Geocaching Around Sedona Arizona
Modern Day Treasure Hunting and Enjoying the Red Rock Formations
For our last full day of vacation in Northern Arizona, our son, Jeff, decided we should do a little geocaching. It would be a fun and easy way for us to see some of the red rock formations around Sedona as well give the sightseeing a purpose and challenge. Geocaching is "Modern Day Treasure Hunting".
So many caches, so little time. Geocaching.com, the official website for geocaching, lists over 12,000 caches in and around Sedona! Certainly more than we could find in a day, or maybe even a year, for that matter. Using the website, Jeff was able to locate several caches that would highlight the sights of Sedona and prove challenging (but not too challenging), for us to enjoy.
After downloading the coordinates for our treasure hunt into his GPS, we were on our way.
Marriage Proposal Point, Cathedral Rock
The first stop on our journey was Cathedral Rock. Traveling south of Sedona on Rt. 179S (toward the Village of Oak Creek) we took a right turn on to Back O'Beyond Rd to the trailhead parking lot (Red Rock Parking Pass required).
It was a short walk to the intersection of Cathedral Rock Trail and Templeton Trail. Cathedral Rock Trail gets significantly steeper and more difficult from this point to the end of it. Fortunately for us, our quest had us turn right onto Templeton Trail. To find the hidden cache, Jeff left the trail and climbed further away from both.
After several minutes of searching and almost ready to give up, Jeff found the geocache, "Marriage Proposal Point" tucked in between the 2 trails. With Cathedral Rock looming behind, it is the perfect place for a marriage proposal. Didn't bring a ring, no problem. There are some in the cache.
While Jeff searched, we stayed on Templeton Trail and enjoyed a collared lizard watching us. A few mountains bikers rode by wondering what we were doing.
Jeff found his treasure off the trail and well hidden, my wife found her “treasure” along Cathedral Rock Trail. A Native American was selling hand-made jewelry. Jeff had found what he was looking for. Unexpectedly, Cindy did too.
Mostly Red Rocks, Sedona Centennial Trail
Our second quest was located in West Sedona near Yavapai College. Traveling south on Rt 89A (westbound) from Sedona we took a right turn onto Cultural Park Way. From there, it was a short drive to the parking lot.
Centennial Trail is a flat, paved, 5 foot wide, well maintained trail that, when completed, will be a fully accessible ADA trail. Currently, 1/3 of a mile long (one-way) it winds through pinyon pine forest and ends in a loop section looking out on several rock formations that include the Cockscomb, Mingus Mountain, and Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness. Signs with pictures help to identify the formations you are looking at.
Once located, the "Mostly Red Rocks" cache was fairly obvious being green rather than red like the natural rocks around it. Flipping over the fake rock revealed a small container. The container was so small, it only held a log for recording your success. It wasn't even large enough to hold a pen or pencil.
Celebrating our success, it was time for lunch at Wildflower Bread Co. Enjoying soup, sandwiches, and salads on the deck over looking Snoopy Rock, we had a well deserved rest and refueling.
Devil's Kitchen Sinkhole and Keys to the Kitchen, Soldier Pass Trail
After my wife and daughter-in-law finished their search for treasures in the shops on Main Street Sedona, we were again heading west on Route 89A. Just past the Airport Rd on the left, we turned right on to Soldier Pass Rd towards Coffee Pot Rock.
Winding thru a residential area we eventually reached the parking lot. It was a relatively short hike (1/4 mile one way) across a wash to the main Soldier Pass Trail and the sinkhole, "Devil's Kitchen Sinkhole", an earth cache.
There was a second geocache, "Keys to the Kitchen", a key cache, nearby. It was an old ammunition box painted red to blend in with the rest of the rocks and dirt and it contained tourist key rings to take and trade. Watch out for the jeeps, there are a lot of tours in this area.
Had we traveled a quarter of a mile further down the trail we would have reached the "Seven Sacred Pools". But, the day was getting late and we had at least 2 more treasures to find.
Deadman's Cache, Deadman's Pass Trail/Mescal Trail
From Soldier Pass Rd, we turned right onto Route 89A South, westbound toward West Sedona. A right turn onto Deadman's Pass (if you get to the hospital, you have gone too far). After a few miles, including a left turn onto Boyonton Canyon, we were at the parking lot (Red Rock Parking Pass required). It was a relatively short flat walk on Deadman's Pass Trail to almost its intersection with Mescal Trail.
The "Deadman's Cache" was located off the trail, 75-100 feet or so. The geocache, a tupperware container under a bush, was eventually found after some searching. This location is another great spot to view the mountains (Mescal Mountain) and rock formations of the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness.
Red Rocks, Airport Mesa
Our last last geocache was another earth cache. Located across from the airport parking area, Airport Mesa is a popular location to view the sunset and the "Red Rocks". While it had coordinates, most people know where it is located.
After a day of treasure hunting it was time to relax and enjoy our last evening in Arizona. It was off to dinner and a few microbrews at Oak Creek Brewery. Treasures in their own right.
What is Geocaching?
The origin of geocaching dates to midnight, May 2, 2000. President Bill Clinton authorized greater civilian access to highly accurate signals from global positioning satellites on this date. Prior to this, these signals were reserved for the military.
Learn more about geocaching or get started by signing up for an account at www.geocaching.com.
To get started, the only geocaching gear you need is:
- Free membership to geocaching.com
- GPS unit or a Smartphone with GPS capability
From the website, a search will produce a list of geocache's in the area you plan to hunt (often based on a zip code). GPS coordinates for the location will be noted in addition to the type of cache and the difficulty you can expect in locating it. Plug these coordinates into the GPS or a smartphone and you are all set.
Some hunts are easy walks. Some are difficult hikes. Some caches are very small objects hidden almost in plain sight. Some are larger objects well hidden and will take some effort to find. Some aren't even hidden. Earth cache's are just a location you visit such as the sinkhole and airport mesa.
"Treasures" are often hidden in water-proof containers, Tupperware containers or old military ammo boxes. Some are specially made products that look like natural rocks or bricks with hollow centers.
Inside each container is usually a pen and log to document your visit. There are often little "trinkets" inside; some left by the person who placed the cache, some left by visitors. The rule is: 'if you take something, leave something of equal or greater value in return.'
So, what are you waiting for? Grab the kids or the grandkids and get out geocaching. A treasure is just waiting for you to find.
The Future, Geocache Tours or Geotours
To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the National Park Service created a geotour. The Star-Spangled Banner Geotrail is a combination of sightseeing and geocaching. Thirty-five caches were hidden in areas of Maryland, Virgina, and Washington, D.C related to the war. The tour is used to promote history as well as encourage tourism.
Even my favorite place in Maine, Acadia National Park, has an EarthCache Program. Using a GPS and clues obtained from the park website, you visit some of the park's significant geological resources. (Geocaching with traditional caches is not permitted in National Parks).
The Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History also has a geotour in the works.
Currently, there are about 40 tours world-wide.
"The Groundspeak Geocaching Logo is a registered trademark of Groundspeak, Inc. Used with permission."
© 2012 Mark Shulkosky