Are you seeking a mostly flat but gently rolling 5-mile hike with breathtaking views? The Jim Thompson trail will not disappoint you. You can cut the trek in half by parking a vehicle at either end, or you can do the full out-and-back journey. You won’t break too much of a sweat, but your jaw will drop more than once.
The trail was named after the first European settler in 1887, who needed a road between his property and what later became the town of Sedona. Today, horses still roam the pathway that their ancestors walked — I didn’t see any in the flesh, but the way was littered with apples of the dung variety.
After the first half-mile, you come to a gate. Don’t worry — it doesn’t do an effective job of keeping people out. However, on part of your trek, you feel as if you’re walking directly up to the red rock walls. I found this extremely soothing, especially because our little town is on shelter-in-place restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
You do cross a few small streams in wetter weather. Sedona’s winter has been wet and cold, so I crossed one or two. In the summer months, these will transform into arroyos — a fancy Spanish word for a bone-dry wash.
From the trail, you can catch a glimpse of Chimney Rock and Summit. You can also see Cathedral Rock off in the distance. Most strikingly, you catch a glimpse of Snoopy sleeping peacefully on his red rock dog house. Aw!
Before you know it, you wind your way behind the back of Ship Rock, one of the most recognizable formations in Uptown as you head toward Oak Creek Canyon. Later, as you approach the Midgely Bridge end of the trail, you get to see it from the other side.
You don’t pass by many steep ledges, so no worries on this trail if you have a touch of vertigo. However, there are one or two spots where you can stop and have a picnic. That is, assuming that you can have contact with other folks in the outside world.
Finally, as you near the trail’s end, you can catch sight of Midgely Bridge. If you take two vehicles, you can park one at the Jim Thompson’s trailhead, located off Jordan Road in Uptown. The other party can park at the Midgely parking area. I am loving life solo at the moment due to the quarantine, so I turned around and went back. Five miles in the sun felt glorious after being cooped up in the house all week.
If you go: From Cottonwood, take Highway 89A north to Jordan Rd. in uptown. Follow the signs to the Jim Thompson trailhead parking area. The road in is a wee bit bumpy. You don’t need 4WD, but it helps. Alternatively, stay on Highway 89A north, cross Midgely Bridge, and park in the adjacent area. Both lots tend to get crowded when the nation isn’t in shutdown, so go early.