Hike | Bell Rock Loop | Sedona
Not to be confused with Bell Rock Pathway Trail, a 3.6-mile out and back that links Bell Rock Vista Trailhead to the Little Horse Trailhead, Bell Rock Loop Trail offers direct access to the Bell Rock formation and its stunning views of the surrounding Red Rock Country.
- Length: 1.0 – 1.5 miles depending on route
- Trail Type: Loop
- Elevation Gain/Loss: Approximately 700 ft. *
- Difficulty: The loop can be considered moderate. The additional ascent to the top of Bell Rock is difficult.
- Kid Friendly: Yes—however, the ascent to the top should be completed with caution.
- Dog-Friendly: Dogs are allowed on a leash. *
- Accessibility: Limited, paved parking is available at the trailhead.
- Fee/Permit: $5.00 per day
- Hours: 24 hours *
* Information provided by Red Rock Rangers.
Bell Rock is one of the most easily recognizable formations in Sedona with its dome-like silhouette hovering close to Highway 179. A few of the trails surrounding and approaching it are less discernable as the names and lengths of the trails vary across Internet sources. A phone call to the Red Rock Ranger and Visitor’s Center shed some light on the confusion.
A loop trail around Bell Rock does exist; however, it’s made up of the Bell Rock Pathway Trail, the Rector Connector, and the Courthouse Butte Trail. This circumference is approximately 1.8 miles. I found this multi-use trail to be easy. It requires no scrambling, has only a slight elevation gain on the back half, and is heavily trafficked. You can get an appreciation of both the Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte formations from multiple sides as you hike right between them. You can also extend this hike by forgoing the Rector Connector and continuing around the Courthouse Butte formation or opting for the Big Park Loop Trail. Note that when you are hiking west of Bell Rock, you are paralleling the highway and will hear the traffic for about half a mile. The hike is pleasant and peaceful—perfect for families with young children.
If you’re interested in hiking atop the formation, you’ll begin at the same trailhead, but instead of veering right and following the signs for Bell Rock Pathway, you’ll follow the signs for Bell Rock Climb. This loop is what the Ranger called the Bell Rock Loop Trail. The basket cairns lead you up the north side of this sandstone formation on a rocky, heavily trafficked trail. The cairns are easy to spot except for the last one—many people turned around at this point as you have to climb over a sizable rock with your hands and feet before reaching it. This brings you to a plateau or the bottom of the slide area. The views from this lower plateau are breathtaking enough, but you can choose to hike higher. Trail markers no longer define the route and you must rely on the wear of the sandstone and/or follow other hikers up to the top. It seems a little bit like a free-for-all. Many hikers were making their way up via any way they could, but actual trails to the top do exist—one on the east side and one directly up the slide area. Be careful as some parts of the trail could easily be considered a Class 3 hike—you will need to use your hands to make the ascent. Especially use caution on your way back down.
From the top, the wind blew a little harder. Countless cumulous clouds were a contrast to the texture of the bright red rock, and the sight was pretty remarkable.
Head north on Highway 179. Just after the Bell Rock formation, you will see an entrance to a parking lot for Courthouse Vista. Park here for access to the trails described above.
- Parking is often a challenge at Sedona trailheads if you are not an early riser. Be patient as the turnover is fairly quick. Overflow parking for Courthouse Vista is at the Yavapai Point Parking Lot, which is about a half a mile north and on your left-hand side. Note that Yavapai Point has less than 20 spots total.
- You can purchase a daily pass for all Sedona trails for $5.00. The fee machines at designated trailheads accept credit cards only. America the Beautiful annual passes are honored as well.
- Use sun protection as very little shade cover exists on the trail and bring plenty of water.
- Completing the hike at sunset is magnificent. Make sure to bring a headlamp if you get caught on the formation at dark.
- Vault restrooms are on site.
- As always, leave no trace.
This blog was thoughtfully written by Jia Oak Baker. You can find her on Instagram at @violetsky29.
* Please remember to hike at your own risk. To learn more please refer to our Hiking Disclaimer.