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Long / Bell Loop - Coconino National Forest

Summary: A long loop hike with long sections of invisible trail, which connects the Long Canyon Trail with the Bell Trail near Wet Beaver Creek. If you decide to do this hike you will need good route finding skills. I'd also recommend wearing gaitors to protect your socks from the many unpleasant grasses.
Directions: From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Sedona (exit 179).  Turn right (east) at the end of the exit on to Forest Road (FR) #618. Drive past the turn off for Wet Beaver Creek, then past the picnic area and turn left at the sign for Web Beaver Ranch. Drive about 0.5 miles down this well graded dirt road to the prominent car park on the left. To avoid the road walk, it is advisable to spot another car at the Wet Beaver Creek Trailhead.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car
Navigation: Difficult
Length: ~16 miles
Date Hiked: May 2003
Weather Conditions: Sunny & hot with a nice breeze
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the car park walk across the road and through the gate. The sign at the trail head reads 'Long Canyon Trail #63, Bell Trail #13 - 10 miles, Notice: Trail difficult to find after 2 miles'. Begin climbing through the chaparral up some fairly steep switchbacks until you finally arrive at the top of the mesa. The path levels out at this point as it travels across the mesa through grasses, juniper and prickly pear (the scenery looks much the same for the next 10 miles). There are a few cairns encased in wire mesh (to keep the stupid cows from knocking them over) and later, some plastic trail signs to follow. The mesa has clearly been decimated by years of overgrazing. All that remains are unpalatable grasses, which unfortunately, are also the kind that produce seed pods that cling to your socks, making walking uncomfortable. The trail is mostly easy to follow at first until you reach a sign that says 'Trail difficult to find behind this area, use with caution'. Sure enough, the trail becomes extremely faint and difficult to follow and the spacing of cairns is just far enough apart to create some confusion. Keep truckin' using my GPS points below if you'd like. When you reach a cow tank, the path seems to disappear. Stay to the right around the tank (don't enter the enclosed fence) and look for cairns and sign posts. From here the path is non-existent, and it's up to you to locate the next trail marker as you essentially head cross country. After some more hiking, you'll reach two cairns which are close together and the welcome sight of an old road. The path bends right and follows the faint road for a while. The trail leaves the road on the left after a mile or so. Keep an eye out for cairns on the left as you hike (this occurs at GPS point #3 below). If the road begins to become well traveled, you've probably gone too far. Turn left and leave the road at the cairn. At this point, you'll be able to see the drainage of Long Canyon off to your left. The cairns (no trail once again) follow the edge of the canyon (crossing a fence along the way that you'll have to jump over) until you reach a spot near the head of the drainage. The path then bends left, passes through another fence then heads down into the canyon (this is the left upper fork of Long Canyon), becoming surprisingly distinct as it descends (likely the result of cattle walking down to the creek for a drink). Once in the canyon bottom, cross and look for a route out the other side. Note: I lost the trail briefly exiting the canyon, but soon picked it up about half way up the other side. Once on the mesa, the path passes through a fence then enters a grassy area where I lost the path once again. I believe the trail heads up and around the left fork of Long Canyon to meet up with the Bell Trail. I crossed the left fork prematurely, but was eventually able to pick up the Bell Trail on the other side. Either way, once you've found the Bell Trail #13 (which unfortunately is in no better shape than the Long), continue the same routine of locating cairns or signs as you walk across the grasslands. Be aware that when you come to another tank, the trail bends right and climbs a low rise. Finally, you will reach the start of the distinct section of the Bell Trail and the sign photographed below. It's easy walking as the path descends a well maintained trail with views to the right down into Wet Beaver Creek. You'll eventually cross to the left side of the ridge as you descend with views down into the lower sections of Long Canyon until the path terminates at Wet Beaver Creek at the mouth of Long Canyon. Those that still have some energy at this point, may want to walk up Long Canyon about 15 minutes to check out a short section of Supai sandstone narrows. You may have to wade a few times and do some climbing around on the left to avoid some deeper pools if you're not up for a swim. When ready, cross Wet Beaver Creek and pick up the well trodden footpath on the other side. Follow it the remaining 4 miles to the Wet Beaver Creek car park, where you've hopefully spotted a vehicle. Otherwise, you've got a couple more miles of road walking ahead of you to get back to the car park at the Long Canyon trail head.
UTM Coordinates for the hike:
       1) 12S,437582mE, 3836369mN
       2) 12S,439240mE, 3835574mN
       3) 12S,440615mE, 3834900mN
       4) 12S,441644mE, 3834065mN
       5) 12S,443231mE, 3834432mN
       6) 12S,441976mE, 3835396mN
       7) 12S,440727mE, 3836109mN
Rating (1-5 stars):
Not really a pleasant hike or one that I'd recommend. The author was dropped off at the Long Canyon trail head, then hiked at a brisk pace to the Wet Beaver Parking area in 6 hours where he was picked up again.
Maps: Coconino National Forest Map
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Most of the hike looks just like this.
The 'trail' runs through the center
of the photo
Sign pointing back the way you
came on the Bell Trail (too late ).
The drainage of Wet Beaver Creek. The short Supai narrows
in Long Canyon.