Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

September 25, 2009

Courthouse Butte


by Linda Pallas

Courthouse Loop was the perfect hike to kick-off the hiking season for the Mustangs. Courthouse Butte is one of the grand sentinels of the area. Standing along side the beautiful Bell Rock as a pair of majestic sentries, Courthouse Butte welcomes visitors and resident Sedonans as they enter the gateway home along Hwy 179.

According to local legend, nearby Cathedral Rock was supposed to be called Courthouse Butte, and Courthouse Butte was supposed to be called Church Rock, because of its close proximity to Bell Rock and its church bell symmetry. As circumstances would have it, a mapmaker in the 1800’s mislabeled the formations and the names have become part of history.

However this fabulous rock formation got its name, it is a special Sedona landmark. From a distance, Courthouse Butte looks surreal. Today, the Mustangs would visit the Courthouse up close and personal.

Hikers atop "The Spaceship," with Cathedral Rock in the background. Tom Arni, Mike Holmes, Cathy Lutz, Lori Spencer, Linda Pallas, Barbara O'Conner, Paula Potter, Jetta Meyer, Barb Mallek and Perlina McComb. Photo by Tom Pallas.

Hike Boss Mike Holmes, chose to begin the hike at the Bell Rock Pathway trailhead. Holmes decided hikers should be split into two groups, with Holmes and Gerry Walters each leading a group. Tom Arni and Butch Greathouse served as tailgaters.

Hiking at a good pace, hikers began circling Courthouse in a counterclockwise direction, keeping Courthouse Butte on the left-hand side. The sheer red walls of the grand butte loomed high above the hikers against the bright blue sky while to the right-hand side small ecosystems of moisture and vegetation created beautiful wild gardens that provided small shelters for birds and animals. Recent rains brought forth pleasing aromas of earth and plants. It was among this incredible beauty that hikers took their first break among shaded rocks.

Hike leaders then led the groups up the rock formation on the north side of Courthouse. Reference materials identify this small rock, with its rounded form and a pile of large rocks creating a peak at the top, as “the spaceship.” Locals have a few other affectionate names for this amazing formation.

Next, the hike leaders led the groups up the rock walls of the formation known as “Baby Bell” where at the top they enjoyed fantastic views of Cathedral Rock, Rabbit Ears, and the formations visible across town.

From this position Bell Rock looms particularly large and stately. The bell-shaped monolith is a favorite Sedona landmark and also an area of vortex, which some believe exert spiritual energy while others view them as a pseudo-scientific invention.

Whatever one’s opinion about vortex may be, all agree there is something very special about viewing Bell Rock at such a close proximity from this vantage point.

Shortly, the hikers were led up a beautiful red slick rock incline on the Courthouse Butte where they intended to pause for lunch. As hikers worked their way closer to the high rock ledge that would be the lunch spot, they followed the leader up a stair-step of rocks. After several hikers made the step up, hiker Tom Pallas called out to point to a rattle snake that was lurking and rattling under a near by rock. Pallas was the only hiker to hear the somewhat faint rattle, while most of the hikers had past by the potentially troublesome varmint.

A few hikers went back to inspect the rattler at a safe distance. It appeared the rattle was only a warning, as no aggressive behavior was displayed. Still, hikers gave the animal the space he needed by walking a very wide girth around him.

Continuing on to the rock ledge for the lunch break, conversations were a sharing of previous rattle snake encounters and rattle snake safety. It is notable that many hikers in this group have never before encountered a rattle snake in their many years of hiking in Sedona.

The hike ended with a loop around Bell Rock and a walk along the Bell Rock Pathway toward the cars.

At the end of the day, hikers had completed 6 miles of exploring the Courthouse Butte area and climbed a cumulative total of 700 feet.

"The Westerners always welcome new members! If you are interested in joining the club, log onto our website You may also join by attending the next monthly meeting which will be on Thursday, Nov 12, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Jewish Synagogue and Community Center."