|Atop Bell Rock, overlooking Sedona|
The thing I love about Sedona that I find so enticing is that it is surrounded by wilderness on every side. I don't mean this metaphorically; congressionally designated wilderness areas surround the city and you can just about guarantee that any hike will take you through an untouched natural masterpiece. So while Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte remain very accessible even to the novice hiker, the trail winds through areas that seem dozens of mile s away from civilization.
Here is a map of the hike:
The hike begins at the Courthouse Vista Parking lot which is about 15 minutes south of the town center. Its a big lot though it can fill up easily on a busy spring or fall day with good weather. A network of trails, both hiking and mountain biking leave from this parking lot and fortunately most of the crowds diffuse about a half a mile from the trailhead.
The imposing north side of Bell Rock rises quickly in front of the loop trail and it is possible to scale almost to the summit of bell rock with a few steep switchbacks. The scramble up Bell Rock is not an official trail so many routes exist. However, if you don't mind a few exposed slides and using hands and feet, there are rewarding visitas from the "summit".
We thoroughly enjoyed our jaunt up Bell Rock. In fact, without even realizing it, we had passed a few hours! Back down to the loop trail, we started making a clockwise loop around both of these natural skyscrapers.
For such a full parking lot, we hardly saw more than a handful of souls when we were about a mile away from the trailhead. Wilderness enveloped us and we felt like we were 50 miles away from civilization. The trail is neither particularly steep nor treacherous which allows for casual meandering.
Near the easternmost part of the loop, the trail comes through a beautiful ocotillo grove and then has a view of a distant monolith. I think it looks a bit like the familiar profile of a desert jackrabbit?
The trail continues west and winds around the south faces of both formations. Mountain bikers seemed to be more common here though they were quite polite to hikers. I really wished we had rented some mountain bikes on our trip. I'm always looking for some new singletrack to ride!
To me, Red Rock Country is one big vortex. On most hikes I'm usually desensitized to the beauty of it after about an hour- this wasn't the case on this hike. Views persisted throughout the entire 5 miles and it took us 6 hours to hike it when we were constantly stopping and snapping pictures. Like Faye Canyon, this one was a great bang for your buck. Its longer though really isn't terribly steep. I'd highly recommend it to your repertoire of "must-hikes".
Read. Plan. Get Out There!