If you are looking for an easy hike with great views of two of Sedona’s most iconic formations, Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte, then put the Bell Rock and Courthouse Loop Butte Trail on your to do list.
This hike is done as a loop, so your views are always changing. It’s a relatively flat hike so it’s great for all ages and ability levels. At the end of the hike, you have the option to add on the climb up Bell Rock, which we highly recommend. The views are phenomenal!
Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Loop Trail
Distance: 4 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Length of Time: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Loop Trail + Bell Rock Climb
Distance: 4.6 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 800 feet
Length of Time: 2 to 4 hours
Bell Rock Climb Only
Distance: 1 mile
Total Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Length of Time: 1 to 2 hours
When to Go: All year. The best time is the spring and fall, when temperatures are mild, but expect big crowds. During the summer, expect very hot temperatures but lower crowds. In the winter, temperatures can get below freezing but crowds are also lower.
Location: Village of Oak Creek
Red Rock Pass: You will need to purchase a Red Rock Pass to do this hike. The pass costs $5 per day or $15 for one week. The pass can be purchased at the fee machine at the trailhead (credit cards only). If you have an America the Beautiful Pass, you can use this rather than purchasing a Red Rock Pass.
Where to Park
There are two Bell Rock trailhead parking lots and on Google, they both have the same name (Bell Rock Trailhead). For this post, I am referring to the northernmost lot as Bell Rock Trailhead North and the southernmost lot as Bell Rock Trailhead South (see the map above).
Bell Rock Trailhead North
The best place to park is at the Bell Rock Trailhead North. This parking lot is located on the northbound section Red Rock Scenic Byway. This fairly large lot has a vault toilet and a machine where you can purchase your Red Rock Pass. This lot is the closest you can get to the hiking trail.
When we did this hike in April 2021, the lot was completely full by 7:20 am. If you don’t mind some extra walking, there are two more places to park if the lot is full when you do this hike.
Yavapai Vista Point
The next closest parking lot is Yavapai Vista Point. This parking lot is located on the southbound section of the Red Rock Parkway.
From the Bell Rock Trailhead, it takes 8 minutes to drive here, since you have to drive north, turn around at the round-about for Back O Beyond Road, and then drive south to the Yavapai Vista Point parking lot.
The Yavapai Parking Lot is much larger so you should have a better chance to find parking here. Just note that this is also a secondary parking area for the extremely popular Cathedral Rock hike, so this lot will fill by mid-morning during the busier travel season.
This lot has a vault toilet and a machine to purchase your Red Rock Pass.
From the Yavapai Vista Lot, it takes about 10 minutes to walk to the Bell Rock Trailhead. You will walk south along Red Rock Parkway. There is a dirt path you can follow and you will have to cross both sections of the road (northbound and southbound) to get to the Bell Rock parking lot.
Bell Rock Trailhead South
If you couldn’t get parking at the Yavapai Lot, there is one more place to try. Bell Rock Trailhead South is located on Red Rock Parkway, just north of the Village of Oak Creek. This lot has a vault toilet and a machine to purchase your Red Rock Pass.
To get to the Bell Rock Courthouse Butte Loop, you will hike the Bell Rock Pathway north to the Courthouse Loop Butte Trail.
Clockwise or Counter-Clockwise?
Since this is a loop, you can hike it in either direction.
We did this hike in a clockwise direction. When we did this, it was a brilliantly sunny morning (we started at 7:40 am). For the first part of the hike, we were walking directly towards the sun (don’t forget your sunglasses!) but once we looped around Courthouse Butte, the sun was at our back and the views were beautiful.
In my opinion, the best views are on the north and south side of the loop and it is worth saving these views for the second half of the hike.
We saved the Bell Rock climb for the end of the hike. This climb is tons of fun and the views are amazing, so it’s a nice way to end the hike.
If you park at the Bell Rock Trailhead South, you will be starting the hike on the opposite side of the loop. If you choose to hike this loop in a clockwise direction, then you will do the Bell Rock climb towards the beginning of the hike, as you pass by the northern side of Bell Rock.
The view of Courthouse Butte from Bell Rock
Bell Rock Courthouse Butte Loop
This trail forms one big loop. You will circle around Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. Along the way, the trail changes names several times, so it can seem confusing, but there are lots of trail signs and maps along the way. As long as you keep Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte to your right you should be moving in the correct direction.
This is also a popular mountain biking spot, so keep your eyes and ears on alert for mountain bikers.
On the Courthouse Butte Loop Trail
From the Bell Rock Trailhead North, it is a short walk on a wide, gravel trail, which is called the Bell Rock Access Trail, to get to the loop. This trail dead ends at the Bell Rock Pathway. Turn left to walk the loop in a clockwise direction.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Before you turn left and start the loop, take a good look around at your surroundings (and even snap a few photos) so you recognize this spot when you complete the loop and know how to return to the parking area.
This is the trail junction sign when you get to the Beth Rock Pathway. Follow the sign “to Courthouse Butte Loop.”
As you walk around the north side of the loop, you will have very nice views north towards Sedona. Courthouse Butte will be towering over you to the south.
The trail changes names a few times in this short section. From Bell Rock Pathway, take the Llama Trail for a few hundred feet and then the trail will fork again. Take the Courthouse Butte Loop Trail. There are trail signs at each of these junctions.
View north from the trail. If you look closely, you can see the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
Another view from the trail, this time looking northwest towards Cathedral Rock.
On this part of the hike you will be walking away from Bell Rock, so periodically turn around to take a look at it.
Follow the Courthouse Butte Loop Trail around Courthouse Butte. Once on the eastern side of the loop you will have great views of Courthouse Butte.
2 miles into the hike you will approach a wide wash. There are two trail signs here, pointing in two different directions, each with the same trail name, Big Park Loop. Cross the wash (walking towards Courthouse butte) and follow that sign for Big Park Loop. You have now reached the end of the Courthouse Butte Loop Trail and you will be following the Big Park Loop trail.
Note: On Google and All Trails, this trail is still labeled as Courthouse Butte Loop Trail but the park signs have a different name, Big Park Loop.
A photo of the wash. Cross this wash to the trail sign on the opposite side to continue the hike.
Further down the trail you have a great view of Courthouse Butte.
At mile 2.6, there is a sign telling you to go straight for Big Park Loop or to go left for Big Park Loop. Go straight at this sign. You’ll be walking towards Bell Rock.
At mile 2.75, follow the sign that says “To Bell Rock Pathway”. You will again be walking towards Bell Rock.
At mile 3.0, the trail name changes back to the Bell Rock Pathway and you will follow this back to your starting point. As you approach the end of the loop, you will see a trail sign labeled “Bell Rock Climb.” This is the trail to take to climb up Bell Rock.
Hiking along the side of Bell Rock
Bell Rock Climb
The Bell Rock climb starts at the sign that is labeled “Bell Rock Climb.”
For the first 0.25 miles of the climb you will be following trail signs. The trail signs are then replaced with wire baskets filled with rocks. Follow these baskets to the upper levels of Bell Rock.
Eventually, the wire baskets will end but you can continue to hike higher by doing your own route finding.
How far you want to go is up to you. You can’t make it to the very top of Bell Rock but you can go pretty far. To get to the higher levels, you will do some rock scrambling. For parts of this climb, you will be hiking on sections of slickrock with a steep incline so it is best to wear hiking shoes so that you have good traction.
To finish the hike, retrace your steps down Bell Rock and back to your car.
Our Thoughts on the Hike
Despite a packed parking lot, we saw very few people on the loop trail. Many people come here just to hike up Bell Rock. So, if you are looking for a relatively easy hike with nice views and somewhat low crowds, the Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Loop Trail is a great option in Sedona.
Hiking up Bell Rock is tons of fun. If you are visiting with kids, they will love this. The climb up Bell Rock is a nice warm up for Cathedral Rock, which is a very similar experience, just on a grander scale (both in terms of views and difficulty).
However, if you only have time for one hike, we recommend the Cathedral Rock hike over Bell Rock.
If you do this hike in the morning and need lunch or brunch suggestions, it is a short drive to the Village of Oak Creek. Miley’s Café and Red Rock Café both get great reviews. We had brunch at Red Rock Café. Their specialty is blue corn huevos rancheros and if you want a treat, order the giant cinnamon roll…it’s 3 pounds of happiness!
Tips to Have the Best Experience
Start the hike early, ideally by 7 am. By starting early, you can get one of the parking spaces in the trailhead parking lot. You will also get ahead of the crowds and hike in the cooler part of the day.
Leave No Trace. Practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace. This includes packing out what you bring to the hiking trail, be considerate of other hikers, and staying on the trail.
What to Bring on the Hike
Hiking shoes. You can get by with a good pair of walking shoes or running shoes for this hike. However, if you plan to hike up Bell Rock, I recommend wearing hiking shoes. The extra traction on hiking shoes will make your climb up the rock much easier and safer.
Water and snacks. Bring at least 1 liter of water in the summer.
Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses. There is very little shade on this trail.
Camera. Even a smartphone will do.
If you are new to hiking or are curious about what you should bring on a hike, check out our Hiking Gear Guide. Find out what we carry in our day packs and what we wear on the trails.
More Information on Sedona
BEST OF SEDONA: 15 Epic Things to Do in Sedona
HIKES IN SEDONA: 12 Amazing Hikes in Sedona
ONE DAY IN SEDONA: How to Spend One Perfect Day in Sedona
SEDONA ITINERARY: Sedona Itinerary: Best Way to Spend 1 to 6 Days in Sedona
DEVILS BRIDGE: The Complete Guide to Devils Bridge
BOYNTON CANYON: How to Hike Boynton Canyon and the Subway Cave
SOLDIER PASS TRAIL: Complete Guide to the Soldier Pass Trail & Soldier Pass Cave
CATHEDRAL ROCK: How to Hike the Cathedral Rock Trail
BIRTHING CAVE: The Complete Guide to the Birthing Cave Hike
BROKEN ARROW: How to Drive the Broken Arrow 4WD Trail
4WD ROADS: Six 4WD Roads in Sedona…Which Ones are Worth It?
PHOTOGRAPHY: How to Photograph Cathedral Rock from the Crescent Moon Picnic Site
If you have any questions about hiking the Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Loop Trail, let us know in the comment section below.
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