Travel Hooray – Arizona Hiking: Sugarloaf Circuit


Coffeepot Rock (left) from Sugarloaf Summit

How sweet
do you take your hikes; one lump or two? 
The choice is yours in Sedona’s North Urban Trails System. 

Chimney Rock seen from Andante Trail

Boasting two confectionery hill climbs that
can be done either alone or as a barbell-shaped double loop, the system also
showcases many iconic Red Rock Country landforms and great mountain
vistas.  Located just 3 miles west of
Uptown Sedona, Sugarloaf and Little Sugarloaf, two russet sandstone lumps that
sit below 6,355-foot Capitol Butte (a.k.a. Thunder Mountain), anchor a network
of scenic suburban paths less than a mile north of busy State Route 89A. 

Little Sugarloaf seen from Thunder Mtn Trail

While neither loaf climb is particularly
difficult, each has its own character. 

trailheads offer easy access to the system, but for this double-header, start
at the Thunder Mountain trailhead off Dry Creek Road.  To tackle the more difficult climb first,
follow the Lower Chimney Rock trail 0.1-mile, head left at the Thunder Mountain
junction and continue hiking on Lower Chimney Rock.  The hulking mound of 4,872-foot Little
Sugarloaf looms to the south as the trail makes an easy ascent to its base.  Although Little Sugarloaf is not as tall as
its companion to the east, it’s the wilder of the two. 

Sedona’s North Urban Trails System, East

The climbing
starts at the Chimney Rock Pass/Summit junction where the route makes a steep,
exposed 222-foot crawl up the mountain’s north face.  The narrow, rough-hacked, 0.2-mile summit
path hangs close to the edge for unobstructed views of the Sedona area and
distant Mingus and Woodchute Mountains across the sprawling Verde Valley.  When done ogling the sights, descend to the junction
and head left to follow Lower Chimney Rock for 1 mile tour around the base of
the hill.  You’ll pass the trailhead and
then pick up the Thunder Mountain trail heading east (right) where amazing
up-close looks at iconic Chimney Rock stand out above crumbling russet
sandstone walls.  Soon, the buff-colored
flanks of Capitol Butte come into view and the trail dips into one of the
routes many deeply wooded drainage areas before emerging at the Andante
trailhead.  Follow the Andante trail
0.6-mile to where it reconnects with the Thunder Mountain trail, then follow the
signs to the Sugarloaf Loop and Summit trails. 

Urban landscape viewed from Sugarloaf

Compared to Little Sugarloaf, hiking up 4,911-foot Sugarloaf “regular”
is a walk in the park.  

It’s a steep, edgy climb up Little Sugarloaf

The 0.2-mile trail
is wide and well-worn, ascending straight up the middle with no precipitous
exposure or very steep spots.  A series
of slickrock passages and natural red-rock stairs glide hikers up the hill,
revealing a decidedly urban landscape below. 

Route traces the sandstone walls of Capitol Butte

To the west, streets and houses roll out in familiar grids while to the
north, the form of Coffeepot Rock protrudes from a rock jetty off of Capitol
Butte.  On the bald, pine-and-yucca- rimmed
top, views stretch south for glimpses of Courthouse Butte and Airport Mesa.

High desert vegetation on Sugarloaf hill


Capitol Butte (right) is a commanding presence

Descend and make a 0.7-mile swing around Sugarloaf
Loop before retracing your steps back to the trailhead.

The route crosses several drainage areas


LENGTH:  5.3 miles


ELEVATION:  4,560 – 4,911 feet


Mountain Trailhead:

From the
State Route 179/89A traffic circle in uptown Sedona, go 3.2 miles west (toward
Cottonwood) on SR 89A to Dry Creek Road. 
Follow Dry Creek Road 0.5-mile, turn right on Thunder Mountain Road and
continue 0.6-mile to the trailhead on the left. There are no fee or facilities
at this trailhead.

May also
be accessed by the Andante Drive and Sugarloaf trailheads.


Coconino National Forest

Urban Trail System, East


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