East Pocket Knob A. B. Young Trail, Arizona
The Mountains of Arizona
East Pocket Knob • A. B. Young Trail • Oak Creek Canyon
• Coconino National Forest
• Coconino County

East Pocket Knob A B Young Trail, Arizona
Partway up the steep slope, looking south at Wilson Mountain
East Pocket Knob A B Young Trail, Arizona
Looking up, the trail will eventually reach the dark-colored knob up above
East Pocket Knob A B Young Trail, Arizona
Rocky dikes along the route
East Pocket Knob A B Young Trail, Arizona
Suddenly, the lookout tower
East Pocket Knob A B Young Trail, Arizona
View of the lookout from a little bit to the west
East Pocket Knob A B Young Trail, Arizona
West view of the smoke from the Platypus Fire
East Pocket Knob A B Young Trail, Arizona
Humphreys Peak
East Pocket Knob A B Young Trail, Arizona
Smokier view as I descend into Oak Creek Canyon
East Pocket Knob A B Young Trail, Arizona
The long uphill slope
East Pocket Knob A B Young Trail, Arizona
Montage of signs. I could not locate the actual benchmark
East Pocket Knob A B Young Trail, Arizona
Montage of where I crossed Oak Creek, plus another image of the slope

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Date: September 8, 2018 • Elevation: 7,196 feet • Prominence: 401 feet • Distance: 4.2 miles • Time: 4 hours and 20 minutes • Gain: 2,000 feet • Conditions: Cool to warm, clear but with faint smokey smell


We spent the weekend in Cottonwood, near Sedona, with plans to veg, hike and enjoy the slightly-cooler weather here (90s instead of 100s). I had a few hikes selected in and around Sedona. I wanted one "big" hike and a few shorter ones. For the big one, I chose to hike to a non-descript bump in the Coconino Forest called East Pocket Knob. It is technically a ranked summit because it has over 300 feet of prominence, but you'd never know it when there. It's just a soft rise in ponderosa forest, still showing signs from the 2014 Slide Fire.

East Pocket Knob was just a destination. The hike to it, though, is an Arizona classic, following a good trail nearly 1,600 feet straight up and out of Oak Creek Canyon. The trail is called the A. B. Young Trail. It starts low in the canyon near the canyon's north headwall, and pretty much charges straight uphill to the rim high above. Above the rim is the Coconino Plateau, with its ponderosa forest and gentle, imperceptible inclines. East Pocket is like a peninsula of the Coconino Plateau, jutting off its south boundary, surrounded on three sides by steep canyons.

The trail, supposedly, is an old Indian route that was later used by ranchers, then later, in the 1930s, worked into a proper footpath by the Civilian Conservation Corps, overseen by Mr. A. B. Young, for whom the trail is named. It is the only trail that starts low in Oak Creek Canyon that actually leaves the canyon and emerges onto the Plateau. To the south about 5 miles is Wilson Mountain, which Beth and I hiked in 2006. That is a remnant appendage of the Coconino Plateau but now, via erosion, separated from the Plateau.

Sedona is an unbelievably beautiful area. The red rocks form into wonderful cliffs and spires, with unlimited hiking options. North of Sedona is Oak Creek Canyon, with its 1,500-foot high walls, flowing water, heavy forest and beautiful views. However, the area is also very popular with tourists, and very expensive. As a result, we have not visited it often, and when we do, like now, stay a little out of town to save significant money. It's not trivial, and Cottonwood is just 15 miles away.

We left Scottsdale in the late afternoon on Friday, arriving into Cottonwood a couple hours later, about 6:30 p.m.. We checked into our hotel and did some grocery runs. On the drive in, we saw the smoke cloud and a couple plumes of the Platypus Fire, which started in late July and has been left to burn itself out. It is on some isolated mesa-tops and not near any homes or structures. The sunset to the west was magnificent.

I had some concern that the fire may have closed trails up there, and I really could not tell how close the fire was to East Pocket. A quick look online indicated no closures, so I went for it. I was up very early, and arrived into Oak Creek Canyon about 6 a.m., intending to score a spot at the Bootlegger Day Use area, fearing all spots may be already taken. Well, I was the first one there. I parked, got properly dressed, locked up my car and started hiking at 6:10 a.m.. The A. B. Young Trail is open, with few shade trees. Thus, the early start also meant I would have shade for about the first hour, as the sun was blocked by the east side of the canyon.

From the parking area, I walked down a stone stairway, then down more random large rocks, to locate myself beside Oak Creek. I had to cross it somehow. Sources online were vague where to cross, and I suspected most people just pick a spot and wade across. I spent about 20 minutes walking up and down some paths, looking for what may be the "right" spot. The narrowest spots still required about 10 feet, and there appeared no way to just boulder-hop across. Finally, I just picked a narrow spot, and took off my boots and socks, and carefully waded across. The water was cold and about two feet deep, about mid-thigh. But quickly, I was on the other side. I sat to let my feets dry, then put on my socks and boots.

I had to bash through some reeds and brush, then up a simple rocky section, to get away from the creek. I looked for anything that looked like a trail. Looking up, I saw some wiring, so I hiked up a sloppy slope to it, and boom, found a trail which runs parallel to the creek. I followed it south, but within feet, saw a sign pointing to "A. B. Young Trail" the other way. So I walked north a few hundred feet, and soon found the trail jutting off this first trail, marked by a metal sign. I had spent nearly a half hour futzing around with the creek. It was about 6:45 a.m., and the sun was rising fast. It was going to be a warm day, so I did not waste time.

The next mile and a half is the steep haul up the Young trail to the plateau rim way above. You can see the whole route: looking up is a large dark-colored rock knob at the very top, and below it is a long slope of woody brush and random rock formations. The trail goes up this brushy slope, with 33 switchbacks, so the sources say (I did not keep track).

I just put my head down and started up the switchbacks. There was nothing exciting about this segment. The higher I got, the prettier the views were, with cliffs, rock outcrops and forest everywhere. The first half of the trail is moderately steep. Then, there's a point where it is noticeably steeper, and narrower in places. Nevertheless, it was easy to hike and I made good time. I would stop every 10 minutes for about a minute, take a few photos, admire the views, then move on.

Nearing the dark-colored rock knob, the trail makes a long traverse north, and in places gets narrow, with erosion having caused some parts to slough downslope. There were also a few small talus slopes to cross. These parts were short, but demanded some attention. A fall would lilkely result in a lot of scratches in the heavy mountain oak and brush that clogs the slopes. In a couple spots, the runout would have been much longer.

Anyway, nearing the top, the trail makes a couple more switchbacks, then emerges onto the plateau. It had taken me about 90 minutes to get here, not counting that extra time I spent below at the creek. Also, there were some ponderosa pines, some burned, some alive. The shade was welcome. Now at just below 7,000 feet, it was cooler. I took a break at some rocks to drink and text my wife. I could also smell a faint smokey scent, presumably from the Platypus Fire. It was not a heavy smell at all, and if the breeze picked up, it would blow the smoke away from me.

I continued my hike, now following the trail generally south and southwest through the forest. It was esy to follow, but in some spoits was weak. Soon, I was coming upon the lookout tower. I could hear a person up there. As I walked closer to it, he said it was cool if I came up. I accepted his offer, but first wanted to tromp around the area and snap a few photos. The highest spot is near or under the tower, and another soft rise about a hundred feet west may also be as high. Back at the tower, I carefully acsended the steep steps onto the viewing platform, and met Guy the lookout guy. He was a cool dude.

I spent about ten minutes here. He was monitoring the fire, which was about 3 miles to the west. He said not many people come up the Young trail, maybe a handful a week. Most people visit the tower by driving the forest roads. The views from the tower were great, but the smoke blotted out the west and south views. However, looking north, I had a lovely view of Humphreys Peak. We chatted and he seems to enjoy the copmpany. Going by the log book he keeps, the tower gets about a half-dozen people a day on weekends, maybe one a day on weekdays.

I wanted to get moving before my muscles tightened up. I thanked Guy for letting me come up, and then got busy walking down. The hike out just retraced my route coming up. I was back to the rim in a matter of minutes. Then, the descent down the steep switchbacks took about an hour. Down low, I met three women hiking up. I was surprised to see anyone and they were surprised to see me. We talked a little bit, mainly an excuse to rest. I was back to the creek, then waded across where I had come across earlier. More people were here, some with dogs playing in the water.

I was back to my car at 10:30 a.m., a four-hour and twenty-minute hike. The hike up had taken about two and a half hours, and the hike down a little under two hours. The one-way elevation change was almost exactly 2,000 feet. There were groups now picnicking and general crowdedness now at the Bootlegger, so I changed into my driving clothes and slowly drove out of the canyon and back to Cottonwood.

The hike was fantastic, but it is steep. I got a great quad, ham and glute workout and I was pretty beat by the time I was back to my car. But it was easy with fabulous views. You can't go wrong here. Any direction you look will have amazing scenery in it. By the time I was passing through Sedona, the roads were congested with traffic. I just drove back to Cottonwood and relaxed with Beth. The next day, I would hike two shorter peaks, Scheurman Mountain and Doe Mountain. We returned to Scottsdale on Monday.

(c) 2018 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.