If you travel Dry Creek Road on a popular day, you’ll see cars lined up for what seems like a mile in each direction near Vultee Arch Road. If you want to beat what author Thomas Hardy referred to as the madding crowd, and you don’t mind walking an extra mile, Lizardhead Trail offers a way in minus the traffic.
You’ll find the slightly hidden trailhead just past North Shores Drive. You’ll quickly come to a fork. If you go right, you’ll follow the Upper Lizardhead trail until it loops back. As of right now, the return fork lacks a sign, so I suggest going to the right. You’ll get your heart pumping a bit on the ascent.
If you have vertigo, there are a few spots that might leave you shaky at the top. My advice? Keep walking and don’t look down. Of course, you can also take the lower Lizardhead trail proper. It’s relatively flat and simple to follow.
You’ll pass the ubiquitous Thunder Mountain, which is visible from almost anywhere in Sedona. Here, you can see the top peaking over a hill and saying hello.
The entire Lizardhead loop, upper and lower, is only 1.2 miles. I hadn’t planned on a long hike, but I always feel bummed when I’m off the trail so quickly. However, if your objective is to reach Chuck Wagon Trail, the Vista, and perhaps continue to Devil’s Bridge, you’ll enjoy plenty of adventure further along.
The views from the vista don’t disappoint, though. Even if you turn around, you get to enjoy breathtaking scenery.
I did the reverse of what I recommend. I entered via Lizardhead trail and returned by climbing over the top. However, I could have hopped on Girdner Trail and gone that way as well for a longer trek. Are you starting to see the way the trails connect?
You get a great shot of the “lizard” as you ascend on the way back. Personally, I think the formation looks more like a turtle. When you reach the apex, you can barely catch a glimpse of Cathedral Rock hiding behind Summit and Chimney Buttes.
Getting there: From Cottonwood, take Hwy 89A North to Dry Creek Road. Turn left on Dry Creek Road. You’ll find small places to park just east and west of North Shore Drive.