Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

March 7, 2014

The Climb Up Capitol Butte


by Cyrus Elliott

The morning was cool and the sky was bright blue as a group of Sedona Westerners started up the trail from Dry Creek Road to begin the challenging hike/climb up Capitol Butte, a prominent landmark in the Sedona skyline. The hike is a challenging one with a total cumulative elevation gain of about 2100 feet with a net gain of about 1900 feet and a total round trip mileage of about 4 miles.

Capitol Butte (aka Thunder Mountain or, historically, Grayback) is one of the most eye-catching landmarks in Sedona. The hike took us through the red, Schnebly Hill and Hermit layers of sandstone as we ascended to the formation known as Lizard Head Rock with some rock scrambling and a couple of short, steep climbs.

After crossing Lizard Head ridge , we began our trek southeastward ascending up the tan, Coconino Sandstone on the south facing slope and the sun began to warm us. We stopped for a “clothing adjustment “ (stow the jackets).

Coconino Sandstone is the tan-buff colored sandstone which comprises most of Capitol Butte. The surface is slippery compared to the red rock formations and is slick, especially when loose sand is layered on the surface. Fortunately, we are all wearing the Westerner required lugged soled hiking boots .

The trail got steeper and we encountered many challenging areas . Some scrambling on loose rocks, climbing up crevices and squeezing around trees and large rocks while traversing some narrow ledges. We stopped for water breaks as we began warming up with the afternoon sun and working hard through the steep climbs.

We reached the summit just in time for lunch at 11:45 AM. The views were stunning . It is a 360 degree sweep which includes all of Sedona, including watching airplanes landing below us on airport mesa. We saw the snow caped San Francisco Peaks west of Flagstaff in the north. What a wonderful part of the world to enjoy.

After lunch we began our decent back to the trail head. Descending safely is often more challenging than climbing . Our able hike leaders skillfully took us down the mountain.

The Capitol Butte hike is one of the most challenging hikes in the Sedona Westerners hiking season and a very satisfying one to complete. It requires hiking experience and good physical conditioning to be done safely. It should not be first attempted without being accompanied by an experienced hiker who knows the route.

If you are interested in joining the club, please go to our website at or just come to one of our monthly meetings. The next one will be Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road.