Wet Beaver Loop
Trailhead: Bell Crossing
Length: 22 miles roundtrip
Wilderness Area: Wet Beaver Wilderness
Journal: "All About Water"
Directions to Trailhead:
From Phoenix take 1-17 north to Exit 298. This is the exit for Sedona. As you exit the interstate, turn East (right). Drive 4 miles on FR 618 (paved). Turn left at the signed intersection to the trailhead. The trailhead is 1/4 mile down a good dirt road. This trail is accessible in a sedan.
From the trailhead (elev. 4000), follow the Bell Trail #13 for 2 miles to the Apache Maid Trail #15. Follow the Apache Maid trail as it switchbacks up 1200 feet to the north rim of Wet Beaver Creek. Once you reach the rim, the trail dissolves amongst a bunch of old jeep roads. Sometimes you will be on old jeep roads and sometimes you will be on faint single track. You will need good route finding skills to follow the trail. We had a GPS and a topo map and still got off trail more than once!
The Apache Maid trail follows mostly flat ground as it heads to Apache Maid Tanks. These two tanks were bone dry when we did this loop in June of 2000. Continue to follow the Apache Maid as it heads east toward a ridge on the north flank of Hog Hill. The climb over Hog Hill is a long straight climb of over 600 feet topping out a 6300 feet.
Just before you reach the high point of this climb, the Apache Maid trail leaves the jeep trail you have been following and heads to the northeast. Stay on the Jeep trail as it continues to the east and the drops into Waldroup Canyon. At 9.25 miles, Waldroup Tank was our first night's camp. Waldroup Tank has lots of water, but it was so silt laden that it was like filtering gravy when trying to get clean water. I used up a brand new filter trying to get a gallon of clean water from the tank.
The second day we began our descent of Waldroup Canyon. Waldroup Canyon is a stunning narrow canyon that his lined with trees and towered over by huge basalt formations. In descending the canyon there are 7 water falls that block your path. The first one is an easy scramble. The next two have routes around to the left. The forth has a route to the right. The fifth is quite difficult. You must down climb it. We lowered our packs with a rope and the free climbed down a chimney. Not for the faint of heart.
The sixth fall was an easy scramble and the seventh required we again lower our packs and down climb. In all, it took us two hours to cover the one mile from the top of the canyon to the junction with Wet Beaver Creek (elevation 5100 feet) .When you reach the creek bottom turn right and boulder hop for 1/2 mile until you reach the springs.
Once you reach the springs, you will immediately enter the water. From the springs to Bell Crossing, some 7 miles distant, you will have to swim about 20 large pools and wade dozens more. The pools average 200 feet in length. There are six pools in the first 3 miles from the spring. When not swimming in the pools, you will be doing extensive boulder hoping along the banks or in the creek. The creek is lined with willows that you will need to hack your way through as you cross from one side of the creek to the other. The creek bottom itself is very slippery and it is best to avoid walking on the creek bottom as it will severely slow you down. Our average speed while in Wet Beaver Creek was 3/4ths of a mile per hour!!
We spent the night on a gravel bar about 3 miles down stream from the springs. Campsites in the canyon are limited. The best one we found were on a high bench on the left bank of the river approximately 4 miles from the springs.
Between 3 and 5 miles below the springs, there are many pools on rapid succession. The rock in this point changes from the Coconino sandstone that dominated the upper canyon pools to the Supai sandstone that is prevalent in the lower canyon.
About 5 miles from the springs, there is a Supai pool that has 40 foot walls on either site, but the creek is blocked by a massive 20 foot tall log jam. We were able to create a route to the right that involved climbing a slanted slab of sandstone to an overlook and then lowering our packs down by rope and shimmying down a dead tree for 30 feet. It left us bruised and battered, but alive.
The last 2 miles to Bell Crossing are quite pretty. There are several springs in this area and a few campsites. The last swimming hole is just before Bell Crossing and we found people there picnicking and cliff jumping.
From Bell Crossing, follow the Bell Trail 3.5 miles west to the trailhead.
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