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  • Chimney Rock, Andante, and Thunder Mountain Trails - Easy to Challenging Sedona Hiking Trail Network

Chimney Rock, Andante, and Thunder Mountain Trails - Easy to Challenging Sedona Hiking Trail Network

Three pillars forming Chimney Rock in Sedona, Arizona.Although it appears as one solid rock formation, there are actually three distinct spires which form Chimney Rock in Sedona, Arizona, evident in close-up views along the Chimney Rock Pass.

The Chimney Rock and Thunder Mountain Trail System in Sedona, Arizona offers the hiker many options for stitching together a customized hike to fit one's available time, preferred degree of difficulty, and distance. The trailhead is conveniently located off Thunder Mountain Road in West Sedona, and we have always been able to find a parking spot in the lot near the trailhead.

One of our favorite hikes is a 3.7-mile loop hike that provides great scenery and a moderately challenging climb midway through the hike. From the trailhead, the hike heads north on the Lower Chimney Rock Trail from the parking lot for approximately .5 miles, then heads east on the Andante trail for .6 miles. Although the trail skirts some residential areas to south, it does not detract from the striking vistas of Airport Mesa to the south, Fin Rock and the Mogollon Rim to the East, and a variety of beautiful red rock formations to the west. At this point, there are some great views of the City of Sedona landmarks—the Sedona Airport, Sedona Red Rock High School, and parts of Uptown Sedona in addition to others. To the north is the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness that offers its own incredible trails for exploration. The Andante trail is relatively flat, well marked, and easily negotiable for any level hiker.

After traveling about .6 miles on the Andante Trail, it makes a sharp turn onto the Thunder Mountain Trail heading back to the west. The hiker continues on this trail for approximately .7 miles through similar terrain, until it intersects with the Chimney Rock Pass and Chimney Rock Trails. We always like to hike over the Chimney Rock Pass Trail since it offers a more strenuous workout and more incredible views. This .4-mile section of the trail is initially very steep and challenging for about the first .2 miles. As you approach the summit of the Pass, you actually enter a brief section of the trail that is classified as forest service wilderness.

A unique feature of Chimney Rock is that although it appears to be one solid rock formation from a distance, it is actually three separate spires. This becomes very evident when you hike around the structure on this scenic loop hike.

When you reach the top of the pass, you will be rewarded with scenic vistas to the to the east and the west. This is a great place to catch your breath and take some photos if you have a camera with you. As you head down the other side of the pass, you very quickly leave the wilderness portion of the trail and start the fairly steep descent toward the Lower Chimney Rock Trail. After about .5 miles, the trail intersects with the Little Sugarloaf Summit Trail. At this point, you have a decision to make. You can hike the Summit Trail and be rewarded with some drop-dead 360-degree views of Sedona and the surrounding red rock landscape, or you can continue on the Lower Chimney Rock Trail.

The Summit Trail will add about .5 miles to your hike but it is definitely worth it! If you decide to hike the Summit Trail, be careful of the loose gravel, which can wreak havoc on your footing, and the somewhat confusing maze of trails that lead to the top. When you descend the Summit Trail, you'll continue on the Lower Chimney Rock Trail. This trail winds around Little Sugar Loaf for about a mile, and eventually ends up at the trailhead and parking lot.

This is a great late afternoon hike, as the sun is getting low in the sky. At the top of Chimney Rock Pass, you will be rewarded with some stunning views of the sun setting on Doe Mesa, Cockscomb, and Bear Mountain. To the far west you will have great views of the Mingus Mountain and the distant mountain ranges. This trail system is usually busy since many people that live in the neighborhood use the trail system on a daily basis to walk their dogs, get some exercise, and just enjoy the unparalleled beauty of the red rock landscape. This is a year-round hike, but during the warm summer months, hiking is preferred either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Make sure you take plenty of water with you!

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Sedona forest service trail map showing the Chimney Rock, Little Sugar Loaf, Andante, and Thunder Mountain hiking trails.Photo of the Sedona forest service hiking trail map at the trailhead, detailing the Lower Chimney Rock Trail, Chimney Rock Pass, Andante Trail, and Thunder Mountain Trail.

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