Bell Trail offers cool pools after hot hiking

A wide soft path makes the Bell Trail a pleasant hiking experience. Stan Bindell/NHO

A wide soft path makes the Bell Trail a pleasant hiking experience. Stan Bindell/NHO

CAMP VERDE, Ariz. - Three descriptions of Bell Trail No. 13 are needed for hikers during the summer: heat, water and lizards.

This 6.6 mile roundtrip hike can be hot during the summer with temperatures zooming to more than 100 degrees, but many consider it worth the suffering to get to the swimming holes where hikers can cool off for hours before making the trek back out.

Bell Trail is one of many trails in the Wet Beaver Creek system.

Hikers will need plenty of water. Teenagers who use the swimming holes know this. Some didn't have a backpack but were carrying a gallon jug of water. Lizards could be seen every five feet; butterflies and birds were also plentiful.

The trail is wide enough and easy, but there are large portions where there is no shade. There are a few ups and downs on this trail, but not much more than 200 feet in elevation gain. The trail starts at 3,880 feet.

The first two miles are covered with prickly pear, juniper and agave. The trail then climbs the north side of the canyon before descending down into the creek. Cottonwoods, alder, ash and sycamore trees line Wet Beaver Creek's cascading waters and swimming holes in the red rock canyon.

Hiking leader Keith Block loves this hike because of the water. There were less than 25 hikers on the trail on this weekday, but during weekends the swimming holes are packed.

Some of the larger swimming holes are blocked in between canyons.

On the way out, we also hiked the short Weir Trail, which goes back down to the creek and helps add some mileage to the hike. We ended up hiking 8.3 miles.

We also crossed the main creek known as Bell's Crossing and started going up another hill before deciding it was a bit too hot. Those looking for a much longer hike can climb the south rim of this canyon for another 1.5 miles and then it continues another 6.5 miles to Forest Service Road 214.

Hikers who feel adventurous can also rock hop upstream to find more cascading waters.

Bell Trail is known to have rattlesnakes and poison ivy. We didn't spot any rattlesnakes and avoided the poison ivy.

Directions:

From Camp Verde go 13 miles north on I-17 to Exit 298 (Sedona), go right on Forest Service Road 618 and go east 3.1 miles, turn left on Forest Service Road 618A and go a half mile to the trailhead of Bell Trail #13. Wet Beaver Creek is part of Coconino National Forest.

Resource: "Streamside Trails" by Steve Krause.

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