Named for a local settler, Sterling Pass Trail leads over a high saddle from Oak Creek Canyon into nearby and equally scenic Sterling Canyon. The climb is steep right from the trailhead. The trail climbs up an unnamed drainage through a mixed conifer forest dominated by huge orange-barked ponderosa pines. Dwarf canyon maples are plentiful here too. They turn scarlet and peach in the fall, making this a great place to enjoy the most colorful of seasons.
As you ascend the steep slope you’ll notice that, above the mosaic of tree limbs that form the forest ceiling, huge monoliths of deep red and buff sandstone tower toward the sky. You’ll be rubbing shoulders with these giants as you slide between them at the top of the pass and begin the descent into Sterling Canyon. The best overlooks are along the climb, so be sure to take a break every now and then to enjoy them. The view from the top is somewhat obscured by trees.
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