Big Park Loop to Courthouse Butte Trail to Bell Rock Pathway
Do you want a hike that has it all — unstoppable views of famous rock formations, easy-to-follow trail signage, and the perfect blend of friendly tourists and townies with solitude? Maybe you want an excursion that fits you like Baby Bear’s chair — not too long and arduous, not too short-and-sweet, but just right.
If so, head to the Bell Rock Pathway parking area off Highway 179 and loop your way around Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. This hike may be the most popular in all of Sedona for the drive-up-and-visit-on-weekends crowds originating out of Phoenix, AZ, a few hours south, for many reasons.
You’ll find ample trails to explore just beyond this entrance to the Munds Mountain Wilderness. If you follow this loop, you’ll journey over 3.8 easy-to-moderate hiking miles. You probably won’t need your trekking poles, but you might want to bring them to ease back discomfort if you tend to get achy there or aren’t accustomed to outdoor exercise.
This hike always sends yours truly on a trip down memory lane. Like many transplanted tourists, it was my favorite hike back when I lived in the Valley of the Sun and would drive up north to visit. In those days, you could get quite lost, as many side trails traversed the region. The powerful northside vortex energy can mess with your internal directional sense — or your GPS.
Today, Sedona’s Friends of the Forest have done such an impressive job of signage, you won’t wander astray. Parts of your trek will take you down trails as wide as a dirt country road. If you still have energy after a full day out on the trails, Bell Rock Pathway is an ideal night hike when the full moon rises over the desert landscape. Leave your flashlight home and enjoy the glory of the Milky Way thanks to the town’s dedication to maintaining dark skies.
While you’ll go up and down a little bit, you won’t climb any challenging inclines. Therefore, even though this hike is slightly longer at almost four miles, it’s suitable for nearly any fitness level. Please take plenty of water, especially in the summer months, and lose yourself in this picture-perfect Goldilocks-style trek.
If you go: Take I-17 north from Phoenix to the Sedona Highway 179 exit. Follow the highway north straight past four traffic circles to the parking area.