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The Bell Rock Pathway in beautiful Sedona, Arizona, is a must-do hike for any outdoor enthusiast visiting the area. This scenic trail loops around the famous Bell Rock formation and offers fantastic views of the iconic red rock buttes and towers surrounding the Village of Oak Creek.
Please read on to learn why this hike is so popular and get helpful tips for making the most of your Bell Rock Pathway adventure.
The Bell Rock Pathway is located just north of Sedona in the Coconino National Forest. The 3.6-mile loop trail takes you up close to the incredible 300-foot-tall Bell Rock and its smaller neighbor, Courthouse Butte. Following the well-marked path, you’ll enjoy spectacular vistas of these massive red rock formations and the surrounding canyons.
Why Hike the Bell Rock Pathway?
There are several great reasons why the Bell Rock Pathway hike should be on your Sedona itinerary:
Gorgeous Scenery and Epic Views
The highlight of this hike is the sensational scenery. You’ll be immersed in the gorgeous red rocks the Sedona area is famous for. Bell Rock’s wide base narrowing to a pointed top is incredibly picturesque. You can capture phenomenal views of Courthouse Vista from several spots along the trail.
While not completely flat, the Bell Rock Pathway is relatively mild, with no significant elevation gains. This makes it an excellent introductory Sedona hike. The well-defined trail surface ranges from slickrock to loose gravel and dirt. There are some short semi-steep sections but no major climbs. This trail is suitable for most fitness levels.
Variety and Connections
The Bell Rock Pathway can be hiked as an out-and-back, but the most popular option is completing the 3.6-mile loop. You’ll experience different perspectives of Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, and the surrounding scenery. The trail also connects to nearby trails to extend your hike.
Native Americans considered the buttes and rock formations sacred spaces. Bell Rock has long been associated with vortex energy. Today, Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte are among Sedona’s most iconic landmarks. While hiking, reflect on the rich history of these majestic rock structures.
How to Make the Most of Your Bell Rock Pathway Hike
To have the best experience hiking the Bell Rock Pathway, keep these tips in mind:
Pick the Right Trailhead
There are two main trailheads to choose from: The Courthouse Vista Trailhead on the west side or the Bell Rock Vista Trailhead on the east side. Courthouse Vista has more parking, but Bell Rock is less crowded.
The parking lots fill up fast since Bell Rock is one of Sedona’s most popular trails. Get there before 9 AM to beat the crowds and secure parking.
Timing your hike can significantly enhance your experience and allow you to capture the landscape’s beauty in its glory. Here are a few things to consider:
Watching the sunrise over the red rock formations is a truly magical experience. The soft glow of the early morning light illuminates the landscape, creating stunning photo opportunities.
The trail is less crowded during the early hours, offering you a chance to immerse yourself in the serenity of nature and enjoy the solitude.
As the sun sets behind the towering buttes, the colors of the rocks intensify, painting the sky with vibrant orange, red, and purple hues. It’s a sight that will take your breath away.
The cooler temperatures in the evening make for a pleasant hiking experience, and you can enjoy the stunning views without the scorching desert sun.
Keep in mind that the Bell Rock Pathway experiences seasonal changes. Spring brings blooming wildflowers, while autumn coats the landscape in a fiery palette of fall colors. Consider visiting during these seasons for a unique and captivating hiking experience.
Before embarking on your hike, check the weather forecast. Summer can be sweltering, so it’s best to hike early or late in the evening to avoid the peak temperatures. Winter months can be chilly, so dress in layers to stay warm.
Bring Plenty of Water
Stay hydrated since Arizona heat can creep up quickly. Carry more water than you think you’ll need.
Wear Sturdy Shoes
Traction is helpful on slickrock and gravel portions of the trail. Trail runners or hiking shoes work well.
Watch Your Step
Follow cairns and use caution hiking the steeper sections up Bell Rock to avoid injuries.
Bring Your Camera
You’ll want it to capture amazing photos of rock formations, canyons, and scenic overlooks along the way.
From the panoramic views of the Bell Rock formation to the stunning vistas of the surrounding landscape, you’ll want to have your camera ready to capture these picturesque moments. Walking along the pathway, you’ll encounter unique vegetation and perhaps even spot some wildlife.
Pack a Snack
Fuel up with quick energy snacks like trail mix, energy bars, or fruit.
Check trailhead kiosks
Look for info about trail conditions and be aware of any closures due to rock slides.
Give yourself ample time to complete the 3.6-mile loop. Stop frequently to take in the views, snap photos, rest, and enjoy the scenery.
What to See Along the Bell Rock Pathway
The Bell Rock Pathway offers stunning scenery from beginning to end. Some of the highlights include:
Right from the trailhead, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the Village below and Courthouse Butte front and center.
Bell Rock North Side
The first part of the loop heads north and delivers great views of Bell Rock’s imposing north face.
Between the Buttes
The trail takes you through the gap between Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. Look back for scenic framed views.
Madera Canyon Overlook
Past Bell Rock, take in views into Madera Canyon to the east.
Bell Rock South Side
Later in the loop, approach Bell Rock from the south, getting different perspectives.
Bell Rock Scramble
Consider adding the steep scramble to the Bell Rock summit (advanced hikers only) for amazing top-down views.
Return to Courthouse Vista
Complete the loop and take in one last vista from Courthouse Butte trailhead.
Key Info for Planning Your Hike
To hike Bell Rock Pathway successfully, keep in mind the following:
- Length: 3.6 mile loop
- Duration: 2-3 hours
- Elevation: 4,740ft to 4,926ft
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trail surface: Packed dirt, gravel, slickrock
- Fee: Red Rock Pass required to park ($5-15 per day)
- Facilities: Vault toilets at trailheads but no drinking water
- Weather: Avoid hiking June-September due to extreme heat
Experience Sedona’s Spectacular Scenery on Bell Rock Pathway
The Bell Rock Pathway hike can’t be beat for jaw-dropping views of Sedona’s iconic red rocks. This moderately-rated trail is suitable for most skill levels and delivers nonstop scenery. With outstanding vistas of Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, and the surrounding canyons, every bend in the trail reveals a new postcard-worthy scene.
Get an early start, follow the tips above, and get ready to be wowed by the sensational Southwestern scenery on this must-do hike. Let the Bell Rock Pathway show you why Sedona’s soaring red rock buttes and formations make it one of Earth’s most strikingly beautiful places.
Here’s a quick summary of key points to remember:
- Bell Rock Pathway is a 3.6-mile scenic trail loop near Sedona, AZ with stunning red rock views
- Hike features extremely photogenic Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte formations
- Arrive early to get parking – it fills up fast at the trailheads
- Bring plenty of water – it’s easy to get dehydrated in the Arizona heat
- Wear proper footwear like trail runners or hiking shoes
- Watch your step, especially when nearing the Bell Rock summit
- Take your time and enjoy the fabulous scenery of Sedona’s red rocks