When temperatures rise, locals hike to The Crack swimming hole on Wet Beaver Creek near Sedona

When temperatures begin to rise in Arizona, so does interest in swimming holes like “The Crack” on Wet Beaver Creek, located about 20 miles southeast of Sedona.

Named for a sizable gap between two large sections of eroded red sandstone this part of Arizona is famous for, “The Crack” is a magnificent visual display. Down below, Wet Beaver Creek streams gently over a bed of softball to bowling ball-sized river rock with enough force to have carved deep pools over the years.

People lounging around on large platforms of red rock separated by a creek
You’ll know you’ve reached the Crack when you see this mass of red sandstone virtually ripped down the center by Wet Beaver Creek
Beautiful red rock walls rise from the clear, cold waters of Beaver Creek
Beautiful red rock walls rise from the clear, cold waters of Beaver Creek

After making the three-plus mile hike to the Crack, Wet Beaver Creek offers a refreshing break from the toasty desert air that routinely exceeds 100° F (38° C) in the summer. Whether you wade in slowly or take the plunge from one of the many rock cliffs, you may find it hard to catch your breath in the shockingly cold water.

People on rock ledge near creek
Adventurers plot their plunge into the cold, clear waters of Wet Beaver Creek from the western edge of “The Crack”

Hiking and swimming are the two primary activities associated with this experience; however, you can be entertained for hours just watching other people. My wife and I got a kick out of seeing reactions to how frigid the water is.

Shortly after rising to the creek’s surface after his first plunge, one young man struggled to exhale as he exclaimed that jumping in was the worst decision he ever made.

A couple of hipsters from the university in Flagstaff busted each other’s chops over who was more fearful of the crayfish nipping at their toes.

Check out this short video for highlights and tips on how to find the Crack swimming on Wet Beaver Creek

How to get to the Crack at Wet Beaver Creek:

  • Take I-17 to exit 298, then head east (away from Sedona).
  • Drive about 4 miles to the Bell Trail parking area.
  • Follow signs leading you to Bell Trail – it’s relatively flat and wide for the first couple of miles.
  • When you see the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness sign, veer left up the steeper section of trail.
  • Hike the more challenging red rock trail for roughly another 1.2 miles.
  • Keep an eye out for a huge slab of rock with a noticeable crack down the middle with water running through it.

If the location of the Crack isn’t obvious by the presence of people standing around waiting for their turn to jump into the creek, you’ll be able to identify it when you see large, flat rock platforms down and to your right through a distinct clearing in the trees.

Bell Trail to the Crack on Web Beaver Creek in pictures

Pro tips for getting the most out of your experience on the Bell Trail hike to the Crack on Wet Beaver Creek:

  • Avoid weekends during summer months if you’re not fond of crowds.
  • Bring 2 to 3 liters of drinking water per person, plus water shoes and a towel.
  • Beware: the primitive toilets at the beginning of the trail are the only facilities available.
  • No permit, pass or entrance fee is required (as of July 2018; this could change over time).
  • While allowed, this trail is not friendly to pets or small children when temperatures climb above 90° F (32° C).

How you can help keep this experience free and awesome:

  • Heed all signage regarding fire dangers and camping (none)
  • Leave no trace — carry out anything that you carry in
  • Make sure everyone in your party does the same

The Crack on Wet Beaver Creek is a unique Arizona experience that can be cherished free of charge and with very little planning. Just show up and do your thing. Many of the state’s other gems now require permits or passes due to popularity and overuse (aka misuse). If we all make a commitment to take good care of this amazing natural wonder, we’ll all be able to enjoy it for many years to come.

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