The Boynton Needle is a prominent rock spire that is easily visible from the system trail. Nearby, and sitting on the same ledge, is a second spire known as the Dreamspeaker. The social route to reach this location is one of the most beautiful and challenging in Sedona!
There are at least three spires in this part of Boynton Canyon, which, seen from the right vantage point, resemble human heads. The Dreamspeaker is one of them. In this case the face of the spire seems to be looking almost directly at a deep alcove in the cliff wall, known as the Dreamspeaker Cave. It contains an impressive cliff dwelling from the now extinct. Experienced hikers can combine a visit to Dreamspeaker Cave with the Subway. Those in excellent physical condition could even include the Women’s Village or the Kachina Tree, creating a loop above and another below the elbow bend in the system trail.
RATED: Difficult due to steep climbs, thick brush and route finding
TOTAL DISTANCE: 6.2 miles out and back
ELEVATION GAIN: 850 ft
EST. HIKING TIME: 4 hours round trip from the parking area
BEST TIME TO GO: All year
PET FRIENDLY: No. The terrain here is too rugged for most dogs. Also, please do not visit any ruins with your pet.
Park at the Boynton Canyon Trailhead. You'll need a Red Rock Pass or an America the Beautiful pass. Or use the free parking on the street if you get there early enough.
FINDING THE SOCIAL TRAIL
From the system trail the approach to this ledge looks impossible due to the cliffs (shown below).
However... turn right and walk up the side canyon. You can see the backside of the Boynton Needle (shown below) where there are several obvious breaks in the cliff. It's MUCH easier to get up from this side!
This social trail climbs to the saddle between the Boynton Needle and the cliff (photo above).
Once you drop down on the other side of the saddle, the route passes through a little more brush and then onto open slickrock (shown below).
There are two ways to get on the social trail from the system trail.
- One is to walk up the wash itself.
- The other way is to go past the wash a short distance and look for a faint social trail breaking to the left. This social trail goes up the side canyon and runs parallel to the wash. It's a little easier to walk on if there hasn't been too much deadfall over the winter.Whether you start out in the wash or on the social trail,
In either case you will have to take another right turn -- in order to access a second side canyon AND the cliff breaks on the backside of the Needle (the ones shown above).
In the photo below the Boynton Needle is the spire on the left, the Dreamspeaker is the spire on the right, and the cave is just to the left of that. Both spires have "faces" that are looking at the cave, so here you are looking at the back of the head. The hikers at the bottom of this photo are standing on the rim of the side canyon, across from the Boynton Needle. In other words, the side canyon you would be hiking up is between them and Needle. They are 150 feet above the creek bed. The distance between them and the cliff directly behind them (approximately 300 feet) has been compressed by using a telephoto lens.
There is also a cliff dwelling at the base of the Boynton Needle (shown below) where the vertical top of the spire turns into a slope.
The view from the Dreamspeaker ledge (shown below) is one of my Top 10 favorite panoramas in Sedona. If there has been sufficient rain or snow recently there are several water pockets in the rock that will hold water. This is most likely where the native people who built the ruins got their drinking water.
GETTING BACK HOME
HIKING TIP: A general rule in canyon country is that going down through thick brush is much easier than coming up, so going back this way is not a bad option.
There is no social trail if you go down this way, and there are some ledges to navigate. It is also choked with brush, but it does provide a faster route back the parking area. I've been DOWN this way several times, but I've never gone UP.
The alternative would be to hike back through the saddle and down the way you came.