Vultee Arch / Sterling Pass

Vultee Arch

Vultee Arch


The trail is for the tree lover in all of us. It has just about every specie of tree this part of Arizona has to offer. The Lost Wilson Mountain (south) side of the trail was burned in the Brins Mesa Fire a few years ago. The grasses, weeds and flowers are coming back strong and were as green as could be last spring. This one is on my list for a revisit this spring.

Below is what the Coconino National Forest website has to say.
Or you can go there by clicking “Here”

A short, easy hike along the bottom of Sterling Canyon. The drainage is dry most of the year. Shade is available, but it would be wise to carry some water in the warm months.
The signed trailhead is on the east side of the parking area. The well maintained trail almost immediately enters Wilderness and climbs gradually in the shade of Arizona cypress beside a dry stream bed on the floor of Sterling Canyon. There are occasional views of red rock formations to the left and of the sheer walls of Lost Wilson Mountain on the right.

After .75 miles, the trail enters stands of ponderosa pine and oak which show the scars from the 1996 “Arch” fire. Nearing the 1.75 mile point, there is a marked fork. Sterling Pass Trail branches off to the right. Keep left and continue 100 yards where the trail ends at a large red rock outcrop. There are nice views of the canyon, mountains and of Vultee Arch, about .25 miles the north.

The trail dead ends at a bronze plaque placed in memorium for Gerard and Sylvia Vultee who lost their lives in an aircraft crash on January 29, 1938. The actual crash site is more than a mile north and at a much higher elevation, on East Pocket Mesa. On the north side of the canyon across from the plaque is the sandstone arch named for Vultee, an early aircraft designer from California. Just before the plaque site there is a junction with the Sterling Pass Trail which continues over into Oak Creek Canyon. Return by the same route for a a 3.5 mile hike.

Rating: Easy
Hiking time: Allow 2 hours roundtrip
Usage: Heavy
GPS: N34° 56′ 12.1554″, W-111° 47′ 44.412″

Directions: Go West through Sedona to Dry Creek Road (152C) at the west end of town. Turn right on Dry Creek Road and drive for two miles to Forest Road 152. This road is rough, but can be traveled by passenger vehicles. It is not recommended during wet weather. About 4.3 miles up this road you will reach a small sandy opening or turn-a-round. Park here and proceed hiking out the east end of the opening along a short jeep trail which deadends at a drainage. Continue on the foot path up the canyon.

Named for a local settler, Sterling Pass Trail leads over a high saddle from Oak Creek Canyon into nearby and equally scenic Sterling Canyon. The climb is steep right from the trailhead. The trail climbs up an unnamed drainage through a mixed conifer forest dominated by huge orange-barked ponderosa pines. Dwarf canyon maples are plentiful here too. They turn scarlet and peach in the fall, making this a great place to enjoy the most colorful of seasons.
As you ascend the steep slope you’ll notice that, above the mosaic of tree limbs that form the forest ceiling, huge monoliths of deep red and buff sandstone tower toward the sky. You’ll be rubbing shoulders with these giants as you slide between them at the top of the pass and begin the descent into Sterling Canyon. The best overlooks are along the climb, so be sure to take a break every now and then to enjoy them. The view from the top is somewhat obscured by trees.
Rating: Moderate to strenuous
Hiking time: 1-1.5 hours
Notes:
No mechanized vehicles (including mountain bikes) in Wilderness.
This trail can be hot and dry in summer.
Please do not disturb ruins or remove artifacts.
At a Glance
Open Season: Year ’round
Usage: Medium
Best Season: April – November

Named for a local settler, Sterling Pass Trail leads over a high saddle from Oak Creek Canyon into nearby and equally scenic Sterling Canyon. The climb is steep right from the trailhead. The trail climbs up an unnamed drainage through a mixed conifer forest dominated by huge orange-barked ponderosa pines. Dwarf canyon maples are plentiful here too. They turn scarlet and peach in the fall, making this a great place to enjoy the most colorful of seasons.
As you ascend the steep slope you’ll notice that, above the mosaic of tree limbs that form the forest ceiling, huge monoliths of deep red and buff sandstone tower toward the sky. You’ll be rubbing shoulders with these giants as you slide between them at the top of the pass and begin the descent into Sterling Canyon. The best overlooks are along the climb, so be sure to take a break every now and then to enjoy them. The view from the top is somewhat obscured by trees.
Rating: Moderate to strenuous
Hiking time: 1-1.5 hours
Notes:
No mechanized vehicles (including mountain bikes) in Wilderness.
This trail can be hot and dry in summer.
Please do not disturb ruins or remove artifacts.
At a Glance
Open Season: Year ’round
Usage: Medium
Best Season: April – November