A red sand trail winding along a rocky yet verdant bench in Wet Beaver Creek Canyon, the Bell Trail is “the only developed route” into the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness area, according to the U.S. Forest Service. It leads to other less traveled paths in and around the canyon, such as the Apache Maid and White Mesa trails.
You may know of the Bell Trail or even have hiked it, even if you’re not familiar with the proper name. Some who walk it in flip flops and bathing suits don’t think of it as a trail at all; instead, they think of it as simply the dirt path to the famous swimming hole called “The Crack” (which is about 2.5 miles from the Bell trailhead).
While Bell Rock in nearby Sedona shares the name Bell, they don’t share a namesake. Bell Rock is so-called because it is shaped like a bell. Bell Trail, however, was named after the rancher who forged it. A wooden sign near the modern-day Bell trailhead states that Charles Bell made the six mile trail in 1932 as a way to “move cattle up and down the Mogollon Rim.” In fact, the trail is still used as a cattle route, according to the sign. But more often, you’ll see families, couples, hikers and groups of college students meandering along this trail, which is “one of the most popular in the Verde Valley,” the sign states.
The official trail is wanders along the ledge, mostly exposed to the sun with very little shade, though occasionally a piñon pine juts up at trail’s edge. Heat relief is generally just an “unofficial” side trail away, where hikers will find big shady trees and babbling cool, clear water in Wet Beaver Creek. Just watch out for the many prickly pear cacti that dot the landscape. (On a related note, the creek was named “Wet Beaver Creek” because settlers in the area often saw beavers along the stream here. There’s also a seasonal riverbed nearby called “Dry Beaver Creek.”)
Also in the area off FR 618 is a former campground-turned-day-use-fee-area now called Beaver Creek Day Use Picnic Site. It costs $10 to park and/or use the picnic tables and “vault” restrooms in this location. But across the one-lane road is a free picnic area with tables also near the creek (but no toilets).
The last name Bell is of Scottish and Northern England origin, according to Ancestry.com, which also says that the name referred to someone who lived near a town’s bell tower, rang the town’s bell for a living, or made bells. But, they add, the last name can also derive from the French word (belle/bel) meaning beauty/handsome.