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Sterling Pass / Vultee Arch, AZ

Posted May 31 2011 12:00am

4.8mi return
1120ft elevation gain
Designated “Strenuous”, though only because of the elevation / altitude.
Park Pass required to park a vehicle

Of many good (better, in fact) alternatives out of Sedona, Arizona, I chose Sterling Pass … because it led to a natural Arch.

I’m a sucker for natural Arches.

That’s not me on the arch. It’s from this trip report:

From 89A, locate the rusty metal Sterling Pass #46 sign which marks the start of the trail. The well maintained trail climbs moderately to steeply up through a nicely forested area of pine, juniper and oak. As you continue up the canyon the path becomes steeper and climbs about 1000′ in a little over a mile to Sterling Pass. There are several use paths at the pass, stay straight on the trail that immediately begins descending down the other side. The path descends moderately to steeply through more forest, eventually leveling out somewhat to travel beside a small stream, which was flowing when I was here. Soon you’ll reach a trail junction and sign pointing back to the right for Vultee Arch (2.4 miles), the Sterling Trail continues straight another 1.6 miles to the Dry Creek Trailhead (the more popular and easy route to this point).

You are not allowed to climb the Arch. I didn’t.

Unless you are an Arch fanatic, I’d suggest hiking elsewhere on the slickrock. This route has a lot of elevation gain relative to the quality of the views. Here are a couple of pics I liked, though.

Sterling Pass does not have good parking. The exact trailhead is signed, but you’ll stumble along the highway for a while looking … unless you check with someone at Manzanita Campground across the highway.

In the end, I wished I’d done the far more popular Cathedral Rock Trail , instead.

Leave a comment if there’s a longer Sedona must hike scenic that I missed.

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