The Cockscomb

The Cockscomb 5009′

Sedona

Total Time: 2 hours

Roundtrip Mileage: 2.9

Elevation Gain: 500′

Crux: Class III

Trailhead: Aerie Trailhead, no amenities


cockscomb topo


cockscomb earth


Continued…

South of Sedona is a series of small buttes, all hovering around 5000′ in elevation, summits lined by sandstone cliffs. Doe Mountain is the most well known, with a trail leading to it’s broad summit. Nearby Mescal Mountain is a fun scramble, which I had climbed last fall. The southern most of these buttes, Cockscomb, has a namesake fractured ridge of sandstone spires along it’s south side, and offers great views looking back at the greater Sedona area. After a climb of Morning Glory Spire in the morning, I was looking for something fairly easy in the hundred degree heat. With only about 500′ of elevation gain and a bit of scrambling to keep things interesting, Cockscomb was a good fit. The trailhead for the Cockscomb was a bit hard to find due to conflicting information online and the new Aerie development, but I found the Aerie Trailhead shortly after lunch, the only car in the lot. The Aerie TH and Cockscomb area are less popular than the cooler canyons in Sedona proper, and I hiked on the deserted Cockscomb trail with my objective clearly in sight. The trail does not go to the mountain itself but skirts along the base, and shortly after passing a barbwire fence I left the trail and started heading upslope along the North-Northeast face.

Headed upslope.
Headed upslope.

It wasn’t long before I found an excellent use trail, well worn and very easy to follow. Within a few minutes I was at the base of the summit cliff bands, with some well preserved Sinagua ruins tucked beneath the cliff bands.

Sinagua ruins.
Sinagua ruins.

I wondered if the trail I took was a trail made by the original Sinagua inhabitants, or just from tourists hiking to these out of the way ruins. I started looking for the reported class III route to the summit. To the climbers right of the ruins, there was a pretty serious chimney that was at least class IV and very sandy. I started up it partways, but the sand made traction tenuous at best and I backed down looking for the reported easier option.

Class IV-V.easy chimney, but very sandy.
Class IV-V.easy chimney, but very sandy.

I kept looking and traversed south along the northeast face, passing through some less well preserved ruins. After ducking around some holly bushes near the rock faces, I found the series of easy to miss ledges with minimal class III, which seemed to be the ticket to the top. After working around some more thick holly bushes, I emerged on a large ledge just below the summit bands. A crack through the rock band brought me the rest of the way to the summit plateau, made easier by a group of rocks stacked near the base.

Brushy class III up.
Brushy class III up.
Last scrambling section, easy with stacked rocks.
Last scrambling section, easy with stacked rocks.

The summit plateau of the Cockscomb is much smaller then Doe or Mescal Mountain, and you have more of a 360 view with cliffs on every side. I placed a summit register near the highest point, and took a few photos of the namesake Cockscomb pinnacles to the south and the panoramic views of Sedona proper to the North.

View south to the sandstone spires.
View south to the sandstone spires.
Summit panorama.
Summit panorama.
View North.
View North to Doe Mountain and Bear Mountain.

With minimal shade at the top, I did not linger and scrambled back down to the ruins. The hike back out was uneventful and I quickly returned to my car to get back to Phoenix for dinner.

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