Five miles into the Loy Canyon hike near Sedona sits the camping spot by which all camping spots will be compared. It is the standard for the perfect outdoors experience.
Among the crowded trails of the Red Rock country, Loy Canyon seems to be forgotten by most. You'll only see a handful of hikers on the way up or down and even fewer backpackers planning to stay the night. It's a rare piece of solitude in an area overrun by hikers like ants on a sandwich.
Loy Canyon is 14 miles west of Sedona on Forest Service Road 152. The trail follows the property line of Hancock Ranch on one side and a dry creek bed on the other.
The first 4 miles of the hike are rolling and easy, which gives an uneasy feeling to any hiker who knows that this hike has 2,000 feet of elevation gain by the end. Almost all of that gain happens in the last, lung-clutching mile of switchbacks.
The climb leads to a precipice that juts out over the trail and offers incredible views of the canyons all around. There's a fire ring. A flat place to pitch a tent and, at the end of the precipice, two perfect seats, carved out by years of wind and water.
If there's a better place in Arizona to sit and contemplate the world, I haven't found it.
If you are adventurous, the Loy Canyon trail continues from this precipice to link with the upper part of the Secret Canyon trail and an extended backpacking trip.
A good description of the hike, along with direction, is on the Coconino National Forest Web site. Visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/.