setting in west Sedona. The sauces and dressings were created at chef Lisa Dahl’s fine-dining restaurants in town and add a decadent touch to this casual eatery. The pizza crust is thin but firm and beautifully charred. After hiking the Hogs, keep the pork theme going with the Au Sauvage, topped with Calabrese sausage, San Danielle prosciutto, pepperoni, spicy coppa and soppressata.
Details: 2245 W. State Route 89A. 928-282-5472, pisalisa.com.
Peppermint Zebra: More than just a toy and candy store, this is a colorful fantasyland and family getaway. Kids will love prowling the interactive shop packed to the rafters with playthings. Storytelling, puppet shows and magic acts are presented regularly. Chocolates and confections range from retro to premium small-batch creations.
Details: 671 State Route 179 (in Hillside Sedona). 928-282-0220, peppermintzebra.com.
Sedona View Trail: This recently completed route connects the upper Airport Vista with the Lower Airport Saddle, which is used to access Airport Loop Trail. The 0.6-mile Sedona View Trail offers a way to get between the two popular sites without walking on the busy Airport Road, and displays lovely panoramas.
Details: 928-203-2900, redrockcountry.org.