Analysing terrain data
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The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
The first indication that this is a different sort of Sedona hike is the complete lack of a trailhead.
The access to the trail is about 500 feet north of a wide spot along the east side of Oak Creek Canyon road, which is where to park.
The Telephone Trail is thickly wooded and flat for the first 2/10-mile, then climbs steeply up the canyon on a faint trail and passes under the eponymous telephone line.
It is immediately obvious that Sedona trails lacking distinct trailheads see far less traffic.
It is not difficult to find the trail, but it is most certainly more “primitive” than the typical area tread. The trail is STEEP, passing huge trees and lush agave plants as it leaves the sound of Oak Creek Canyon traffic below.
The entire roundtrip mileage is only 2.5 miles, but after the mellow start, it gains 1,000 feet of elevation over the next mile! One of the most striking features of the Telephone Trail hike is an impressive rock formation with "windows" through it.
About halfway, after a short, but steep descent that negotiates a wash, the unique formation suddenly appears right on the trail.
Take time to gaze through these openings as they frame amazing views of the canyon walls beyond.
If timed right, a late afternoon hike will allow the setting sun to illuminate the “windows” on the descent. The remaining trek involves a narrow ledge or two and a lot more steep, increasingly loose, tread.
There is no real “destination,” as the trail becomes less defined until it finally peters out near the rim of the Oak Creek Canyon.
This is the perfect spot to take in the views, then use the nearby huge log to rest and enjoy the serenity. On the descent, trekking poles will come in handy while negotiating the extremely loose tread on the steep trail.
One slip and the descent could become MUCH faster, as well as quite painful! While hiking out, relish the knowledge that you experienced a very lightly-traveled, special place in Sedona.