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If you are the hardcore type who enjoys a 5-8 hour scramble that most people will not even attempt, there are three extreme summits in the Dry Creek Basin you will probably love: Thunder Mountain, Maroon Mountain and Lost Wilson Mountain. All of these can be reached without any climbing gear.
WARNING: THIS ROUTE IS RATED AS EXTREME. IT SHOULD ONLY BE ATTEMPTED BY HIKERS WITH EXTENSIVE BACKCOUNTRY EXPERIENCE.
The Lost Wilson Summit is one of the most challenging and least traveled routes in Sedona, so reaching the summit will place you in a very elite group of rock scramblers. We strongly recommend purchasing the GPS track before attempting this one. The view is expansive and there are some intriguing limestone formations on the top.
What makes the route so demanding is the long approach hike, followed by a sustained climb that involves significant route finding and, at times, thick brush. Because of the brush this hike can only be done in the winter months, when you can wear long sleeves to protect yourself from getting scratched up.
The few people who climb Lost Wilson do so simply because it is there, and its towering cliffs are an exciting puzzle to solve. The top of the Lost Wilson Mountain is flat and has been burned off by lightning strikes, so walking around on the summit is comparatively easy.
Lost Wilson Mountain is clearly visible from the Brins Mesa trailhead. Looking at the Mountain from the parking area at Brins Mesa you will notice the pass between larger the larger Wilson Mountain and its “Lost” satellite peak. Reaching this pass is your first objective.
To get there take the Brins Mesa Trail to the dry wash coming down from the pass. This critical turn is at GPS 34.912936 111.798864. The wash is braided at the bottom, so it is important to stay in the largest channel. Getting in the wrong channel at the bottom could take you quite a distance out your way, and it the pre-dawn darkness of a cold winter morning, this could be an issue.
It is about 2 miles to the bottom of the mountain before the uphill climb starts. It will feel a lot longer, since there will be lots of brush that you have to get over, under or around as you go. Therefore this route should only be attempted in the winter months when you can wear long sleeves. Once the wash begins its steep ascent up to the pass the brush will be replaced by boulders and things will get a little easier, but not by much.
There is one pour over you will have to get around, and that will most likely require clawing your way through some very thick bush. When my friend and I went there was a large Ponderosa pine that had fallen, and the top of it was leaning against the cliff. We were able to use that as a ladder to avoid the worst of the brush, but this tree is surely gone or unsafe now. Going up this tree (and back down again), was one of the most frightening things I have EVER done, since the top looked like it could slide off the cliff at any moment. It the tree is still there it must be rotten by now.
When you finally reach the pass between Lost Wilson and Wilson Mountain the rest is easy. Turn left down the big green ledge that is visible from the parking area. If you looked closely enough from the bottom you would have noticed a BIG diagonal cut going from this ledge through the last big cliff that now separates you from the summit.
When actually hiking the ledge, my memory of it is that the big diagonal cut will be the second one you come to. In other words, there is a small cut that might tempt you. Walk a little farther and there will be a bigger one. Congratulations! Standing atop Lost Wilson puts you in an elite group of Sedona hikers.
Karst formations in the limestone on top of Lost Wilson Mountain.
The photo above shows Lost Wilson from the HS Canyon Trail. While it does not show the pass between Lost Wilson and Wilson Mountain, it DOES show the large ledge (notice that green line) running around the cliff just below the summit. Also visible are numerous diagonal cuts connecting this ledge to the summit. The pass, the wash, and the diagonal cut we've described above would be around to the right in this photo.
GPS FOR TRAILHEAD
34.916806 -111.806904 (high clearance vehicle required)
DISTANCE ONE WAY
6.5 miles (rated extreme)
ESTIMATED HIKING TIME
5-7 hours roundtrip (your time may vary based on conditioning)
BEST TIME TO GO
(Oct - Mar)