Sedona, AZ: Short, sweet and simply stunning, the Bell Rock Pathway may be the most popular trail and one of the easiest of all the walk-ways and hikes in the Sedona area. Bell Rock, so named because the shape resembles that of a large bell, stands adjacent to Courthouse Butte and both, typically in tandem, are frequently the object of photographers and artists. The location also enjoys significant popularity as one of Sedona’s vortex sites.
The trail is wide, hard-packed with few if any hazards, easy to follow, and only 3.5 miles round trip, which for most (even us old fogies), can be accomplished in about an hour, packing a lot of scenic red rock punch for the time spent. The pathway heads out directly toward Bell Rock and through some beautiful upland desert—stands of juniper with a few pinon pine mixed in, yucca and agave, and thickets of manzanita. Bird song rings out from every direction and it’s not uncommon to rustle up a covey or two of Gambel's quail scurrying for cover.
During winter months the pathway takes on an amber mood. Grassy fields are scattered along the trail, golden and feathery beneath the frosty sun and deep blue, nearly cloudless sky. Winter is generally mild and short-lived here. By early March the ground is covered with colorful swatches of wild flowers in a parade that changes throughout the season. This is a very popular spot for vortex seekers, hikers, joggers, and cyclists, so the trail can be crowed at times. Think community versus solitude for a more scenic rather than wilderness encounter.
The Pathway circles Bell Rock, coming close to the highway and the sound of traffic can be a little distracting. But just around the bend to the north side of Bell Rock comes a truly spectacular panoramic vista of the region, east from Loy Butte (left) to Thunder Mountain (middle) and the Chapel Area and Munds Mountain Wilderness (right). Oak Creek Canyon can be seen in the far distance and Cathedral Rock peaks from around the corner just above the highway. This is one of the best viewpoints in the area. The path continues up Bell Rock in a series of switchbacks, for those so inclined and able.
The Bell Rock Pathway gives you an up close and personal experience with an iconic red rock formation, as well as a great introduction to the vast and stunning scenery for which Sedona is so famous—with a vortex thrown in for good measure! All for just an hour or two of your time. There are several intersecting trails with the Bell Rock Pathway if you feel like extending your hike, or leaving plenty of time to explore other attractions in Sedona and the Verde Valley.
Fast Facts about Bell Rock Pathway
Location: Village of Oak Creek
Elevation: 4000 feet
Rating: Easy to moderate
Red Rock Pass: Required. Day and weekly passes available on site.
Amenities: Small paved parking lot, including spots for RV parking (that can fill up quickly during seasonal months). Concrete picnic tables. Accessible (vault type) toilets. Covered gazebo with a regional hiking map and information, and benches. Village of Oak Creek is close by with gas, restaurants, market, and lodging.
Directions from I-17: Take Exit 298 to Sedona; eight miles to the Bell Rock Vista parking lot.
Directions from SR 89A/179 (double round about formerly known as “The Y”): South on SR 179; seven miles to the Bell Rock Vista parking lot.
Article and photos by Terree Duncan.